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A Delayed Bridge Opening and an ‘Inappropriate’ Mailer Puts Cuomo on the Defensive

A Delayed Bridge Opening and an ‘Inappropriate’ Mailer Puts Cuomo on the Defensive

ALBANY, N.Y. — It must have seemed like such a fine idea.On Friday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, was standing alongside his mother, Matilda, and Hillary Clinton celebrating “the grand opening” of the eastbound span of a gleaming bridge bearing his father’s name. Emotional words were spoken; selfies were taken.But that span never opened as planned…


ALBANY, N.Y. — It must have seemed like such a fine idea.

On Friday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, was standing alongside his mother, Matilda, and Hillary Clinton celebrating “the grand opening” of the eastbound span of a gleaming bridge bearing his father’s name. Emotionalwords were spoken;selfies were taken.

But thatspannever opened as planned on Saturdayas engineers invoked a “potentially dangerous situation” involving the old Tappan Zee Bridge. What had seemed a perfectly orchestrated ribbon-cutting, just days before Thursday’s primary, quickly morphed into a cudgel for the governor’s opponents, who accused him of putting politics above public safety and called for a federal investigation.

Then, a second problem erupted for Mr. Cuomo on Saturday, when a flier landed in mailboxes of Jewish New Yorkers: a political mailer, paid for by the State Democratic Party that Mr. Cuomo funds, tying together a photograph of his opponent, Cynthia Nixon, and the loaded words “anti-Semitism.” The flier drew swift rebukes from fellow Democrats as Mr. Cuomo distanced himself from its content.

On Sunday in Tarrytown, Marcus J. Molinaro, the Republican candidate for governor, questioned whether the bridge opening was rushed, citing the governor’s penchant for news headlines, and he called for an independent investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board. “The governor has a clear history and has made perfectly clear that at times optics and politics are more important than anything else,” he said.

Mr. Molinaro, the Dutchess County executive, said he knew of two senior officials involved in the bridge’s construction who had raised concerns before Friday’s event.

“There are individuals who would come forward if subpoenaed to make clear that decisions were made based on political interests,” Mr. Molinaro said during a news conference in Tarrytown, the eastern landfall of the bridge. He declined to identify the individuals, saying they fear retribution, but added that they would speak publicly if they were given adequate protection.

In an afternoon news conference at his Midtown offices, Mr. Cuomo denied that the bridge opening was rushed and said he was not responsible for the inflammatory mailer.

“I didn’t know about the mailer,” he said, calling its language “inappropriate” and adding, “It’s not the tone I approve of.” He also said the delayed opening of the full span “had nothing to do with the new bridge,” but rather problems stemming from the dismantling of the old Tappan Zee.

Moreover, he said that bridge was no longer owned by the state, and that he had “no authority in this situation,” while conceding that there was no set timetable for reopening the eastern span.

Ms. Nixon weighed in on the mailer before her own news conference later Sunday in Tarrytown.

“This is an attack not only on my children and my character, but on all New Yorkers,” Ms. Nixon said. “It’s sickening, at a time when anti-Semitic, Islamophobic and other hate crimes are on the rise, to exploit people’s real fears like this.”

The party would not say who was responsible or how many mailers were sent, though the party’s executive director, Geoff Berman, said on Twitter he had not personally approved the piece, which he said was a “mistake” and “inappropriate.”

In a statement, the Democratic Party said, “The state party sent out a wrong and inappropriate mailer — we will work with the Nixon campaign to send out a mailing of their choosing to the same universe of people.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio, who formally decided not to endorse a candidate in the primary race, condemned the mailer, calling it “Trumpian” and called for the party to “compensate” Ms. Nixon.

“A tweeted ‘apology’ calling it a ‘mistake’ is laughable,” Mr. de Blasio wrote.

In a joint statement, Ms. Nixon’s rabbi, Sharon Kleinbaum, and Rabbi Kleinbaum’s wife, Randi Weingarten, the head of the American Federation of Teachers, also condemned the mailer, calling it a baseless lie.

Mr. Cuomo’s campaign had transferred $2.5 million to the state party in August, in part to fund political mailers and television ads.

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