- Associated Press - Friday, November 27, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) - The feud between Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo is not taking a break for the holidays.

The latest squabble in the ongoing dispute between the state’s most powerful Democrats - who long ago abandoned any pretense of a friendship they once claimed stretched back decades - is a rise in New York City’s homeless population. The two men and their staffs have traded barbs Thanksgiving week, culminating in Cuomo suggesting that the city’s failure to handle its homelessness crisis would require an unprecedented level of state intervention.

“It’s clear that the mayor can’t manage the homeless crisis and the state does intend to step in ?with both management expertise and resources,” the governor’s spokeswoman, Dani Lever, said Friday.

There were nearly 58,000 people living in the city’s shelters Tuesday night, down from last year’s record of about 59,000 but up from when de Blasio took office in January 2014. (An additional 3,000 to 4,000 are estimated to live on the city’s streets.) The increase in homelessness threatens to undermine the effectiveness of the de Blasio’s administration’s central promise to fight income inequality and has been splashed across tabloid headlines and local newscasts.

In the same week that his own police commissioner criticized City Hall’s homelessness response, de Blasio announced a sweeping $2.6 billion plan to create 15,000 units of supportive housing - and called on the state to do more.

“The city of New York just did something extraordinary. We need to hear from the state of New York,” de Blasio said Wednesday in a television interview. “It’s time for the governor to step up.”

De Blasio aides have pointed to 2011 decisions by Cuomo and then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg to eliminate a rental subsidy program named Advantage that some experts believe kept vulnerable populations out of shelters.

Cuomo staffers in return touted that the state spends $825 million a year - more than what was spent on the Advantage program - in homelessness services and rental subsidies, while the governor himself suggested that “throwing money at the problem is not always the answer.”

“It’s understanding the problem and being smart enough to know how to manage it,” he said this week. To that end, the governor’s aides have said that Cuomo would use his January State of the State address to announce his plan to intervene in the city’s homelessness crisis.

Karen Hinton, de Blasio’s top spokeswoman, made clear Friday that the city “cannot wait any longer for the state” and is “tacking this problem now and aggressively.”

This is far from the first time Cuomo muscled his way into a city crisis, and the frequency of his interjections has only increased after de Blasio called him out in an extraordinary June news conference, saying he had “been disappointed at every turn” by the governor.

In August, the governor sent a team of experts to the Bronx to “take matters into our own hands” after criticizing the city’s response to a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak. He also inserted himself into City Hall debates about the ride-hailing company Uber and topless women panhandling in Times Square, among others.

Moreover, the governor has shifted to the left this year, in part by seeming to co-opt some of the mayor’s crusades like a higher minimum wage, and has cozied up to some elected officials, including U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., who are rumored to be considering a primary challenge to de Blasio in 2017.


Contact the writer on Twitter @JonLemire

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