It’s not only with the Moreland Commission that Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his deputy Larry Schwartz, who formerly worked in Westchester County government, have been accused of aggressively controlling information harmful to Cuomo’s political interests. Here are a few other recent examples:
New Castle renovations
When Cuomo’s girlfriend Sandra Lee renovated her home in New Castle without (apparently required) permits, thereby escaping a tax increase, Schwartz was the one who pushed back in exchanges with reporters, arguing all the work was decorative. He also dealt with the New Castle Building Department over earlier violations. Lee’s assessment was increased in June based on an exterior inspection after the assessor was denied access to the home. Cuomo tried to blame his Republican opponent, Rob Astorino, for the story.
Tappan Zee tolls
Cuomo has been criticized for a lack of transparency around future toll increases on the new Tappan Zee Bridge, a signature initiative of his governorship. The state has not released a detailed financial plan for the bridge and never set up a promised toll task force. The federal government, in consultation with the state, denied a Freedom of Information request by The Journal News for loan documents that would show toll estimates. An Environmental Facilities Corporation loan was also arranged behind closed doors.
A lesson in politics
When graduate students in urban planning from Columbia put out a report saying the state’s plan for buses with the new bridge was not enough to reduce traffic congestion, state officials said the report “lacks academic rigor and misses the point.”
Start-Up ad spending
It took a year for the state to release details on spending around an ad campaign by Empire State Development designed to boost economic activity in New York. The ads promoted Cuomo’s Start-Up NY campaign. Eventually, the state said it spent $161 million since 2011 on the ads. Of that $37 million came from federal Sandy aid.
Proponents and critics of fracking have accused the Cuomo administration of politicizing the review of the controversial energy extraction technique and delaying it unnecessarily. Documents show the leaders of the review met with senior aides to Cuomo during key periods of the review.
Photo: Gov. Andrew Cuomo