On his final day in office, Gov. Andrew Cuomo touted his progressive bonafides, criticized a former political ally and underscored the importance of transforming a “hellacious” Penn Station.
In a pre-taped farewell speech Monday, Cuomo again framed his departure not as an admission of wrongdoing, but as a move that is in the best interest of keeping government functioning.
He called a report by state Attorney General Letitia James, which found that he sexually harassed a number of staffers and other women while in office, a “political firecracker on an explosive topic” that resulted in a “media stampede.” He called the situation “unfair and unjust” and indicated that he would revisit the “truth and ethics” of the allegations at some point in the future.
One week after the release of James’ report, Cuomo announced on Aug. 10 that he would resign. The state Assembly Judiciary Committee subsequently suspended its impeachment investigation. Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul is expected to be sworn in Tuesday morning.
Cuomo offered parting advice for combatting the surge of Delta variant cases, including requiring teachers to be vaccinated and requiring private businesses to mandate proof of vaccination. He said local police departments should enforce the latter.
He also rattled off ongoing major developments, including the planned overhaul of John F. Kennedy International Airport and the expansion of Penn Station, and the need to move forward with such projects.
“They are literally building our future. We cannot go back to the old days,” he said.
During his tenure as governor, Cuomo has made massive infrastructure projects a priority, a quality that won him support from the state’s construction trades. Plans to expand Penn have faced opposition, largely due to the proposed construction of 10 commercial towers surrounding the station.
The governor also referred to himself as one of the nation’s top progressives, though he criticized calls to defund police departments and warned against “demonizing” businesses and thereby driving tax revenue out of the state.
He also urged the federal government to repeal the cap on deductions to state and local taxes, known as SALT. He added what could be interpreted as a final dig against Mayor Bill de Blasio, capping a years’ long feud by saying that de Blasio’s likely successor, Eric Adams, will bring “a new philosophy and competence to the position.”
Two weeks ago, the governor signed into law a measure that will help fund the conversion of distressed hotels and office buildings into affordable housing. A number of fair housing measures, along with a bill that forces construction managers to assume responsibility for unpaid wages and benefits on their projects, have not been signed by the governor.