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Senate Democrats, Cuomo spar over Amazon deal

ALBANY — Party alliances aside, Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Democrats in the State Senate have had a strained relationship, at best, over the years.

This week, it got worse.

The internecine squabbles erupted for all to see with Cuomo publicly declaring that Senate Democrats are engaged in a “pandering" exercise to try to kill an Amazon office complex destined for Queens and, to boot, that they have a plan to raise taxes on wealthy people that will kill the state’s finances.

Senate Democrats responded: Cuomo is afflicted with “fake news” syndrome.

This is a fight that goes back years over Senate Democratic claims that Cuomo helped Republicans keep control of the Senate until last year when it served his own political interests to have the Democrats take over the 63-member chamber.

This year, Legislature Democrats have moved on their own terms and schedule to pass a slew of bills on everything from abortion rights to immigration policies to gun control.

On Friday, the spat intensified after the Washington Post quoted unnamed officials saying that Amazon may be ready to back away from a major deal — with billions in taxpayer incentives — to locate a sprawling office complex in Long Island City across the East River from Manhattan.

At an unrelated event on Long Island, Cuomo accused the Senate Democrats of trying to kill the Amazon deal. “For the State Senate to oppose Amazon was governmental malpractice. If they stop Amazon from coming to New York, they’re going to have the people of New York to explain it to," Cuomo said in a flow of rhetorical bashing he delivered to his fellow Democrats in the Senate.

Critics of the Amazon deal say it will drive out residents from a nearby Queens neighborhood and is overly generous with what they call corporate welfare. On Friday, they questioned whether the governor's warning about Amazon was meant to soften opposition to the incentives.

Before he stopped talking with Long Island business leaders, Cuomo also accused the Senate Democrats of trying to push higher taxes onto millionaires; he says the top 1 percent of earners in New York pay nearly half the personal income tax receipts that Albany gets each year.

“Bring sanity to the Senate," Cuomo said, adding that he will “do everything he can” to stop the tax hike on wealthy people.

Then, it was on to the surrogates to continue the sniping.

A Senate Democratic spokesman, Mike Murphy, said lawmakers in the chamber have been doing their due diligence to seek answers to the deal that was cut secretly with Amazon and that there has been no Senate Democratic position on the deal.

As for the tax hike plan? “Not sure where the governor is getting his ‘fake news’ from, but Senate Democratic Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins has made it clear we are not looking at raising taxes," Murphy said.

That brought Richard Azzopardi, a senior adviser to Cuomo, into the mix. He fired off a statement that Stewart-Cousins and her deputy, Queens Senator Michael Gianaris — one of the most outspoken critics of the Amazon deal — need to “get on the same page.’’

The Cuomo official sent an email to reporters showing that Gianaris introduced a bill letting New York City impose a tax surcharge on high-income earners to help pay for crumbling improvements to the city’s subway system. Murphy, the Senate spokesman, then took to Twitter to say the bill has been around for years and isn't going to be approved.

“It is unfortunate that the governor is trying to divide the Democratic Party at this crucial and historic time," Murphy said.

The latest Cuomo/Senate Democratic fight intensified this week after Stewart-Cousins appointed Gianaris, the Amazon deal foe, to a state panel that will have a role in approving some of the financial incentives the governor wants to give Amazon. It led to a Cuomo spokeswoman calling Gianaris a “flip flopping” senator.

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