By Patrick McAuliffe
Despite my own southern European heritage and the continuation of the Gagliano dynasty (congrats on being elected EIC for next year, Matt), Binghamton Review is not a safe space for Italian people. More specifically, the Review is not a safe space for one Italian man. My animosity for Governor Andrew Cuomo is old news, but the news on Big Fredo seems to change every day. He continues to be hostile to the press in new and impressive, albeit cowardly, ways; he likes to invent pissing contests with NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio; he stands his ground and denies any wrongdoing in the THREE separate investigations into his administration and conduct. What is simultaneously disgusting and relieving is that, as the walls close around him and his executive powers are subject to ever-growing oversight, Cuomo is lifting many of New York’s COVID restrictions, such as on the capacity of buildings and nighttime curfews. A broken, gaudy Rolex is right twice a day, and even though the Italian Stallion is finally coming around to matching the mandate policies of other, much freer states, his self-centered reasons for doing so are all too apparent.
I’ll begin with a story, a tale of euphoric excitement that ultimately ended in tragic disappointment. On April 27th, at 12:09pm, the Governor’s office put out a press release, stating that he would be giving a speech at the Binghamton University Foundation on Gannett Street in Johnson City. The problem with this press release is that it listed the speech as happening an hour from when it was released (1:30pm), and over two hours from where the Governor had traditionally been giving his press briefings in Albany. The event was closed to the press, consistent with his weeks-long policy for previous press conferences after questions about his sexual harassment allegations have gained steam. I was Doordashing at the time, and upon seeing the press release on Capitol reporter Zach Williams’ Twitter, I was elated. I had no intention to cause trouble or heckle the Governor, but I suppose I wanted two things: to see whether Big Fredo would allow a lowly citizen of his own state to attend his speech, despite forbidding members of the press; and to see whether his apparent charisma carried over in person, instead of through my small phone-sized window into his near-daily proclamations. Nervous and excited, I parked my car at the park next to the Johnson City Walmart and approached the building.
Right away, I clocked four police SUVs, two of which were UPD cars. The parking lot was almost entirely blocked by cones, which supported a “DO NOT ENTER” sign. I crossed the street and walked around the parking lot side of the building for a bit, trying to find a public entrance (the normal BU Foundation front doors read “Entrance for Employees Only”). A woman in full desert camo walked into the building as I approached, and she ended up standing behind Cuomo during his speech. After inspecting the building to no avail (and seeing another State Trooper car further in the lot), I went to leave the parking lot and asked a UPD cop stationed in his car at the entrance if the Governor’s speech was open to the public. He was unsure but hypothesized that, since “they” (meaning UPD) were all there, it probably was a closed event. I thanked him and, as I left, a black Cadillac SUV driven by a man in a suit pulled in front of the cones. Neither the cop nor the SUV driver talked to me further, and I left in my own car with the same feelings one will often feel after leaving the Johnson City Walmart: disappointment, and sadness for the experience that one just had.
To be fair, I didn’t identify myself as a member of the student press corps at BU, despite my lack of identification that would back that up. It didn’t appear to be a press conference-style event, however, judging from what the local news stations live-streamed at 1:30pm. Cuomo announced that all state-run vaccination sites would now permit walk-in vaccinations for everyone ages 16 and up, and tried to reason with (while, admittedly, strawmanning) those that are vaccine-hesitant. The speech was just another opportunity for Big Fredo to project his strength, with military personnel and people in scrubs standing behind him, and lay into the help that the SUNY system provides the state in its continuing vaccination effort. He didn’t totally fool the Albany media, however, as Bernadette Hogan from the New York Post was able to make it down to Binghamton in time to ask for Cuomo’s comments on his current scandal-ridden administration after the speech.
According to the Washington Post, this is not the first time this has happened recently, nor is it something totally unexpected for the Albany-based press corps. Cuomo hasn’t been taking questions from the media in recent weeks, as he probably grew tired of the badgering about his sexual harassment allegations and the nursing home death scandal. He drives out to Syracuse, Binghamton, and Buffalo for publicity events without giving members of the Albany press sufficient time to get to these events, usually about an hour and a half notice for trips taking several hours of driving. How Hogan was able to make it down to Binghamton to question the governor is also explained in the WP: while Cuomo’s location may not be revealed to reporters in Albany until it’s too late, he will usually tell local TV stations of his plans to travel so that they can be the ones reporting on and live-streaming his events. The local stations then reach out to reporters that they have a relationship with, allowing them the foresight that Big Fredo tries to avoid.
Cuomo’s contentious relationship with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has also become a cornerstone of his recent meteoric fall. Cuomo and de Blasio have been at each other’s throats for much of the pandemic, as the governor ordered top-down restrictions on NYC dining capacities and consistently tried to get credit for COVID precautions. According to the New York Times, Cuomo set up a separate publicity event from de Blasio to welcome the military hospital ship the U.S.N.S Comfort back to the city, and aggressively berated the regional FEMA administrator, Thomas Von Essen, who had acted on de Blasio’s orders to ship medical supplies, such as ambulances, throughout the region; Cuomo believed the supplies needed to be shipped throughout the state. According to the New York Post, de Blasio was furious that Cuomo moved up the date of a full reopening of New York City from July 1st to May 19th, saying that the earlier reopening will not provide ample time to watch trends in COVID transmission and take appropriate action.
Besides sticking it to de Blasio and taking credit for himself, as a narcissist is wont to do, Big Fredo most likely expedited NYC’s reopening because his house is crumbling around him. He has three separate investigations pending with NYS Attorney General Letitia James: his coverup of the true death toll in NY nursing homes; the more than ten accusations of sexual harassment and workplace misconduct that began in December 2020 with Lindsay Boylan; and misuse of campaign funds to promote his COVID leadership book (which was published at a time when New York was only second to New Jersey for the highest death rate in the country). Naturally, like any good politician, Cuomo has put his head down and charged right through the public outrage and calls for resignation: he blames the miscounting of nursing home deaths on the “political Department of Justice” under President Trump, according to Fox News; he denies any wrongdoing or inappropriate touching in the workplace; and refuses to comment on the financial aspects of his book deal until his tax returns are released. This is a bad guy, right? His knee-jerk reaction is to shift blame away from himself, and only takes responsibility when something good happens, even if it’s someone else doing it. I’m not crazy?
The New York Times put out a stunning character study of Big Fredo called “The Rise and Fall of Andrew Cuomo”, updated on April 13th, 2021. I encourage every voting-age person in New York to take a look at it for themselves, because it details extensively just how many people in New York politics, including fellow Democrats, have such a disdain for the governor. Even his alleged threatening of NYS Assemblyman Ron Kim was so in line with something that he might do that his office’s denial of the bullying phone call was, for the most part, publicly ignored.
None of this even gets into how quickly Cuomo is reopening New York. His stranglehold on curfews and “food with drinks” rule at bars and restaurants is now suddenly gone. New York City, the site of a year-plus-long draconian lockdown and a place of so much COVID death, is suddenly losing all of its restrictions. Cuomo’s emergency executive powers were set to expire on April 30th, but a bill passed the NYS Assembly on March 5th that prevented him from passing any new executive orders, only permitting him to amend previous orders indefinitely with oversight from the state legislature. April was a rough month for Big Fredo; one can surmise that the full state reopening is a last-ditch effort to salvage any sizable chunk of public support before his gubernatorial term ends in 2022. Who knows whether he’ll run for governor again and try to beat his father’s three consecutive term record? All he seems to have in life is his governorship, but do New Yorkers really want this cowardly narcissist lording over us for any longer than necessary? I would hope, by now, the answer is a resounding “fuggedaboutit”.