Albany can be a lonely place. The State Capitol is filled with the echoes of political defeats for a long line of New York City mayors from John Lindsay – who unsuccessfully tried to neuter powerbroker Robert Moses – to Michael Bloomberg's West Side Stadium – to Bill de Blasio and his millionaire's tax.
So it's good to have a friend when the governor always seems to get in your way. The latest squabble between the governor and the mayor is over the timing of asking for more red light cameras for the city. But the biggest hurdle – universal pre-K – is behind the mayor and he seems to have an unlikely new track coach by his side: Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
While Silver and de Blasio share ideological positions on many issues, they are different political breeds. From the Lower East Side, Silver is almost a throwback to the Tammany Hall era that is so vividly described in Terry Golway's new book "Machine Made." Stripping away the typical "Tammany is bad" argument, Golway argues that, while hardly perfect, the city's Democratic machine often played a crucial role in delivering social services to the poor who would otherwise be getting no help from the city. Not only interested in lining their own pockets, Tammany leaders also tried to help tens of thousands of New Yorkers – who happened to vote.
Silver has been the master of the Assembly for 20 years -- a lifetime in politics. He's served as a counterbalance to 12 years of a Republican governor while later being a rock of stability for his party during the unsettled administrations of Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson. But with Andrew Cuomo in charge, Silver is no longer the Democratic top dog. Enter the lanky new mayor.
Although de Blasio is a former political operative, he's not a creature of the game like Silver. Unlike the Assembly Speaker, de Blasio failed to win his campaign to run his legislative body when he was a City Council speaker. De Blasio is also from a different sometimes starry-eyed era where politicians talk about doing "the right thing" instead of looking at what things can actually be done.
Silver and de Blasio, though, are both big-D Democrats and became partners during the mayor's struggles with the Cuomo administration over pre-K. The legislative fight – largely behind closed doors – allowed Silver to flex his muscles while, in the end, also making the governor look like a good guy by giving early education to thousands of New York kids. It's not clear where the mayor's proposal would have ended up without Silver's help.
Hence, a big Lower East Side lovefest was held yesterday between Silver and de Blasio where the two men slapped each other's backs and toddled with pre-K constituents. This could be the beginning of an interesting bromance.