New York Governor Andrew Cuomo spent nearly a year in the media spotlight, being praised for his leadership, governance, and folksy, paternalistic style. For those outside the Big Apple and its surroundings, he looked like a clear-headed, competent leader guiding the ship of state through dangerous waters. But upon closer inspection, it's clear that both he and his NYC counterpart Mayor Bill de Blasio were barely more than bumbling fools leading city and state to ruin.
In his book Dumb and Dumber: How Cuomo and de Blasio ruined New York, detailing the disastrous leadership of New York during the pandemic, Matt Palumbo meticulously sorts through the timeline that took the state and city of New York to its knees under the dysfunctional leadership of Cuomo and de Blasio. While much of the critique of Cuomo has to do with his handling of the pandemic, the condemnation of Bill de Blasio is much more severe--and its implications for the city are terrifying.
Palumbo points out that New York was the safest big city in America for 20 years. Under the mayoralty of Rudy Giuliani, who really cleaned up the city with his anti-crime policies, followed by Michael Bloomberg, who took the rising city on a wild ride with even less crime, more parks, cultural institutions, and safe, walkable streets. It was verging on paradise.
Under de Blasio's leadership, the city has tanked--and its not only due to the pandemic either. What rained down upon us during his leadership is heart wrenching to read, and it's spelled out incredibly clearly and succinctly. De Blasio is a mayor who has been driven by ideological concerns and a wish to win. His identity as a progressive politician is more important to him that undertaking the leadership that the city needs.
As he has made more and more disastrous choices the city has reacted by becoming less and less habitable. While his choices during the pandemic were often absurdly contradictory and confusing, much of his planning prior to that was already leading this glorious city down the road to ruin. In the areas of coronavirus, economics, and law and order, Palumbo shows each step that de Blasio took to destroy the city that he was elected to lead.
Under his reign over the city that never sleeps, hundreds of thousands of people fled the city. Over 400,000 of the richest New Yorkers abandoned their offices and homes to spend their time in summer houses, or start new lives elsewhere. De Blasio's main concerns at the beginning of the pandemic were to make sure no one was mean to Asian Americans due to the virus' having originated in Wuhan, China. But he ends that fateful year by intentionally discriminating against Asian American students who have excelled in New York's gifted and talented programs, screened schools, and top-tier high schools.
It seems the man simply has no self-awareness. Last March he was telling New Yorkers not to worry about the virus, he was working out at his local Y, he was dining on dumplings in Chinatowns from Manhattan to Queens and telling others to do the same. Only a few months later he would be begging the federal government for help, not making any real use of it when it arrived, and issuing the most contradictory possible guidance.
"The virtue signaling of these officials may have cost lives by encouraging the spread of a virus—but at least they will not be remembered as racist?" Palumbo writes, quoting de Blasio on Feb. 26 saying "We can really keep this thing contained." De Blasio's misguided, hubristic confidence has seen him through multiple missteps and disastrous policy implementations. He barely seems to notice the city crumbling around him.
He assumed an air of righteousness one year ago, encouraging "people to go on with life as usual." De Blasio was wrong about that, and he was wrong, as Palumbo shows, about so much else. De Blasio appointed his wife as co-chair of the coronavirus "Task Force on Racial Inclusion and Equity," which had nothing to do with anything practical, and only had to do with ideology.
As quickly as he said move along, there's nothing to see here, he switched gears and closed schools to New York's 1.1 million public school children. Families fled the city, and now that number is under 950,000 students, and they are being poorly served by everyone from the mayor's office on down, because leadership has been spotty, contradictory, and based in ideology not how best to meet the needs of educators and students.
But as much as the handling of the coronavirus in New York City and state was so poorly managed, even more damning is how de Blasio has handled crime in the city. When he took office in 2013 he inherited a city that was remarkably safe.
Under Rudy Giuliani in the 1990s and into the 2000s, the city transformed. Graffiti was cleaned up, crime went down, murders decreased. Giuliani's plan was to tackle small crimes and in so doing curb the existence of the major ones. It worked. Michael Bloomberg furthered those efforts with a "stop and frisk" policy that got guns off of the streets and further decreased crime. De Blasio was more concerned about the optics of the policy and not the impact on the quality of life of everyday New Yorkers, so he ended it.
He also ended bail, making it extremely difficult for police to hold criminals who had committed crimes. Rates of prosecution dropped, and during 2020, crime has drastically increased. Speaking as a long-time New Yorker, I'm no longer comfortable riding the subway past a certain time of night, and even then it's dodgy. The number of homeless people sleeping on subways has spiked. Murders have spiked. Crimes have spiked. One of the most horrifying lines in Palumbo's book, and this may seem odd to a non-city-dweller, is when he wrote that the "Graffiti-Free NYC removal plan has been suspended."
For anyone who remembers the bad old days of New York, the site of fresh graffiti on buildings across the city is a harbinger of what's to come—crime, a decline in safety, and a decline in the viability of this grand metropolis.
Leadership matters, and what Dumb and Dumber: How Cuomo and de Blasio ruined New York shows more than anything else is that being leading a city and state by ideology is a disaster. Cuomo and de Blasio have both been so focused on themselves and the ideas that drive them that they've ignored the needs of the city and state, to disastrous effect. For the good of the city, these bumblers need to go, and the next heads of city and state must look at the needs of New Yorkers, how to ensure quality of life, because that is what makes life possible in Gotham.
You can pick up Dumb and Dumber: How Cuomo and de Blasio ruined New York here.