Like many New Yorkers who have a parent in a nursing home, I was appalled when I learned about Gov. Cuomo’s March 25, 2020, health care order that directed nursing homes to take in patients who had tested positive for COVID-19.
Happily, my 93-year-old father survived the crisis and has received the vaccine. But that does not excuse the governor’s behavior and mismanagement.
Instead of reversing the ill-conceived policy early on, admitting it was a mistake and apologizing, the governor, not surprisingly, wouldn’t budge and actually doubled down.
Refusing to take responsibility, he blamed Donald Trump and The Centers for Disease Control for the screw-up. Cuomo also stonewalled. For months, he has withheld releasing to the public the accurate number of nursing home deaths. (On Feb. 2, the state Supreme Court ruled in favor of a suit filed by the Empire Center for Public Policy and ordered the release of “full coronavirus tolls in N.Y. nursing homes.”)
Anyone familiar with Andrew Cuomo knows that his finger pointing is a ruse. That’s because he is a control freak. He micromanages every nook and cranny of his administration and calls all the shots.
To make sense of the management style of New York’s 56th governor, one must understand the modus operandi of the man who had the greatest influence on him—the state’s 52nd governor, Mario Cuomo.
Throughout his career, Mario Cuomo was a one-man band. He would work long hours because he needed to have total control over all decisions, even routine ones. As a rule, he would not delegate. Also, outside of his wife and son, Andrew, he trusted very few people. “Even in his present position of eminence,” one associate told the Times, “Mario Cuomo trusts no one completely who isn’t a member of his own family.”
After his election in 1982, the elder Cuomo confirmed this management approach: “I want myself in the center of the wheel and a lot of spokes out to the agencies.” In other words, he would not delegate authority to executive chamber subordinates; he wanted his fingers in every governmental pie. And considering the size of the state government, this approach proved to be disastrous.
By March 1983, The New York Times was reporting that “Cuomo Holds A Tight Rein on Decisions.” Defending his loose chain of command, Cuomo thundered, “No bill will go up, no appointment will be made without crossing my desk … I don’t like having too strong a dependence on anybody.”
On another occasion, after a question was raised about his method of governance, Cuomo said, “Delegate what? I was elected to govern. I wasn’t elected to let other people govern. To the extent that my strength allows me to bring myself to bear, that’s what I ought to do.”
As criticism mounted that his administration was “confused or disorganized” leading to numerous snafus, Mario Cuomo doubled down: “My instructions to [my staff] are, ‘Do not make a policy decision the governor is supposed to make’. If there were any confusion, if there were any ball being dropped, I was the quarterback who dropped the ball.”
And the enforcer of Mario’s dictates was his son, Andrew, known by Albany pols as the “Prince of Darkness” and “Darth Vader.”
One long-time political operator told me: “If Andrew showed up in your office, you knew something was amiss or he would not be there. Andrew was not shy about badgering people verbally, humiliating them, demoting them or dismissing them.”
Well, like father, like son.
Andrew Cuomo’s management style is fundamentally identical to his father’s. The only difference—he is his own enforcer. Cuomo is a micromanager who cracks the whip, brow beats his staff and bullies anyone who gets in his way.
Andrew Cuomo is responsible for the disastrous policy that led to the deaths of thousands of nursing home residents. It is time he fesses up and begs New Yorkers for forgiveness.