New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. | Mark Lennihan/AP Photo
Updated: 03/25/2020 08:14 PM EDT
NEW YORK — For weeks, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has mostly played nice with the Trump administration, taking a calm and measured approach toward the federal government — even as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has lashed out at Trump for neglecting his home town in a public health crisis.
The differing temperaments between the two officials – Cuomo with a cool executive air bordering on aloofness, de Blasio with an us-against-them pugnaciousness – provided a stark contrast to people outside the tri-state area who were just tuning in to New York’s growing coronavirus crisis.
That appeared to change on Tuesday, when Cuomo directed the full weight of his fury at the administration as the spread of coronavirus in his state threatened to spiral out of control.
“The president says it’s a war,” Cuomo fumed, his voice rising at a press conference at the Javits Center, the massive Manhattan convention hall now being turned into an emergency hospital. “Well then act like it’s a war!”
Faced with New York’s need for 30,000 ventilators to keep virus patients alive when the spread of the virus peaks – which could happen in as soon as two weeks – the federal government had sent 400 from its stockpile.
“You pick the 26,000 people who are going to die because you only sent 400 ventilators,” an angry Cuomo demanded.
But within a day — after a mollifying conversation with Trump — Cuomo was back on his steady course.
“It’s something our team is working on with the White House team and I want to thank the president for his cooperation and his team for their cooperation,” Cuomo said on Wednesday, referring to the supply-chain problems facing New York’s medical authorities.
Cuomo’s calculation seems to be that a softer approach would get him further with a president known for being susceptible to flattery.
“I can tell you he is fully engaged on trying to help New York. He’s being very creative and very energetic, and I thank him for his partnership,” Cuomo said last week, after chatting with Trump about a Navy ship dispatched to New York harbor to serve as an emergency hospital.
That ship, the USNS Comfort, it turned out, would not be ready for weeks. And so it has gone in Cuomo’s two-step with Trump on the health crisis, where gains for New York have often been followed by setbacks.
De Blasio has been less delicate with the president, consistently berating him for a slow federal response to the spiraling health crisis. “The fate of New York City rests in the hands of one man. He is a New Yorker. And right now, he is betraying the city he comes from,” the mayor told reporters last week.
In other appearances, de Blasio has labeled Trump his generation’s Herbert Hoover for his response to the pandemic and accompanying economic crash.
As the first cases of coronavirus hit New York, both men sought to avoid panic, encouraging New Yorkers to go about their lives while taking sensible precautions. They even held a dual press conference at the beginning of the month.