The Real Deal New York

Cuomo and Nixon spar over housing during Wednesday night debate

First -- and only -- gubernatorial debate was held on Wednesday
By Kathryn Brenzel | August 30, 2018 09:30AM

August 29: Governor Andrew Cuomo and primary opponent Cynthia Nixon wait for the start of their debate at Hofstra University (Credit: Getty)

The first — and only — debate between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Cynthia Nixon before next month’s gubernatorial primary briefly touched on the issue of housing.

During Wednesday night’s debate at Hofstra University, Nixon blamed the state’s housing crisis on the fact that Cuomo’s top donors come from the real estate industry. The governor’s reelection campaign received more than $733,000 from New York City developers and real estate-related organizations in the first half of 2018. The only real estate developer among Nixon’s top donors was Lawrence Benenson of Benenson Capital Partners with $10,000, as previously reported by The Real Deal.

“Gentrification is pushing people — particularly black and brown people — out of the communities they have grown up in,” she said.

Nixon has repeatedly criticized the governor’s relationship with the industry and has pushed for universal rent control, though it’s unclear how such a policy would be implemented.

Cuomo noted that he’s spent much of his career focused on homelessness (he founded a nonprofit in the 1980s that built housing for the homeless and later served as secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development). He acknowledged there’s a housing crisis and said the state needs to raise the vacancy decontrol threshold, which is currently at $2,733.75. (Nixon has proposed eliminating the practice.) He then pointed to New York City and said Nixon failed to see the city’s role in the housing crisis.

“The NYCHA housing is a political disgrace,” he said.

Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio have sparred over for the various issues plaguing the New York City Housing Authority and the state’s level of responsibility to the agency.

But at the end of the heated debate, it was on the subject of de Blasio that Cuomo and Nixon found common ground: Neither would say whether or not they wanted the mayor’s endorsement. Nixon wouldn’t commit to a yes or no answer. The governor noted that his relationship with the mayor is dysfunctional but said he “loves” De Blasio. He’s confident that the feeling is mutual.

“I’m sure he loves me in a strange sort of way,” he said.