By Ranaan Gerber and Marina Villenueve, Associated Press
Brooklyn and New York City officials and advocacy groups had mixed reactions to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s sudden, unexpected resignation on Tuesday. Some tried to strike a note of reconciliation, while others, who had been his sharp critics, didn’t let up in their condemnation of Cuomo.
Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, who is also the chair of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, told CNN that by speaking up “with solidarity,” victims of harassment now had a better chance of achieving justice in the workplace, and that their actions would mean more women would run for office in the future. She also pointed out that his resignation will not bar Cuomo from running in the future.
State Attorney General Letitia James, a former Brooklyn councilmember who led the investigation into the charges against Cuomo, avoided direct criticism by saying, “Today closes a sad chapter for all of New York, but it’s an important step toward justice. I thank Governor Cuomo for his contributions to our state.”
However, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, also a former Brooklyn councilmember, didn’t let Cuomo’s resignation dampen his criticism. His statement said, “Andrew Cuomo has only ever been interested in his own interests. As a result of his forced resignation, state government can now work solely for the people of New York. Resignation does not undo the harm he inflicted on the women who came forward. Nor does it reduce the damage that his abusive governance has long wrought.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, another former Brooklyn councilmember, was often the object of Cuomo’s criticism. He said, “Make no mistake, this is the result of survivors bravely telling their stories. It was past time for Andrew Cuomo to resign and it’s for the good of all New York.”
In Downtown Brooklyn, Brooklyn Heights and surrounding areas, many people held Cuomo responsible for the closing of Long Island College Hospital in 2014, although the nuts and bolts of the closing were done by SUNY Downstate Hospital, which took over the management of LICH from Continuum, and the state Health Department.
In his 2014 Executive Budget address, Cuomo said, “We need Health and Human Services to act . . . to keep these hospitals [LICH, Interfaith, Brookdale] open.” He blamed the feds: “We need [the $10 billion Medicaid waiver funds] now. There is truly a crisis in Brooklyn.”
However, in early January, according to an article published in the Eagle, Cuomo also said regarding LICH, “You don’t need the hospital beds they now have,” he told the Daily News, saying that LICH should be sold quickly to one of the two developers vying for the valuable Brownstone Brooklyn property.
In June of that year, legislators called on Cuomo to halt the sale of LICH to Fortis Development after several other bidders for the site who promised to provide more health facilities were passed over in an often-disputed process.
Of course, Cuomo was often praised for other actions in Brooklyn. Last summer, South Brooklyn officials praised him for allowing the Coney Island amusement area to reopen. Community gardeners also praised him for lavishly funding community gardens.
His stringent enforcement during the early COVID epidemic, shutting down some religious day schools and banning public celebrations such as weddings, was protested by some, although not all, of the Hasidic community.
In his resignation statement on Tuesday, Cuomo emphatically denied intentionally mistreating women and called the pressure for his ouster politically motivated. But he said that fighting back in this “too hot” political climate would subject the state to months of turmoil.
“The best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to governing,” Cuomo said in a televised address.
The third-term governor’s resignation, which will take effect in two weeks, was announced as momentum built in the Legislature to remove him by impeachment and after nearly the entire Democratic establishment had turned against him, with President Joe Biden joining those calling on him to resign.
The decision came a week after AG James released the results of an investigation that found Cuomo sexually harassed at least 11 women.
Investigators said he subjected women to unwanted kisses; groped their breasts or buttocks or otherwise touched them inappropriately; made insinuating remarks about their looks and their sex lives; and created a work environment “rife with fear and intimidation.”
At the same time, Cuomo was under fire over the discovery that his administration had concealed thousands of COVID-19 deaths among nursing home patients.
The governor prefaced his resignation with a 45-minute defense from his lawyer and his own insistence that his behavior — while sometimes insensitive, off-putting or “too familiar” — had been used against him as a weapon in a political environment where “rashness has replaced reasonableness.”
“I am a fighter, and my instinct is to fight through this controversy because I truly believe it is politically motivated. I believe it is unfair and it is untruthful,” he said, but added that he didn’t want “distractions” to consume the state government as it grapples with the pandemic and other problems.