Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo was a guest on NY1 with Errol Louis and Roma Torre.
A transcript of the interview is available below.
Roma Torre: We have Governor Cuomo on the phone to talk with us. He is here to discuss the storm and some politics as well. Governor Cuomo thanks so much for taking the time to speak with us.
Governor Cuomo: Always good to be with you Roma.
Roma Torre: Alright, let's get right to it. The storm - we're hearing that it is tracking more to the southeast, which points right to New York City with these upgraded snow totals. Just want to know if the state is prepared to shift resources to help us down here in New York.
Governor Cuomo: Mother Nature changed her mind. Surprise, surprise. And the forecast today is different than the forecast last night, so we are redeploying our assets. It has moved further south and further east. It will impact New York City, Nassau, the highest impact will still be the Hudson Valley, where they are looking at up to two feet of snow. We're bringing the trucks from the plows from the western part of the state down to the Hudson Valley and New York City primarily. We've deployed 400 National Guard. The Port Authority is doing the best they can with the airports, but before anyone goes to an airport they should call. About 50 percent of the flights have been canceled, and the trains, they're doing the best that they can to keep the track clear. But this is a heavy, wet snow which is more problematic than lighter snow that is not as wet. So, people should keep their eyes open. It's not a good day to be on the roads. It's going to get worse as the day goes on and traffic makes the situation worse. People on the roads, the plows can't get through. We did a tractor trailer ban just north of the city. But it's going to be a mess, the technical governmental term we use.
Roma Torre: Governor, alright.
Errol Louis: Governor, one thing that is of course happening, if we do get through this storm and everybody can get back to work - one thing that is going on is the State Budget, due in just a few weeks from now. I'm wondering how those negotiations are going and how New York City will fare. Because as I'm sure you've heard, the Mayor has suggested that the budget that you've proposed, will leave the City shorthanded in a number of respects including some key areas, like education.
Governor Cuomo: First of all, the Mayor says that every year. the City is going to get more money in education, not less. The Mayor's point about, the city is owed money by the CFE decision is just factually wrong. They've gotten more money from us every year. The State Budget is a difficult one. Starting at the top, we are under a tax reform passed by the Federal Government, President Trump, that targets New York. That raises income taxes and property taxes 25 percent. So we're trying to rewrite the code to get around that. In New York City, Errol, you have chronic problems that are truly disturbing and the Budget is also trying to address some of those issues. You have more homeless people on the street than at any time in modern history, and it's only getting worse. So, we need to do more to address the homeless problem especially on the street. You have failing schools that in my opinion are not getting their share of fair resources and we want to know how New York City, as well as other districts in the state - how much money are you giving to poor schools versus other schools? And how do you make those determinations?
NYCHA is in a crisis, and I stand with the residents on this. To be subjected to mold and lead poisoning? Lead poisoning went to in the 70s. Lead poisoning is irreversible and they can't even get a straight answer.
Errol Louis: On that particular question, Governor, I understand a group - the council of presidents of the different tenant groups of New York City Public Housing have sent you a letter asking you to declare a state of emergency for NYCHA. Is that something you're considering?
Governor Cuomo: Yes, look the answer can't be to NYCHA residents, it's going to take us three years to turn on the heat. The answer can't be, well we don't really know if your child is in an apartment with lead poisoning. I understand why the residents are outraged and we have to do something. We have to do something quickly. The design-build legislation which expedites construction and there's a possibility of doing a declaration of emergency that would expedite the construction. I believe, Errol, nothing is done locally, quickly. I think you're going to see the federal government come in and take over. I was the former HUD Secretary. I can tell you if HUD was more attentive and even read the newspapers, they would have come in already. You can't be in the situation where people are saying, I'm subjected to mold and lead and I have no heat, which means it's a public safety threat - and do nothing. And I think the federal government may very well come in. I'm surprised they haven't already, the way they came into Rikers Island and said this is a civil rights violation. Its repugnant to me, that we need the Trump Administration to come to New York City and tell us, we're violating civil rights on Rikers Island. For the Trump Administration to come into the New York City Housing Authority and say, you're mistreating people and you're incompetent in your management, so I said to the city council and the Mayor - do something and do something quickly. The residents are right. The federal government will act. Once the federal government acts, you just turn the housing authority to Trump, the Trump Administration, which would be a real blow not only to the housing authority but just to our governance here in the state of New Yok. So, Rikers Island we're looking to address.
I find it repugnant to say it's going to take 10 years to close Rikers Island. Ten years? It takes you four years to build an airport. It takes you four years to build the largest infrastructure project tin the United States, the new Tappan Zee Bridge, but it's going to take you 10 years to close Rikers Island? What do you think that means to people? And what's the common denominator? These tend to be poor, minorities in every case. Failing schools, Rikers Island, NYCHA - these are people who desperately need government assistance. And those are the issues that we're working on in the budget.
Roma Torre: Governor, talk about people who need government assistance. A lot of commuters between New Jersey and New York City were very much hoping for that Gateway Project to get the green light. What is your reaction to the response - it sounds like the President has decided it's not something they want to put any money into?
Governor Cuomo: I think they're playing politics of the worst kind. I had met numerous times with the Obama Administration. The state of New York, the state of New Jersey made a significant financial contribution to redo those tunnels, even though frankly, it's not primarily a benefit to New York. It primarily brings trains in from New Jersey, but there is workforce that comes into New York. We made a financial contribution. The federal government made a financial contribution and I think this is President Trump, sparring with Senator Schumer, who has made it clear that he thinks the Gateway is important. And it's now a political pawn on the Washington chess board. Remember, these are tunnels that are in imminent need of repair. Even if you said, "Go" today, you probably talking 8, 10 years before you could get a shovel in the ground. And these are tunnels that need repair today. The tunnels fail, you irreparably harm travel throughout the entire Northeast. So, this is the wrong issue to be playing politics with.
Errol Louis: On a more local political front Governor, you got a question today in fact about what we're been reporting, about Cynthia Nixon the actress possibly jumping into the race for Governor. I understand how for you it might be something - you made some light hearted remarks suggesting that maybe Vladimir Putin or the Mayor of New York put her up to it. It probably wasn't Putin, as far as we can tell, our reporting reveals. But -
Governor Cuomo: What does your informed gut tell you, Errol?
Errol Louis: Some former top campaign aides to the mayor seemed to be part of her team and if this turns out an actual candidacy, what will that mean for relations between you and the mayor?
Governor Cuomo: There's no doubt that the Mayor and I have political difference. We just view progressive politics. I don't think progressive politics is a function of rhetoric and words, I think it's a function of results. My whole tenure has been about getting progressive things done. I believe when you go to the pearly gates and our lord says have you been a good progressive? He says show me the list of what you got done. And I have accomplished more progressive results in this state than have been accomplished by any administration and I believe that is factually objectively irrefutable. First large state to pass marriage equality, $15 minimum wage, raise the age, criminal justice, first state to take a real sensible gun safety policy, the SAFE Act, and pass it, so my progressive accomplishments are I think irrefutable. Right now it's current because I don't think a progressive administration leaves people with no housing and mold and potential lead and says it's three years to do something. I don't believe a progressive administration says it takes me to 10 years to build a jail. Which by the way means it's two mayors from now, three City Councils, which may as well mean it's in never, never land. Not even the legal agreement to get it done. I don't believe a progressive administration tolerates more people on the streets than ever before. That is repugnant to me of the definition of a progressive administration. It's not what you say, it's what you do. It's not your speech, it's your results. The reason why people turned on the progressive parties, the progressive democrats was because they talked a good game but they didn't produce. That's the fundamental premise of my political philosophy. And it has been for 30 years. You need to provide competence. You need to prove to people you can make a difference. And when you have people, the poorest New Yorkers, more minorities than anything else and they are subjected to the worst conditions. Don't give me a speech about how much you care. Show me what you do and that's what we're trying to do in this budget. A real resolution for NYCHA so we can say we're not going to take three years. We're going to do an emergency declaration. We're going to do design build. We're going to get this done in a very creative way and God forbid we don't need the federal government to come in here and tell us how to run our housing. Rikers Island, it's not 10 years. 10 years means you don't want to get it done as a priority. It took one year to build Yankee Stadium. How can it take 10 years to build a jail?
Roma Torre: Governor I do want to shift gears a little bit and ask you about latest developments in the trial of Joe Percoco. The jury in the corruption trial of your former aide, Joe Percoco, and good friend. It was announced, seemed to be deadlocked yesterday. They were sent into the jury room and continued deliberations but have you spoken to Mr. Percoco at all and what is your response to the latest developments in that trial?
Governor Cuomo: No I haven't. You know, Roma, we all see life through our own lens. The situation is obviously in the judge's hands and the judge is going to have to determine how to handle that. But on the other hand, I think my administration has probably been subjected to more investigation than any state administration and after all of that, they have two people who are now on trial for wrongdoing and we'll let that process proceed and see where it goes, but I don't want to say anything that would interfere with what the judge is doing.
Errol Louis: Governor, you've made some news just in our conversation here, but I understand you've got a little bit more that you released or are about to release a letter to the President of the United States calling on him to take action on gun regulations and in particular, you're advising him to try and make a difference because he's got a sort of historic moment that might be fleeting to try and do something in particular about stopping the mentally ill from getting access to firearms. How realistic is it? I mean, you understand the politics of the situation for any prominent Republican to radically break with where that party has been on these issues for a long, long time.
Governor Cuomo: You know, Errol, that's an important point and that plays back into my philosophy of government. I understand it's hard to make change. I get it. I have a Republican Senate. You know, you guys in New York City, you've got a Democratic mayor, Democratic council. I have a Republican Senate. I understand how hard it is to make change and I understand the gun issue. I passed the SAFE Act in New York. It was very difficult politically. I still have the political scars to prove it, but we got it done. I believe the President has a moment to make a real change. You know, change is hard. You need a moment where the American people are energized and they're unified and the silent majority speaks up. And the silent majority actually generates more energy than the energy preserving the status quo. I believe he has that moment.
A person like myself, those moments are precious commodities because you can make transformational change. I think when the President was in that White House briefing right after Florida with the Congress people and the Senators, it appeared unscripted and he was asking the right questions. Why wouldn't you do universal background checks? Why would you let somebody buy a gun before they can buy a beer? Why wouldn't you take guns from the mentally ill? Those are the right questions. The answer is a political one. We're afraid of the NRA. Well you know what, this is a moment where the NRA loses because the American people are galvanized, they're sickened by what they saw in Florida, and when you are a leader you have leadership moments.
After Sandy Hook, I passed the SAFE Act, it was a leadership moment. I had the opportunity to make change, I believe I had the responsibility to make change and I did. I believe the president has that opportunity now. I believe, yes, the Republicans are afraid of the NRA. They're more afraid of an enraged citizenry and that's where they are now. And if the President leads, I think he can get something real done. Not these baby step incremental measures. We'll ban bump stocks, raise the age to 21, those are incremental at best. Make a real step, make a real change, the Republicans will follow, the Democrats are there. And you know, in government, you get a few of these moments where you can actually make change that is lasting. I passed marriage equality, it's one of the proudest moments of my life. SAFE Act, one of the proudest moments of my life. $15 minimum wage, one of the proudest moments of my life. Paid family leave, they come in moments, seize them.
Roma Torre: Governor, I'm sorry, we're going to have to leave it there, we're running out of time, but we both thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us on a very busy day. I know you have your hands full with the snow storm, so thanks again.
Governor Cuomo: I want Errol out there shoveling snow, I want to see you out there, Errol.
Errol Louis: Well you know I'm not going to get home 'til late so I'm hoping that between my neighbors and my son it might all get taken care of before I get home.
Governor Cuomo: Shirking responsibilities.
Errol Louis: Creating jobs, Governor, creating jobs.
Roma Torre: We women can shovel too, you know, Governor.
Governor Cuomo: I just want to see Errol suffer, Roma.
Roma Torre: Alright, thanks again.