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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Cuomo puts daylight between himself and de Blasio -- again

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks to

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks to the media as he leaves the Brooklyn home of slain New York City Police Officer Rafael Ramos. Photo Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

Here was Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on the radio Tuesday urging everybody to turn down the volume on policing controversies while slain officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu are mourned.

Broadly speaking, both he and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio sent a similar message a day earlier. But the governor's statements diverged from the mayor's in key ways.

We've seen this divergence before -- as when Cuomo effectively overruled de Blasio on charter-school expansions and eclipsed him on the issue of Ebola quarantines.

Attention now, of course, is riveted on criminal justice issues. Patrolmen's Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch said after the assassinations that the mayor and others at City Hall have "blood on their hands."

De Blasio told reporters Monday, "I think what he said was a mistake, and it was wrong."

But Cuomo, when also asked about Lynch's remarks, told WNYC: "See, that is the exact opposite of what I'm suggesting we do. That is still assessing blame." Earlier the governor said he'll speak with him and "I respect him as a leader."

Public-sector unions representing teachers are battling Cuomo and at peace with de Blasio. In law enforcement, it's the reverse.

Both men are Democrats who play to distinct if overlapping audiences. They follow separate political paths -- some of it due to their differing jobs -- while keeping up cordial appearances.

But also: Cuomo has never been known to play backup for anybody.

De Blasio has sought from the start to display an emotional connection with minority communities in police controversies such as the Eric Garner case. Suddenly, however, a disastrous double murder -- of an Asian cop and a Latino cop, as it happened -- sets him scrambling to convey solidarity with the NYPD yet deny any inconsistency in his approach.

Leading protesters expressed condolences to the officers but said their demonstrations shouldn't be linked to the gunman, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who reportedly shot his ex-girlfriend earlier Saturday, once tried to hang himself and intimidated his mother. They insisted video-recorded protester calls for "dead cops" and "arms up, shoot back" came from a small contingent amid largely peaceful demonstrations -- a theme echoed by de Blasio.

Cuomo, however, replied: "This takes us down a dark tunnel, right? 'It wasn't me, it was the other guy.' It's almost irrelevant, right? The dialogue got out of control," Cuomo said, adding that one or two "dead cops" chants is "one or two too many."

Cuomo said: "I think the mayor's point is my point overall . . . We're on the same page."

"I've been in this city all my life," he added perhaps figuratively, skipping over his time in Westchester, Albany and Washington, D.C. "I've been through Crown Heights and Bensonhurst and Howard Beach. I've seen it all. At one point we get right up to the boiling point."

Comparisons to deeply damaging moments of racial strife in the tenures of ex-Mayors Ed Koch and David Dinkins might not be quite what the current regime at City Hall wants to hear just now. And yet, Cuomo said at the outset of the interview, "You haven't had a mayor and a governor who have the kind of personal bond that we have -- which sort of trumps all."

They do seem to have a unique public relationship.


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