Andrew Cuomo’s demise and what it means for actual property

Governor Andrew Cuomo (Getty, iStock)

Governor Andrew Cuomo was once praised for his ability to see several steps ahead. It’s hard to find these news clips buried under the search results of his sexual harassment scandal. How did he miscalculate so?

The governor is done. The final nail in the coffin was Brittany Commisso’s interview on Monday on CBS This Morning. Impeachment requires only 76 votes out of 150 in the assembly, but today’s vote would be likely or almost unanimous. For a conviction by state senators and judges of the court of appeal, 46 out of 69 votes are required – also a matter of course. Cuomo did not see this coming, however.

Cuomo’s foresight was at first exaggerated as he had to shut down his own Moreland commission when it began investigating his donors. But this time around, his vision was tarnished not only by hubris, but also by a lack of satisfactory alternatives to combat it.

All he ever wanted was governor of New York longer than his father. Resigning was not an acceptable option. As a result, Cuomo has sent his constituents, his party, his employees, his family and his victims through a five-month hell, although it is not clear how important people other than himself are to him.

For top aides who have sullied themselves in a futile attempt to protect him, the damage to their careers is permanent. And Cuomo himself is far worse off than he would have been if he had resigned from the start and apologized profusely. His reputation is in ruins and he now has to face a possible criminal complaint.

It was clear to me at the end of February that Cuomo would not survive (see “Five reasons why Cuomo is doomed”). He lasted longer than I thought because I underestimated his selfishness.

Cuomo was accomplished as governor but overrated. He looked brilliant for a few years after his 2010 election, also because the bar was so low: his predecessor David Paterson had held a dysfunctional office, and the governor before that, Eliot Spitzer, had gone down in a prostitution scandal after spending most of the Alienated New York City Political Establishments. However, Cuomo passed same-sex marriage, gun protection law, property tax cap, Medicaid reform, and other measures that had previously seemed impossible.

The business community, and the real estate industry in particular, responded by making a huge contribution to Cuomo’s campaign and independent fundraising efforts to advance his agenda. Employers value a governor who can get things done. But his relationship with real estate went south long before the governor’s serial sexual harassment came to light.

In 2015, Cuomo sabotaged an agreement between New York’s Real Estate Board and Mayor Bill de Blasio to reform 421a, the huge land tax break for apartment buildings. As a favor to the Greater New York City Building and Construction Council, Cuomo requested that the prevailing wage be part of the program. He then left it to REBNY and the working group to sort things out, which resulted in the program becoming obsolete. Registrations for new residential projects have been practically frozen for more than a year.

In 2019, Cuomo left the field again for reasons that no one really understood and had the left-wing legislature pass a rental law that ensures that the rent-stabilized housing stock steadily deteriorates if it is not empty. Some longtime family owners saw no choice but to sell their buildings.

That year, Cuomo made a half-hearted attempt to resolve a major problem with New York City’s carbon emissions cap. Again he failed in the real estate industry.

I once asked the governor why he never tried to get rid of the silly “scaffolding law” that increases insurance costs for construction and infrastructure projects across the country without making them safer. He has had a good track record in realizing his priorities in each legislature; Why not make the Scaffolding Act one? He said it was only eighth on the to-do list and that litigators (who love the law) were the most powerful lobby in Albany.

The governor was such a control freak that issues of concern to real estate and other industries often became bottlenecks on the second floor (which is Albany language for the governor’s office). Cuomo’s priorities were dealt with, but everything else took forever or just didn’t happen. Agency bosses were afraid to act independently. And the staff were less inspired by Cuomo than they were afraid of him.

His infamous little feuds with de Blasio and others have also set New Yorkers back. Who doesn’t think we’d be better off if it wasn’t for a jealous Cuomo chasing Andy Byford, aka “Train Daddy”, back to England?

Not only did Cuomo leave a litany of female victims, but he also covered up Covid deaths in nursing homes so he could cash in a $ 5 million advance on a book government workers had to write down in their “free time”. The Albany Times Union’s formerly pro-Cuomo editorial staff was so outraged that they called for Cuomo’s resignation despite supporting his call to await investigators’ report of the harassment.

Despite all of these scandals, on top of poor government and lack of real estate support, REBNY never called for Cuomo’s removal. Even after a report by independent investigators forced the political establishment to recognize that the man was no longer capable of governing, the trade group only called for a “speedy impeachment process.” It didn’t really call for impeachment, much less resignation.

Neither does the Building and Construction Trade Council, headed by Gary LaBarbera. It just said that the process should “play”. One wonders what it takes for construction workers in the #MeToo era to stand up for victims of sexual harassment.

One real estate figure who has done well was casino developer Jeff Gural, who said he regretted giving in to pressure from Cuomo to donate money. “I can’t wait for him to step down,” Gural told The Real Deal last week. “I think he’s a tyrant.” The building services union 32BJ SEIU, followed by the Hotel Trades Council, also called for Cuomo to leave, as did the Community Housing Improvement Program, a rental group.

But, by and large, the real estate industry fell silent in the face of overwhelming evidence that the governor was incapacitated. Quite a few executives even wrote checks after Cuomo raised $ 2.5 million in six months for a 2022 re-election campaign that will never happen.

The industry missed an opportunity to gain moral standing that, given its poor reputation with many New Yorkers, it could certainly take advantage of. Still, it will benefit from Cuomo’s end. Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul ready who needs to raise money immediately to work in 2022, which gives real estate companies a great opportunity to distinguish themselves.

And she might also prove to be better at governing than Cuomo. In retrospect, it shouldn’t be too difficult. Not too difficult at all.

Contact Erik Engquist