ALBANY — Federal agents do not need to intervene and address a spike in New York City crime and lawlessness, Gov. Andrew Cuomo told President Donald Trump, saying Wednesday that the situation is the state’s responsibility.
Trump on Monday announced plans to deploy federal forces to Chicago and suggested he would do the same in other big cities following a surge in violent crimes across the nation, including shootings, homicides and burglaries. Trump has named the effort Operation Legend: Combating Violent Crime in American Cities.
Cuomo dissuaded the president during a conversation late Tuesday from sending federal agents to New York City to address the city’s recent crime increase.
New York City shootings are up 63.3% with 717 incidents this year and 439 in 2019. Police reported 197 murders in the five boroughs compared to 155 last year — an increase of 27%, according to the New York Police Department. Violent crime is on the uptick in cities across the nation and statewide, including Albany, Rochester, Buffalo and Syracuse.
“I think the situation can be managed by the state to the extent of anything that has to be done,” Cuomo said during a telephoned press briefing late Wednesday morning. “[Trump] expressed his concern about the crime in New York City. We are concerned about it, and we are watching it and monitoring it.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio threatened Wednesday to go to court to block President Trump from bringing his controversial federal crackdown to New York City with a letter to Attorney General William Barr and acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, saying federal agents are not needed.
Cuomo agreed federal involvement is unnecessary at this point.
“I have not declared a public safety emergency... I don’t see why there’s any reason why the federal government should take action,” the governor said. “The state understands and respects the Constitution of the United States and we have no need at this time for any assistance from the federal government.
“The state is willing and able to do what it needs to do.”
Widespread graffiti is rampant on several city and government buildings and businesses in the five boroughs, contributing to an appearance and feel of lawlessness, Cuomo said.
“COVID struck a blow in New York City,” Cuomo said. “The city is in very troubling times and we are seeing deterioration on a number of levels. The graffiti is just another manifestation of decline. I think the city makes a big mistake in not addressing these situations. I mean, clean it up. What does it take? It’s spray paint.”
A downstate public safety emergency requiring state assistance is possible, Cuomo said, adding the state would bring in the additional necessary resources to address the situation.
“If I determined there was a public safety emergency in New York City, I would declare it,” he said.
Cuomo would not specify what additional resources the state plans to deploy if conditions or city crime deteriorates. Trump agreed to speak with Cuomo again before the president took any action.
The National Governors Association on Wednesday renewed its request for the fourth time in three months for $500 billion from the federal government to rebuild state economies. National Governors Association Chairman Larry Hogan, the Republican governor of Maryland, and Cuomo, the association’s vice chairman, issued the joint statement April 12, April 17 and May 12.
“The National Governors Association has called for funding... not Republican governors, not Democratic governors — all governors,” Cuomo said. “Studies have shown when you starve the state and local governments, the economy does not recover as quickly.”
The governor has pleaded for federal funding for state and local governments for weeks to prevent a 20% cut to schools, hospitals and localities as New York faces a minimum $13.3 billion budget shortfall. Officials said in May the state needs $61 billion in federal support.
Congress first passed its record $2.2 trillion CARES package in late March, which mainly focused on funding small businesses through Paycheck Protection Program funds and changes to emergency loan programs. U.S. Senate Republicans have taken their time negotiating a $3 trillion federal HEROES Act coronavirus relief package House Democrats passed in May.
“The Republicans still are refusing to include assistance for state and local governments — that is wholly inconsistent with their stated goal of getting the economy up and running,” Cuomo said. “The Republican senators put the politics first and wouldn’t fund Democratic states who were suffering from COVID. Now, Republican states are suffering also. ... If the Republicans care about the economy, they’ll put their politics aside and they will fund state and local governments.”
The U.S. has recorded the most coronavirus deaths and cases in the world. As of Tuesday, more than 140,000 Americans have died and there have been more than 3.8 million confirmed cases. Trump held a coronavirus briefing late Tuesday afternoon — his first since April — saying the pandemic will “unfortunately get worse before it gets better.”
Trump also encouraged Americans to wear face masks for the first time. The president has held recent events without a mask requirement.
Cuomo remarked on Trump’s “positive step forward” in publicly supporting wearing masks, but repeated his request for a national mandate for Americans to wear facial coverings in public.
A recent Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation model projects 40,000 more Americans will die from COVID-19 without a national mask-wearing order. IHME is funded by the Gates Foundation and is the preferred model used by the White House.
“You’re in public service to make a difference,” Cuomo said. “I can’t think of a time when the experts said if you take this action, you can save 40,000 lives. Just by signing a piece of paper, the president can save 40,000 lives. Why wouldn’t you do that?”
Positive coronavirus infections and hospitalizations continue to increase in 40 states nationwide and Puerto Rico.
“If we don’t get the infection rate down in the rest of the country, we can anticipate it’s going to be on the upswing in New York sooner or later,” Cuomo said. “People in New York paid too high a price to see it go backwards. To say New York will be fine... we know that’s not the case. The infection rate travels across the country because people are mobile and the virus travels with people.”
State officials continue to monitor New York’s COVID-19 numbers as the virus soars in the U.S. The state reported 10 fewer virus patients in New York hospitals Wednesday, bringing the total to 714 hospitalized — its lowest number since March 18.
Nine New Yorkers died from the virus Tuesday, up from two Monday. The state’s virus-related fatalities have fluctuated below 15 daily fatalities for several weeks.
The state reported 705 new COVID-19 cases, or about 1.04% positive, of the 67,169 tests conducted Tuesday. Each of the state’s 10 regions reported a low, consistent positive COVID-19 testing rate of 1.2% or lower.
Nonessential businesses are reopen statewide, barring gyms and movie theaters and indoor dining or museums in New York City.
To see where each region stands on reopening and the complete county breakdown of COVID-19 cases and deaths statewide, view the COVID-19 map and tracker at hudsonvalley360.com/site/covid19.html.
The Tribune News Service contributed to this report.