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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Cuomo-de Blasio rift makes motives tough to read

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, left, listens

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, left, listens to Mayor Bill de Blasio during memorial observances held at the site of the World Trade Center in New York City on Sept. 11, 2014. Credit: AP

Anyone watching the state's best-known intraparty split may find it hard to tell for sure what's personal, what's political, and what's purely a government response to a crisis.

By design or not, Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo put Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio behind an eight ball by signing off on a legal settlement involving New York City's big and difficult foster care system.

The city's elected public advocate, Letitia James, earlier filed a lawsuit in federal court charging that both the city and state failed to protect the affected kids or to ensure appropriate placements. Quickly, Cuomo's office agreed to hire a monitor to review the foster care system, which according to official figures handles about 11,000 children per year, down from 14,500 in 2011.

But the plaintiffs, including 10 foster children, did not settle with the de Blasio administration, the entity that hires foster care providers. So the city remains a defendant. Several legal service providers, and city officials, are leery of the proposed settlement, saying they are already working together to solve problems such as extensive stays for kids in foster care. Besides, they say, the state already has authority to review foster care.

That situation, which surfaced last Tuesday, has been brewing since the summer.

By Thursday, de Blasio was looking to put the onus on Albany, on a different front -- events leading up to the fatal shooting of NYPD Officer Randolph Holder. Police Commissioner William Bratton called defendant Tyrone Howard a career criminal, arrested, for example, in a 2009 gunfight. But a judge allowed him in an alternative drug program rather than prison, leading de Blasio to call on state lawmakers to make changes.

"This week, we learned the true cost of the problems that exist in our bail and diversions systems," de Blasio said. "And we realized what it means when our judges don't have the ability to weigh the danger that the defendant poses to our society." That's the case in 47 other states, he said. In recent years, de Blasio acknowledged, he has been among those stating that "too many people have gone to jail or gone to prison who did not belong there."

"There are large human consequences when we get either side of the equation wrong," the mayor said.

Cuomo crafted his public response differently, calling the Holder slaying "all too familiar and all too frequent: a loss of life, needlessly, by gun violence that is just out of control in this city and in this nation."


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