New York City

Questions over Cuomo’s scandals continue and the mayoral race heats up

Rounding up the week’s political news

Gov. Andrew Cuomo holds a budget briefing with Melissa DeRosa

Gov. Andrew Cuomo holds a budget briefing with Melissa DeRosa Mike Groll/Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo

As if there weren’t enough things to think about, with the state pausing Johnson & Johnson vaccines and dystopian DigiDogs being deployed by the NYPD, remember the billionaire New York City real estate heir accused of being a serial killer? That’s right, Robert Durst was back in the news this week as a date was set for the resumption of his murder trial in California, which had been delayed due to the pandemic. Not exactly what we had in mind when thinking about a “return to normal.” Keep reading for the rest of this week’s news.

Questions continue into Cuomo scandals

Nothing monumental broke in the past week with regard to the scandals surrounding Gov. Andrew Cuomo, but questions about his behavior and that of his administration continue to swirl. New reporting from the Times Union found that in addition to his staff ostensibly volunteering to work on his memoir that was published in October about the COVID-19 pandemic, aides also worked on polling for a super PAC several years ago. Specifically, Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa worked on the poll during her workday and instructed lower-level staff to work on it as well. The administration defended the work as appropriate and legal. Additionally, the governor faced more questions about priority COVID-19 testing by state workers that Cuomo friends, family and allies allegedly received at the beginning of the pandemic when testing capacity was low. Cuomo said that people, including his family, would receive tests before meeting with him, calling it “protocol.” He did not address the reports that health department staff were sent to people’s homes to perform those tests. Meanwhile, a hotline set up by the law firm hired by the Assembly to investigate the governor has received over 100 tips so far, but the content of those calls remains unknown.

New York City mayoral race heats up

New developments in the race to replace New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio continue to unfold. The Working Families Party endorsed city Comptroller Scott Stringer, long considered a front-runner in the race, who has nonetheless failed to garner enthusiasm among voters despite a long list of endorsements from prominent progressives. The WFP also backed Dianne Morales as its second choice in ranked-choice voting, and Maya Wiley ranked third. But Andrew Yang still seems to lead the pack of candidates, as a new poll from Data for Progress put him well ahead Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who polled second. The lead may have widened compared to another recent poll that came out several weeks ago. And it seems that Yang’s front-runner status is further cemented by the attacks he regularly receives from other candidates. Stringer hosted a rally denouncing a tweet from Yang about street vendors. Adams attacked Yang’s plan to tackle placard abuse, and Yang faced intense criticism for how he handled a conversation with a comedian who made misogynistic comments. The New York City Campaign Finance Board also paid public matching funds to every leading candidate except Shaun Donovan, who qualified but won’t see any money until the board investigates the super PAC that’s supporting him to ensure there is no improper coordination. The PAC is heavily funded by Donovan’s father, raising eyebrows about whether it’s truly independent.

Challenges dropped across the state

In the Hudson Valley, the state dropped its challenge over the sale of the Indian Point nuclear power plant to a New Jersey-based decommissioning company on the condition that the new owner keep $400 million in a decommissioning trust fund for a decade. The agreement marks the end of several years of contention over the sale of the power plant after it shut down in 2017. In an unrelated situation, New York City police unions dropped their lawsuit challenging the repeal of a state law that previously shielded police disciplinary records from the public. The move came after a federal appeals court upheld the repeal of the law and ruled against the police unions. The lawsuit withdrawal was celebrated as a victory among police reform and transparency advocates.