New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio isn’t making a big deal out of being shut out of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s joint decision with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to establish an Ebola quarantine plan at New York City-area airports. But Cuomo’s cold shoulder is the latest embarrassment to de Blasio, who just hours before the plan was announced on Friday said that there would be no need for quarantines in New York City, that has marked the strained relationship between the governor and mayor, both of whom are Democrats.
“This is just one more example of the mistreatment that the mayor of New York has had to suffer at the hands of Andrew Cuomo,” Alan Chartock, the CEO of Albany-based WAMC/Northeast Public Radio, who used to conduct weekly interviews with Cuomo’s father, ex-New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, said. “We don’t know why this is happening, but this is the latest example.”
De Blasio has said that city health officials were in constant communication with their state counterparts, and chalked up Cuomo neither giving him advanced notice of the plan, nor a role in shaping the quarantine policy to the “fast-moving situation.” Meanwhile, Cuomo was coy with reporters when asked if he checked in with de Blasio before his joint news conference with Christie, saying “I don’t know. You should ask the mayor.”
Both Cuomo and Christie have taken heat from the Obama administration, which also wasn’t consulted about the policy, for their Ebola quarantine plan. An unnamed administration official told the New York Times that the Ebola quarantine plan was “uncoordinated, very hurried” and “an immediate reaction to the New York City case that doesn’t comport with science,” referring to Dr. Craig Spencer, the doctor who worked with Ebola patients in Guinea and was diagnosed with the virus last week.
The move came under fire from U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who said he believed the policy would make health care workers more reluctant to head to West Africa to treat Ebola patients. Federal officials said Cuomo and Christie’s decision may also force health care workers to use different U.S. airports for their return.
"Returning health workers are exceptional people who are giving of themselves for humanity. They should not be subjected to restrictions that are not based on science," Ban spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
The New Jersey governor is also being attacked by conservatives, including Rush Limbaugh, who claimed that Christie reversed his decision after he let Maine nurse Kaci Hickox out of quarantine at a New Jersey hospital Monday. The governor denied flip-flopping, saying Hickox was free to leave the hospital because she tested negative for Ebola.
“If she was continuing to be ill, she’d have to stay,” Christie said, according to the New York Times. “She hadn’t had any symptoms for 24 hours. And she tested negative for Ebola. So there was no reason to keep her.”
New York City mayors and governors usually have a history of adversarial relationships. Former Gov. Nelson Rockefeller and former New York City Mayor John Lindsay, both Republicans, famously feuded in the 1960s and 1970s -- to the point at which Lindsay switched parties because Rockefeller was stymieing his political ambitions.
The icy relations between Cuomo and de Blasio may have to do with where the governor and mayor stand on the Democratic spectrum. “Cuomo fashions himself as a Clintonian,” Chartock said, meaning the governor is socially liberal and fiscally conservative, while de Blasio is a progressive Democrat. The two have butted heads on the minimum wage and charter schools, where Cuomo embarrassed de Blasio by supporting groups that ran ads attacking the new mayor for refusing to give public space to charter schools. Such groups had wealthy backers whom Cuomo needs for his upcoming re-election campaign.
The Ebola slight is even more puzzling because de Blasio recently helped the governor avoid having a third general election opponent. De Blasio brokered a deal that gave the Working Families Party line to Cuomo instead of Zephyr Teachout, a Fordham Law School professor and progressive Democratic candidate. Had Teachout received the Working Families Party’s endorsement, Cuomo’s margin of victory in November against Republican Rob Astorino would likely be lower, further denting his chances as a possible 2016 presidential candidate. Cuomo defeated Teachout in the Democratic primary in September.
“It doesn’t make sense, and it’s got everyone scratching their heads,” Chartock said of the apparent feud between the mayor and governor.