There’s a battle brewing in Brooklyn and it’s shaping up to be yet another fight between New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Big Apple Mayor (and presidential candidate, for some reason) Bill de Blasio. Seeing these two mixing it up is nothing new, as the friction between them is pretty much legendary. But this dustup is a bit unusual because it involves the fate of one of New York City’s legendary pizza joints. The taxman came and shut down the Di Fara pizzeria this week, kicking everyone out and padlocking the doors. A sign was posted saying that the joint was now the property of New York State. The reason given was a matter of nearly $170,000 in unpaid state taxes. (For the record, the owner claims to have paid all taxes due.)
This prompted Mayor de Blasio to go public with demands that Di Fara be saved. The governor, on the other hand, announced that he was not about to forgive that sort of a state tax debt for anyone, no matter how good their pizza may be. (New York Post)
The war between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio just got saucy.
Cuomo threw a pie in the mayor’s face Wednesday — saying that if hizzoner wants his favorite Brooklyn pizza joint, Di Fara, open again he can pony up the $167,000 in unpaid state taxes the place owes himself.
“He has no legal authority to forgive state taxes,” Cuomo said. “Now, if he wants to pay the $200,000 on behalf of the pizza place, he can do that. That’s fine. And if he wants to get $200,000 worth of pizza, that’s his business. But he can’t forgive state taxes.”
He then added: “I’m not going to pay $200,000 for their pizza, even if it’s very good pizza.”
Cuomo probably wouldn’t have waded into this battle had de Blasio not made his demands in a very public way on Twitter.
Di Fara is THE best pizza place in New York City. It MUST be saved. I’m ready to do anything I can to get them reopened — as are thousands of New York City pizza-lovers.
My team and I are looking into how we can help resolve this situation. https://t.co/oL1jKxpgh5
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) August 21, 2019
You’ll rarely see me taking Andrew Cuomo’s side on much of anything, but he’s definitely in the right here. The Mayor has really stuck his foot in his mouth on this issue for a couple of reasons.
First of all, the government isn’t supposed to be in the business of picking winners and losers in the free market. (Yes, I know they do it all the time in Washington but that doesn’t make it right.) For the Mayor of the city to go out and declare that one particular business is superior to all the others should be an actionable offense.
And even if that were not the case, Bill de Blasio is making a very public statement encouraging some sort of forgiveness for a business that’s run up a massive tax debt and failed to pay it. If City Hall is going to start riding to the rescue of a failing pizzeria, what about everyone else who falls behind on their taxes? Why aren’t they getting special treatment in this fashion? Heck… for that matter, nobody should bother paying their state taxes if the rules don’t apply equally to everyone.
This is a touchy situation for both the Mayor and the Governor, however. New York City (another with northern New Jersey and parts of Connecticut) is the home of the best thin crust, original pizza in the world. New Yorkers take their pizza very seriously. I don’t remember ever having a pie at Di Fara (and that has nothing to do with their previous rodent infestation issues) but I have no doubt it’s good. And yet there are literally hundreds of other competing pizzerias around the area, each with their own very loyal fan base.
When politicians decide to dip a toe into the entire New York pizza scene, they do so at their own risk. Remember what happened with both Donald Trump and Sarah Palin when they ran afoul of the pizza rules? You need to be able to fold a slice and eat it properly or you quickly become persona non grata in the five boroughs. Staking a claim that one pizza place is better than all the others is nothing short of political suicide.
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