Mayor Adams plays down Cuomo’s scathing remarks about NYC housing as ex-governor fuels comeback talk

NEW YORK — Mayor Eric Adams on Monday played down scathing remarks former Gov. Andrew Cuomo made over the weekend about health issues in NYC public housing as the fallen governor continues a public speaking circuit many see as laying the groundwork for his political comeback.

Cuomo, who stepped down as governor amid a sexual abuse scandal, is rumored to be considering a run for mayor, but sources close to him have said he most likely wouldn’t campaign for the job if Adams runs for reelection.

But Cuomo has sharpened his rhetoric of late, with his words coming much closer to outright criticism of Adams than they have previously.

Cuomo’s most recent comments took aim at arsenic levels in residents of a city housing development, with blistering criticism of the NYC Housing Authority.

Adams, at an unrelated event Monday, said Cuomo’s rhetoric didn’t come across as a personal betrayal.

“I don’t feel betrayed,” the mayor said. “Many people have opinions.”

Adams, who spent time with Cuomo early in his City Hall tenure, was responding to a question about comments the former governor made Sunday at the First Baptist Church of Crown Heights, a predominantly Black congregation, where Cuomo homed in on complaints residents at Jacob Riis Houses in the East Village have leveled about foul-smelling water — and people testing positive for high levels of arsenic.

Adams declined to comment Monday about the possibility of a primary challenge from Cuomo.

On Sunday, the former governor focused his attention on Riis Houses, a New York City Housing Authority development where elevated levels of arsenic were found in the drinking water in 2022, a story first reported by the news outlet The City. After subsequent testing, the company that first examined the water reversed its findings, saying that its initial assessment was wrong.

Cuomo suggested there’s more to the story, though, noting that a Riis resident, Josefa Bonet, died with four times the normal threshold of arsenic in her system and that another resident tested for high levels of arsenic as well.

“The Housing Authority runs around and they do all sorts of investigations, and they come back and they say this has been a terrible case of bureaucratic incompetence and government incompetence,” Cuomo told the congregation.

“They say don’t worry about it, don’t worry about the chemicals and don’t worry about the water — the water is safe. But they still haven’t answered the question: How did the arsenic get in the blood of the residents?”

In a social media post on the X website after his remarks, Cuomo made his criticism even more explicit, ascribing the situation at Riis to “2 years of government incompetence.”

This was met with a fiery response from NYCHA, which slammed Cuomo on X.

“Andrew Cuomo’s statements are those of desperate fallen leader, who is purporting false public health information and fear mongering for political expediency – something the ex-governor reminded New Yorkers of again and again during COVID,” the authority’s spokeswoman Barbara Brancaccio said in an apparent reference to the many seniors who perished during the pandemic under Cuomo’s watch.

“There is no truth to what he said today — he should know better, but clearly he does not, and this is simply irresponsible.”

Cuomo’s spokesman Rich Azzopardi responded that his boss “will stand up and fight for the people of @NYCHA against a failed bureaucracy every single day of the week, and twice on Sunday. That much you can count on.”

Cuomo, who has appeared frequently in Black churches in recent months, hasn’t limited his remarks of late to Riis Houses. He’s criticized the implementation of congestion pricing, a new policy he once supported that’s been met with resistance in the outer boroughs, and has slammed “pro-Hamas” protesters at college campuses for threatening, harassing and menacing Jews.

The former governor’s polling at the moment does not appear conducive to mayoral run, though.

In a recent poll put out by Slingshot Strategies, more than 50% of those surveyed described him as unfavorable or somewhat unfavorable.