As the city battles the worst economic and health crisis in a century, Mayor Bill de Blasio has found himself on the defense this week after the high profile resignation of his health commissioner.
De Blasio has insisted it was a natural time for transition and change, but others see an increasingly isolated mayor who can be difficult to advise.
"What I ask of all of them is to work with me to figure out the best way to address and solve problems," de Blasio said Wednesday, refusing to say whether he had fired Dr. Barbot following months of acrimony which spilled into public view.
In the end, Dr. Oxiris Barbot, a pediatrician by trade with years of experience at one of the country's premier health care agencies, couldn't seem to get through to the mayor.
Barbot's resignation ended months of tension between City Hall and the Health Department amidst the city's worst public health crisis in a century.
For those watching the mayor's interaction with Barbot in the weeks leading up to her exit, the news did not come as a surprise.
"It's fairly obvious that the mayor had personal antipathy towards Dr. Barbot,” said Councilman Ritchie Torres. “But when you're the mayor governing amidst a public health crisis you have to get serious, and put public health ahead of politics.”
The mayor, known for preferring a communication style that is simplified, often demands yes or no answers from his commissioners — a nearly impossible task as the city struggled to keep up with the scientific facts behind a fast moving virus even health care experts did not fully understand.
"I’ll only say about different commissioners, what I ask of all of them is communication," de Blasio told reporters.
Sources say the mayor tends to interrupt while commissioners explain. In his view, commissioners are slow moving bureaucrats, not always in search of the fastest solution.
De Blasio now only has a handful of trusted advisers left. Emma Wolfe, his chief of staff, and First Deputy Mayor Dean Fuleihan are atop the list, along with Budget Director Melanie Hartzog.
And there is an ongoing exodus at the press office: Press Secretary Freddie Goldstein and Wiley Norvell, a longtime adviser who focused on messaging, both left in the last month.
Sources tell NY1 the mayor can be selectively tough, and condescending to women of color. Several high ranking ones have headed for the exit in recent years.
"There seems to be a double standard when the NYPD Commissioner, a white male, made disparaging comments about the city's political leadership. There were no consequences," Torres said.
In recent weeks, NYPD Commissioner Demot Shea has publicly defied the mayor, called the recent budget agreement a "bow to mob rule" and referred to city leaders as "cowards."
But asked about those comments, the mayor demurred.
"There's nothing he has said that I took personal offense to," de Blasio said.
The mayor, ever hesitant to be at odds with the NYPD, has defended Shea's comments as a simple difference of opinion.
The Health Department and the Department of Small Business Services, both key in the recovery, changed leadership in recent weeks. Dr. Dave Choksi, the Health Department's incoming commissioner, has less than 18 months to catch up, deliver results and earn the trust of an agency already tangled in politics.