The Newsletter That Never Sleeps- Edition #15, 8/5/21
Haven’t watched a Mets game in a week. Assuming we’re still fine. It’s…
THE NEWSLETTER THAT NEVER SLEEPS
- Your weekly five borough briefing -
This is the fifteenth edition of The Newsletter That Never Sleeps, from August 5th, 2021. Any new subscribers can read all previous editions, which include breakdowns of local races, ranked choice voting, public safety and COVID recovery here. Welcome!
Newly Reported Cases (7/29–8/4): 1,375 avg. daily cases (+138%)
Newly Reported Hospitalizations: 601 avg. hospitalized patients (+36%)
COVID numbers in the United States, fueled by a surge of Delta infections almost exclusively among the unvaccinated (though a minimal number of breakthrough cases among vaccinated individuals have also been recorded), have hit their highest peak since February, before the vaccine was widely available.
Rather than oscillate back and forth between shutdowns, mandates and COVID surges, as we’ve largely done for the past 17 months, Bill de Blasio took what may be one of his boldest steps in his 8 year long tenure as Mayor, and enacted what is essentially a vaccine mandate across the city.
The mandate is the first of its kind in the U.S., and while conservatives are pointing to de Blasio’s beefy executive order as a sign of government takeover of individual autonomy, there’s nothing illegal about de Blasio’s mandate, and, frankly, may be the only way to prevent New York City from falling into another wave of deaths and crowded hospitals.
Starting August 16th, and enforcement beginning September 13th, all New Yorkers eligible for the vaccine will have to show proof of vaccine for indoor dining, gyms and entertainment centers. This mandate also extends to employees of these establishments.
The proof of vaccination model, as of right now, is the Key to NYC Pass, which is basically like the statewide Excelsior Pass but only works in New York City. It’s unclear, though likely, whether or not a simple vaccination card from the pharmacy or a vaccine center will be enough to show proof of vaccination.
The state and federal governments continue to use their leverage on the private sector to stop just short of federally mandating the vaccine, but rather making day to day life unpleasant and essentially unlivable for those unwilling to get vaccinated. Pharmacy giant Kaiser Permanante recently joined other corporate mega-conglomerates like Wal-Mart in announcing a vaccine mandate for their employees.
Though many expected de Blasio to reinstate some form of the mask mandate on Monday, de Blasio stopped short of requiring any mask usage indoors or outdoors. de Blasio did urge vaccinated New Yorkers to use discretion and mask up while in crowded indoor establishments, but did not put this recommendation into a mandate or executive order.
A vaccine mandate for state, municipal and federal workers will soon go into effect, although workers can opt out of getting vaccinated. They will have to undergo weekly testing, their travel will be restricted and they may be subject to social distancing protocols and be required to mask up at work.
Brooklyn: 48% fully vaccinated (-), 60% adults vaccinated (+1)
The Bronx: 46% fully vaccinated (-), 58% adults vaccinated (-)
Manhattan: 66% fully vaccinated (+1), 74% adults vaccinated (+1)
Staten Island: 51% fully vaccinated (+1), 62% adults vaccinated (-)
Queens: 61% fully vaccinated (-), 73% adults vaccinated (+1)
So far, that mandate for public workers doesn’t seem to have moved the needle much (no pun intended) on vaccination rates for New York City, which is still only 55% fully vaccinated.
Once de Blasio’s mandate goes into effect later this month, we may see numbers tick up in neighborhoods with a lot of on-the-fencers- most of these are in the outerboroughs, particularly in Staten Island, where most of the county is less than 50% vaccinated. Unsurprisingly, Staten Island also has, by far, the highest count of new cases per capita, and is home to a big number of public employees.
Vaccine mandates may help a bit more in non-White neighborhoods with lower vaccination rates, where concerns over the vaccine are less politically motivated and more borne out of economic worries: lack of insurance, unsureness over the price of the vaccine, possibly having to miss work because of side effects, lack of access to vaccine sites, etc.
In national news, the U.S. has officially hit President Biden’s goal of at least partially vaccinating 70% of U.S. adults, though we hit the goal roughly 5 weeks after Biden’s 4th of July deadline. National vaccine numbers have gone up a bit more precipitously than they have in New York, particularly due to rising vaccine intake in southern states experiencing full blown outbreaks. 50% of the country may be fully vaccinated by this time next week.
As of August 4th, 2021, courtesy of the New York Times
SO, IS CUOMO GOING AWAY?
It’s been a pretty rough week to be the Governor of New York. Last year, national Democrats were clamoring to put Andrew Cuomo at the top of the Presidential ticket, tuning into his daily COVID-19 briefings with goo goo eyes. Now, it seems that Cuomo is on the verge of facing impeachment, removal from office, and possibly jail time for violating state and federal law.
I wrote for my personal Medium account about what I think will happen to Cuomo (spoiler: not much), which I’ll attach below, but here are the basic facts of the case before we dive into the technical stuff:
- After a number of women came forward accusing Governor Cuomo of sexual harassment, inappropriate workplace behavior and intimidation, the State Attorney General, Letitia James, set up an independent investigation to determine whether Cuomo had broken the law and to substantiate his accusers’ claims.
- National and state Democrats, including State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, called on Cuomo to resign, citing mounting pressure regarding his pattern of inappropriate and abusive behavior towards women and his mishandling (to put it gently) of nursing homes during the peak of the pandemic last spring.
- President Joe Biden, and, more importantly, State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who holds the actual power to put forth articles of impeachment against Cuomo, did not go so far as calling on Cuomo to resign, but urged the public to wait for the results of AG James’ report.
- On August 3rd, James released her report, substantiating the claims of Cuomo’s 9 known accusers and 2 new accusers, amounting to, according to the Attorney General’s office, a breach of state and federal law regarding sexual misconduct and harassment. The report also noted that Cuomo intentionally created an unhealthy and toxic work environment that was unsafe for women, and, more broadly, unsafe for any dissidents of Cuomo. More on that later.
- Later that day, Carl Heastie announced that he would “expedite” the State Assembly’s ongoing impeachment inquiry, which has been moving at a glacial pace, and that the chamber would draw up articles of impeachment against Cuomo. The process could take around one to two months.
- Cuomo put out a 15 minute long video to defend his actions, belittle his accusers, and put together what I suppose was meant to be exonerating evidence (a slideshow of Cuomo hugging, grabbing and kissing random politicians and New Yorkers), but instead just made him look a lot worse. His personal attorney put out an 85 page report, available on Cuomo’s website, responding to each and every one of his accusers one by one. The argument is essentially “C’mon, he wouldn’t do that. C’mon.”
So, things seem pretty bad for Cuomo. Will he be impeached? Will he resign? Here’s my personal thoughts:
In California, Governor Gavin Newsom is, possibly, on the verge of losing his job to a radio show host because of an absurd fluke in the state’s recall system that allowed a small minority of California Republicans to force a recall vote on the Governor for, more or less, acting like a normal hypocritical Democratic governor during COVID-19 lockdowns. A dinner in Napa Valley may have very well cost the executive of a state of nearly 40 million people his job and political career.
There is no such system of accountability in New York, where three term Governor Andrew Cuomo is in the midst of a year long blitz of statewide and national scrutiny, a reckoning for the past decade of Cuomo’s megalomaniacal abuse of his office and, arguably, criminal negligence regarding the state’s handling of nursing homes during the early months of the pandemic.
In March of last year, the media circus surrounding Cuomo and his steady-handed handling of the coronavirus pandemic propelled the New York Governor into the national spotlight, to the point where Democratic voters wanted to replace newly minted presidential nominee Joe Biden with the competent, no-nonsense (except when on air with his brother) Cuomo.
The halo evaporated quickly; Lindsay Boylan, a former aide for Cuomo and 2021 candidate for Manhattan Borough President, was the first to publicly confirm what was an open secret in New York politics for years: Andrew Cuomo did not know how to handle himself around young women. Allegations began to pop up around the state, and as of August 3rd, when Attorney General Letitia James presented her extensive report of Governor Cuomo’s patterns of sexual harassment, 11 women have made substantiated claims against Andrew Cuomo.
Why are we hearing about this again, in August? Didn’t Cuomo go through the ringer just a few months ago? Vertically and horizontally, the Democratic machine in New York made it clear that Cuomo, under investigation for nearly a dozen cases of sexual harassment and harsh scrutiny for putting elderly COVID patients back into insular nursing homes (then fudging the numbers when this careless operation led to several hundred deaths), had to go. Chuck Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand, State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, several members of the state assembly, and even President Joe Biden, all told Cuomo it was time to resign.
And then he didn’t. And everyone shrugged their shoulders, said “Well, we tried!” and went back to business. Those who didn’t explicitly call for Cuomo’s resignation suggested the public wait for AG James’ report so that Cuomo could be granted due process before facing legitimate consequences. The report is out now, and the same chorus of calls for resignation are ringing out across the state. Is it going to be any different this time? Why should we think it would?
The question of whether or not Cuomo will resign, not run again in 2022 for a fourth term, or abdicate power in any way of his own volition comes down to a simple playground bully retort: Who’s going to make me? What are you gonna do about it? Though Cuomo would like you to think otherwise, he is not an outsider in national or state politics. The son of a three term governor, himself a former HUD Secretary, NY Attorney General, three term governor and former husband of a Kennedy, Andrew Cuomo is the most insulated man in American politics.
Tammany Hall may have dropped off the face of the Earth in the 1960’s, but the patronage system that defined New York politics and kept its leaders safe from any measures of accountability are still deeply embedded into the state political structure. Andrew Cuomo is the ultimate benefactor of this intractable moat that engulfs New York state politics.
What are the avenues through which the state could pressure Cuomo to resign? The Judiciary Committee of the State Assembly has been moving through an impeachment investigation against Cuomo at, to put it generously, a snail’s pace. On August 3rd, Carl Heastie, Speaker of the Assembly, realistically the only legislator with actual power to expel Cuomo from office, said in a statement that the Governor “had lost the support of the Democratic majority”, and that Heastie would expedite the assembly’s impeachment inquiry. State legislators are already in the process of drawing up articles of impeachment against the Governor.
That seems to indicate a sea change in New York’s power center; the State Assembly has confirmed that they have the votes (a simple majority) to impeach Cuomo, and the State Senate has previously made it clear that they have the votes (a two thirds majority) to convict Cuomo. The Assembly is “expediting” the impeachment process. So, then, is Cuomo on his way out?
Well, a source from within the State Assembly told the New York Times that the “expedited” impeachment inquiry could take up to a month and a half to conclude, meaning that the Senate trial, at its earliest, would take place sometime in early autumn. It’s natural for impeachment investigations to take a few months, even though the Assembly Judiciary’s investigation has already gone on for two months with little progress.
By contrast, House Democrats in Washington took around two months to wrap up an impeachment investigation into President Trump in 2019 before holding a committee vote in early December. Earlier this year, House Democrats took only one week, following the January 6th attack on the Capitol, to impeach Trump a second time.
Though Assembly Democrats now have an official state document detailing Cuomo’s violation of state and federal law, and therefore may bear onus to act upon Cuomo’s criminal acts, it’s pretty clear that the speed (or lack thereof) of the Assembly in their investigation is connected to some political maneuvering with the Executive Branch. For a few months, it seemed that the whole “Cuomo is a habitual predator and unfit for office” thing had blown over, and that the Assembly could take their time while waiting for the official AG report.
Heastie, a Cuomo ally who was one of several Democrats who urged the public to wait for the AG report before calling on Cuomo to resign, now has to choose whether to act on what seems to be a serious, detailed layout of Cuomo’s unlawful behavior. The expedition of an investigation that could lead into October leaves room for speculation that leaders in the legislature are still trying to work behind the scenes to see that the impeachment hearing in the Senate doesn’t take place.
Given the Assembly’s feet dragging prior to the AG’s report and the extended timeline for impeachment, a few things seem clear: Cuomo will not resign. Who’s going to make him? Likewise, Cuomo will probably not leave Albany kicking and screaming. If articles of impeachment are drawn up against Cuomo and an actual vote to impeach in the Assembly looks like it’s coming together, I would venture to guess that this is the most likely outcome: the Assembly or Senate agree to either toss or intentionally botch the impeachment hearings and Cuomo agrees not to run again in 2022. Whatever happens in the next few months, while Cuomo is, politically, weaker than he’s ever been, the course of events will likely still occur on his terms.
How could someone as damaged and isolated as Cuomo, whose own Assembly Speaker has (seemingly) turned against him, still hold the reins on the terms of his own removal?
Across the state, the centers of power are constructed around the executives who hand down favors from on high to create a political system built on fealty and intimidation. Centuries of backroom negotiations, nepotism and Democrats’ intransigent grip on the notions of power and prestige, even in a nominal or impalpable sense, have fostered a Hapsburgian sovreign so guarded off from any systems of liability that it betrays the very notion of the constitutional construction of a separation of powers within the government.
For Andrew Cuomo to leave office would require the deeply entrenched foundation of New York politics to- forgive the mixed metaphors- flip on its head, bite the hand that feeds, and, essentially, decapitate itself. Even though the members of the legislature who control Cuomo’s fate seem to have, publicly, begun the process- a shock unto itself- history and the reality our entrenched political present suggest that the actual, final act of mutiny may never manifest, and may, by nature of this structure, be impossible.
Any of Cuomo’s accusers could, ostensibly, bring Cuomo to court for any number of violations of common or statutory law. The New York Times reported that the Albany District Attorney has opened a criminal investigation into Cuomo, as AG James’ report finds that the Governor “violated state and federal law by sexually harassing his employees.” But in New York, how do you get appointed to the judiciary? It’s the same route that leads you to the legislature. All roads, in every branch of New York’s government, leads back to Andrew Cuomo. Accounts of New York legislators like Ron Kim have made it clear that Cuomo is not one to be disobeyed without serious consequences, and that he has every political string necessary to erase one’s political career when he sees fit.
Andrew Cuomo will continue having to look into the camera, exasperated, and shamefully make inane excuses for his behavior. He won’t enjoy it. He’ll hate it, and it’ll bring him to a moral low he’s probably never felt. He probably won’t ever get to be President, something that’s probably been in the works for decades. But that’s as far as it’ll go. Culturally, Cuomo will receive his 39 lashes. But substantively and politically, there is nothing stopping him from cruising to a fourth term in 2022 and going gently into the night in 2027, perhaps to even serve on the cabinet of a future Democratic administration.
There is, of course, another way to dethrone Cuomo: he could lose the 2022 Democratic primary. But the fact that, despite New York Democrats’ deep bench of potential gubernatorial contenders, not a single Democrat has even begun to scrap together money to face Cuomo next year is yet another symptom of Cuomo’s grasp on the state’s political system. Any primary opponent who loses to Cuomo would, effectively, leave the race without a career and a future in politics. It is not a secret that the Cuomo’s are very, very harsh campaigners and sore winners.
There are, realistically, two Democrats who could put up a legitimate primary campaign against Cuomo. They would need to capture the progressive and liberal anger against Cuomo, which isn’t difficult to tap into, but would also need to energize the more moderate voting base of New York, which includes the majority of New York’s Black electorate. Attorney General Letitia James and New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, if they started today (preferably yesterday), could probably put up such a campaign.
But James, paradoxically, having set off another round of scrutiny against Cuomo through her investigation as the AG, would have a serious problem running against Cuomo given that the necessity for a primary challenger to the Governor arose from her own office’s findings. The AG should be a neutral arbiter in political affairs, and though James has, rightfully, brought forth a damning indictment against Cuomo, it would be difficult to disentangle her responsibility as an unbiased Attorney General and a political opponent of the target of her investigation.
Williams, a progressive superstar in New York City, is still a bit green, and if he wanted to become Governor of New York, probably wishes he had another four years in office to consolidate a base of support that extends beyond progressives and Brooklyn voters in New York City. Regardless, neither he nor James seems to be willing to take the risk to unseat Cuomo in a primary, which is probably the only way to get Cuomo out of office that wouldn’t require his own appointees, beneficiaries and scions to make an about face and vanquish the Governor King.
After the last media firing squad on Cuomo, his approval numbers dropped, though not enough to put him in serious political trouble, and voters suggested that while they did not want him to run again in 2022, they also didn’t want him to resign. After all- what are they going to do? Who else is there to vote for? Lee Zeldin? Andrew Giuliani? Cuomo gave us legal weed so that we would turn our heads the other way while he brought in millions for a 2022 run.
The lethargic ambience of “What are you gonna do about it?” that hangs over New York’s political machine is not a glitch in the system. It’s a feature. New York City mayoral primaries have abysmal turnout for a reason. It’s the same reason that grumbling to ourselves about our awful Governor is our only recourse from the horrific display that Cuomo puts on daily in Albany. There is no other option, there is no substantive recourse.
Andrew Cuomo will only do what he wants to do, because no one else can make him do it, because everyone who could ostensibly check the balances on Cuomo were put there by Cuomo and the Cuomo’s (figuratively and literally) before him. The electorate is not as tolerant of the rampant abuse of power and sexual harassment as they once were, and so they’ll get the troubled visage of Andrew Cuomo spattered across the New York Times and the Post. They’ll hear the gut wrenching testimonies, and see the statements calling for his resignation. And then it’ll all go away.
But why? Well, what are you gonna do about it?
ENDORSEMENT TRACKER- ALL THE STARS ARE HERE!
It’s unclear exactly how newsworthy this is, because these endorsements were all more or less implicit, but Eric Adams brought together more than 50 Democrats across the city, state, and even a few across the ideological spectrum to issue official endorsements for Adams in the mayoral general election. Here’s a select list of who was in attendance:
U.S. New York Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand!
State Comptroller Tom Dinapoli!
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who can finally publicly endorse Adams!
U.S. Reps Gregory Meeks, Grace Meng and Jerry Nadler! Importantly, none of these Reps endorsed Adams in the primary.
NYC City Council Speaker and failed Comptroller contender Corey Johnson!
State Assembly Leader Carl Heastie!
There were a number of unions, most of whom had endorsed Adams in the primary, at the gathering as well. Though Adams, ostensibly, has the endorsement of every Democrat in the state, it was a strong showing of party unity around Adams after a few weeks of Adams’ independent tirades against progressives in the party.
*Among registered voters:
Do you think Andrew Cuomo should resign as governor or do you think he should serve out the rest of his term?
Resign as governor: 59%
Serve out the rest of his term: 32%
If Governor Cuomo does not resign, do you think the New York State Legislature should or should not impeach him?
Should impeach him: 59%
Should not impeach him: 28%
Overall, do you think Governor Andrew Cuomo deserves to be re-elected as governor or is it time to elect someone else?
Deserves to be reelected: 12% (-24 from February)
Time to elect someone else: 80% (+22)
Unsure: 8% (+2)
This is the first time any polling has found Cuomo on the outs with the New York electorate, who, even after the first round of media attacks on the Governor, didn’t want Cuomo to run in 2022, but also didn’t want him to resign. Now, Marist finds, nearly 60% of New York voters, including 52% of Democrats, want Cuomo to resign, and a majority of voters want to see Cuomo impeached if he won’t resign.
That’s a big shift from the last time the electorate was polling on Cuomo leaving office; in March, Quinnipiac found that 55% of New York voters didn’t want Cuomo to resign. Though they’re different pollsters, that’s a 27 point collapse for Cuomo’s good will.
The slow pace of the assembly’s impeachment investigation earlier in the year may have been influenced, at least partially, by public opinion; state Democrats didn’t want to anger Democratic voters by removing a Governor the public still viewed in a favorable light.
Now that the Governor is underwater, even with Democrats, the legislature may feel empowered to carry on with impeachment proceedings, now equipped with proof of Cuomo’s violation of state and federal law and public opinion on their side.
Here’s how you can show proof of vaccination in NYC, by Sharon Otterman
A quick and helpful guide for getting together your vaccine proof in order before the Mayor’s mandate goes into effect.
Coronavirus in New York City, by Ann Choi, Josefa Velasquez and Will Welch
A zip-code and neighborhood specific COVID case tracker for New York City, highlighting test positivity and new cases. Updated daily.
A who’s who in the endorsement party for Eric Adams, including who came to celebrate, and, more importantly, who was left out.
The Bronx Has the Lowest Vaccination Rates In the City. Will New Mandates Help?, by Claudia Irizrray Aponte
How do we get on-the-fencers vaccinated, particularly those who live in healthcare deserts?
HOUSE PROGRESSIVES MAKE A SUCCESSFUL LAST MINUTE PUSH TO EXTEND EVICTION MORATORIUM- FOR NOW
Last week, we took a look into the rental aid crisis in New York, where only a fraction of a fraction of the necessary rental relief has been doled out to tenants and landlords who are months back on rent or mortgages. The crisis was exacerbated by the national timeline for the expiration of the eviction moratorium, set to run out last week.
President Joe Biden sort of put up a fight to extend the moratorium into October through executive order, but his push was struck down by the Supreme Court in a 5–4 decision. Justice Kavanaugh wrote in the majority opinion that the President could not legally extend the CDC eviction moratorium without legislative consent.
What was the legislature doing in the meantime? In the House, it seems like they were doing everything but looking out for the moratorium expiration. On the last day before the moratorium was set to expire, reporters on Capitol Hill were informed that House Dems would put up a kayfabe resolution to extend the moratorium but expected it to fail, as they had not bothered whipping the votes to get a majority of Dems to sign on.
Right before recess, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer attempted to pass an extension through a voice vote, which was quickly objected to. There seemed to be a consensus that, even though several state governments, including New York, were not properly equipped to handle the looming housing crisis in the event of the moratorium’s expiration, the moratorium could not go on forever and it was time to make it the states’ problems, even as the Delta variant continues to drive up cases across the country.
As the House was about to leave the chamber, Reps. Cori Bush of Missouri and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York rushed to the chamber floor in an attempt to keep the House in session to work out an eviction moratorium, despite a lack of interest from House leaders. The House session ended, and the eviction moratorium was set to expire.
Rep. Bush, who herself previously experienced homelessness, slept outside of the Capitol for five straight nights in protest of the House’s inaction in the face of the possible eviction of 11 million Americans in the midst of a renewed pandemic. Eventually joined by other members of the “Squad”, including Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Bush protested outside of the Capitol and brought local and national housing activists to the Capitol steps to raise national ire against Democratic leadership.
To the surprise of pretty much everyone, the freshman congresswoman’s sleep-in seemed to work. Progressive legislators and constituents made enough noise that President Biden announced on Tuesday that he would direct the CDC, the legality of which is still up in the air, to extend the moratorium at their discretion.
The CDC did so: the moratorium was extended to October 2nd, a result of the recent surge of the Delta variant. The CDC’s framing of the moratorium extension as a public health measure as opposed to a public policy from the Democrats probably helps Biden’s agenda, as he and Democratic leaders have come under fire in recent weeks for excessive spending and possibly halting an economic turnaround from the pandemic.
Governor Cuomo is still in the process of overthrowing the old rental aid system in place of a new independent service that will, according to Cuomo, more efficiently dole out rental relief to tenants and landlords. Thankfully, Cuomo has a bit more breathing room, something he very badly needed given just how poorly the old rental aid system was performing.
The moratorium expires just around the time that Cuomo, should the Assembly stick to its expedited timeline, would be sitting in a Senate impeachment trial. I wonder if Cuomo would use his centralized power to control the housing security of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers as political leverage to avoid a Senate trial.
There’s no way Cuomo would use the wellbeing his poorest and most vulnerable constituents as pawns in a petty game of chess against the legislature in an vain attempt to remain in power, right?
Thanks for reading this edition of The Newsletter That Never Sleeps. If you have any feedback, leads, stories, or just want to reach out, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or @kieranian_ on Twitter.