De Blasio hits back at Cuomo, doesn’t rule out possible election challenge

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The years-long feud between Andrew Cuomo and Bill de Blasio escalated further Thursday as the mayor accused the governor of portraying New York City as a hellscape to distract from his own unfolding scandals.

It was the latest entry in the vicious back-and-forth between New York’s two most powerful politicians as Cuomo stares down separate investigations into allegations he sexually harassed three women — including two subordinates — and his administration sat on key data that revealed thousands of coronavirus deaths were linked to outbreaks in nursing homes.

“Go around the neighborhoods of this city, people are fighting back, neighborhoods are vibrant, we’re turning the corner. That’s what leaders should celebrate and if they’re not, there must be an ulterior motive,” de Blasio responded during his daily press briefing to questions over Cuomo’s remarks and the scandals consuming the state Capitol.

“The ulterior motive is he doesn’t want to talk about the nursing home scandal, the cover-up of the facts with the nursing homes, he doesn’t want to speak to the families who lost their loved ones,” de Blasio continued.

“He doesn’t want to speak about the three women who have accused him of sexual harassment. That’s what’s really going on here.”

The mayor made the remarks just hours after Cuomo — never mentioning de Blasio by name — described New York City in terms typically reserved for post-apocalyptic films made during the city’s late 1970s nadir.

“You also have New York City, which is in a very precarious situation. It’s teetering, to use a word. Crime is way up, homelessness is way up, many people have left New York City,” Cuomo said Wednesday, offering the unsolicited hit in response to questions about why he would not step aside as the state crafts its next budget.

“We have to get New York City functional again and safe again and viable again — and we have to do that quickly,” he continued.

It was the second time in two weeks that Cuomo portrayed the five boroughs as a mismanaged wasteland in response to vociferous criticism from de Blasio, his longtime sparring partner, over the wave of scandals hitting Albany.

As Cuomo’s woes have mounted, de Blasio has taken to publicly toying with the idea of a gubernatorial bid of his own — potentially setting the stage for the sort of Democratic primary clash not seen since the bitter rivalry between Ed Koch and Mario Cuomo decades ago.

Hizzoner laughed and offered a Cheshire Cat grin when he was asked about it yet again on Thursday and, again, he pointedly refused to rule it out.

“The future will take care of itself,” the termed-out mayor said.

Cuomo’s administration faces a federal investigation run by prosecutors in Brooklyn over his management of nursing homes during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic and allegations that his staff stonewalled requests for data from Washington, state lawmakers and the press.

Just days after news of the nursing home review broke, two women went public with detailed allegations of harassment by Cuomo, and a third woman expanded her account of her mistreatment while working for the governor in his Manhattan offices.

Under siege, Cuomo agreed on Sunday to allow state Attorney General Letitia James to launch an independent inquiry into the allegations.

De Blasio time and again Thursday hit Cuomo over the twin probes.

“I don’t think this is over,” Hizzoner said about the state of play in Albany.

“I think we’re going to get more and more information,” he continued. “The bottom line is we can’t move forward if there isn’t full honestly about what happened and a full acknowledgment of the suffering that’s been caused and we’re nowhere near that at this point.”

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