After imperial Japan swept into China in the 1930s, the warring Chinese Communists and Nationalists managed a semblance of unity against a common enemy, even if it took some arm twisting. When Hitler’s Germany imperiled Europe, the United States and the Soviet Union set aside mutual hostility to defeat the Nazis.
So is it too much to ask the mayor of New York City and the governor of New York State to work together in the face of a crisis bordering on the existential for their citizens?
This is about fixing the doddering subways. Should they collapse, which on any given day does not seem a preposterous thought, the city would come treacherously close to having to put up a “going out of business” sign. The state might as well then summon the clergy to perform last rites on its own economy. But instead of desperately needed unity, we have two leaders and their surrogates engaged in a fruitless back and forth over who is historically responsible, who owes how much money, and who got us into this mess.
Warring between mayors and governors is as natural in New York as jaywalking. But the tough-guy act performed, each in his own way, by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio is singularly corrosive because the welfare of nearly six million daily subway riders is at stake. It is shocking how little progress on bridging differences has been made since the governor declared a state of emergency seven months ago. It feels like “Groundhog Day,” only far less entertaining, with the same points made over and over.
Each side seeks to bolster its case by hauling out documents so old and long-ignored that they are about as relevant to this emergency as the Dead Sea Scrolls. Each also has a knack for getting under the other’s skin, needlessly so.
Mr. de Blasio’s representatives stopped the M.T.A. board from approving, for now, a billion-dollar plan to spruce up 33 subway stations with countdown clocks, better lighting and other amenities. Frills, the mayor implied. Spoken like someone who doesn’t appreciate how tired riders are of stations that look like the ruins of Stalingrad.