Hours after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio launched the distribution of municipal ID cards for city residents, state Sen. Terrence Murphy (R-Yorktown) denounced the move as a security nightmare and a tool that would help "future terrorists" establish false identities.
Sworn into state office for the first time two weeks ago, Murphy represents no city residents, and his remarks Monday won't deter the program, which de Blasio has said would aid in everyday law enforcement.
Murphy's 40th District covers a swath of the northern suburbs in Putnam and Westchester counties, which, like Long Island, have many voters who are uniformed city employees. So it made political sense when Murphy said, "Mayor de Blasio is turning his back on law enforcement again" -- a reference to the Democratic mayor's recent friction with the NYPD, whose officers literally turned their backs on him at public events.
Suburban GOP leaders will be tangling this year with urban Democrats in general and de Blasio in particular. Last fall, the mayor took a high-profile role in the failed drive to install his fellow Democrats as a majority in the Senate. De Blasio's bid for influence was clear. Most Senate Democrats come from the five boroughs, while all but a couple of Republican-majority members do not.
For perspective, de Blasio's billionaire predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, elected as a Republican, failed to get state lawmakers to support a number of his proposals despite his generous financial support for GOP conference campaigns.
Depicting de Blasio as a crazed lefty on the march makes for good public-relations copy in GOP strongholds -- just as city Democrats' portrayal of Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos & Co. as blocking desired change is geared to rally the faithful back home. Last year's call by City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito to revive the city's commuter tax prodded no action but sounded fine to audiences on her side of the Queens border.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo will, of course, look to bridge or smooth over this kind of divide, which extends to other subjects.
There is the perennial dance over preserving rent controls, mostly a city issue. State caps on property taxes are non-city, suburban matters. The annual give-and-take over shares of state school aid presents another such conflict.
Taking questions Monday in Queens, de Blasio seemed intent on quashing the assumption that those in uniform are all detractors of his who reside in the suburbs.
"The NYPD is made up of 35,000 uniformed officers, 50,000 employees overall," he said. "Each and every one is someone who participates in our society, even when they are off duty, has their own views.
"Over half live in the city, over half are people of color. So I really hope, as we move forward -- and we will move forward -- that we respect the diversity of the NYPD, and the diversity of views amongst the rank and file."
That sounds like a bit of political calculus meant to downplay recent criticism, coming from a mayor who's an experienced campaign operative. As for Murphy's blasting the ID card program, City Hall spokeswoman Maibe Ponet said only that it "enjoys wide support from New York City leaders and residents, and we are excited about the enthusiastic response."