So far, Andrew Cuomo has managed to be lucky. He’s embraced the subway and MTA when there have been accomplishments like finally opening the Second Avenue Subway or putting new buses with wifi on the road. And when there have been issues with the subway or Long Island Railroad, he’s managed to avoid blame, instead accusing Amtrak of mismanagement. But his luck might be running out.
As the subway runs into more and more problems, including an A train derailing last week, more and more anger is directed at Cuomo. He does run the MTA, appointing its leadership, even though he doesn’t like admitting it. And while he did declare a state of emergency and promise a billion dollars for repairs, it may be too little, too late.
Already, Gov. Cuomo is under pressure. The Riders Alliance, New York Communities for Change, and other groups are aiming their protests at him. Ken Lovett in the Daily News argues that Republicans could seize an edge on Cuomo in next year’s election if things don’t get better. Cuomo is feeling the heat–voters have received polling calls, believed to be from his campaign, asking whether voters blame him for the crisis.
Of course, Bill de Blasio is ducking, too. While he doesn’t control the MTA the way Cuomo does, New York City does contribute to the MTA’s budget. However, he avoided going to the scene of the A train derailment and took a day before even commenting on it. The political calculus is clear: de Blasio needs Cuomo’s help to fix the subways and also to extend Mayoral control (passed by the legislature just the day after the derailment). Getting into an argument with Cuomo would have imperiled that and de Blasio’s other political goals, right in the midst of de Blasio’s re-election campaign.
Nevertheless, this creates an opening for opponents. New York is looking for a leader who will take the lead on fixing the subway system and mass transit more generally. If Cuomo and de Blasio don’t assume that mantle, they’ll create an opportunity for someone else to do so.