New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks with WAMC's Alan Chartock on Northeast Report April 22, 2020.
Alan Chartock: Hey, tell me what's going on in the New York City subways. I read a piece. I think it was in Reuters. I'm not sure. Where they were telling me that the subways have now become the new go to place for those people who are homeless as opposed to the homeless shelters which have been set up. Is that true?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: Well, look, we are overall, Alan- We're in a place where we've never been, right? On the New York City subways, the number of robberies are up. Uh, and the policing apparently has been down, because so many NYPD have had illness because of the Coronavirus. The MTA actually brought in security, private security firms to provide security, it's gotten so bad. I don't- I can't remember when that has ever happened. Maybe it's happened, but I don't remember it. And I'm going to tell them today I'd rather, rather than have private security firms, if they need it, we could send State Police to help the MTA. We already have State Police working with the MTA, and the MTA was supposed to hire more police. But rather than have private security firms, if they need it, I'd rather send police officers who are trained and we could send State Police.
Alan Chartock: What's the danger here? The danger is that somebody who get hurt or that -or that something will get out of hand?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: Well, a crime- they say the subways are the canary in the coal mine. Right?
Alan Chartock: Right. Right.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: So, you always watch crime in the subways. Because when it starts to go bad, it starts to go bad in the subways first. I think that's the, the general impression. And this is an aberration, this period. NYPD is fewer people because of the Coronavirus. Fewer people are on the trains. But you can't have a situation where you have fewer people on the trains and a rise in certain crimes. The shortage of personnel calls the MTA to bring into security firm. But a security firm- You know, they're not police. They're not trained. That's not what they do. And handling the public in the subways is a very tricky situation and you have to have a balanced approach. So, I'd feel more comfortable with State Police, as I said we have them there already. They are trained police. They've been working in New York City area. So I'd rather send more State Police rather than have introduced private security to work with the MTA police and the NYPD police.
Alan Chartock: Now, as I understand it, you have the most appointments to the MTA. Is there any, you know, friction between you, for example- and the governor and the President? Hehe, there I go- And the mayor and all of this?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: No, I don't think it's- No, not at all. I think it's just circumstantial. Uh, The NYPD- we had seen an increase in crime in New York City. The NYPD and the mayor said it was because of the bail laws that were in effect. Those laws have now changed. So it can't be that. I think it's just circumstantial. I think the, the police absentee rate has gone up because of the virus. No fault there. Why it's disproportionate to the subways? I don't know. But, I just, I'm not comfortable with this private security firms. I think that would be a last resort. And I don't think we're at the last resort yet.
Alan Chartock: Gotcha. Hey, you know, everybody's talking about you. And everybody is talking about you, you and the president that you went down there. You went down there, you asked for the meeting, as I understand it, right?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: Yes.
Alan Chartock: What did you want to accomplish?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: I wanted to figure out this issue about testing, which is the new frontier. No one, no one is testing. We've never done it before- We actually have, but on a much smaller scale, but we have to bring testing up to scale very quickly. It's going to be a really impossible task, but it's also an essential task. To help on the reopening, just to help stabilize public health. There was a back and forth, "the federal government wasn't responsible, it's up to the States". The States, say, basically on a bipartisan basis, they "need help from the federal government". And there was- everyone was just missing each other and we don't have time to waste. I have been spending a lot of time getting testing up to scale. We are doing more testing in New York than any state in the country. We're doing more testing in the state of New York than most other countries on the globe, per capita, Alan. So, we know what we're talking about with testing. And I just wanted to cut to the chase with the White House. We do need the federal help. But to sit down, "What is this function called testing? Who does what? What should the states do? What should the federal government do?" And let's stop the back and forth between the federal government and the States. No more finger pointing. Let's just figure it out. And I'll tell you the truth. Look, uh, the President and his people don't love me, right? That is a factual statement. The president-
Alan Chartock: Vice a versa. And vice a versa.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: Yeah, I'm just gonna get to the vice versa. You- the President has made his feelings about my politics clear. And I've made my feelings when I disagree with the president clear. And the conversation has been heated and direct. And that's the way it's been for years. But I'll tell you the truth. They, they put that aside, we dealt with the issue on the merits. And we actually came to a real agreement where we are going to try to work together. We defined tasks, who does what, and we're gonna try- we're going to try to double the amount of tests we're doing. Which is a very aggressive undertaking, go from 20,000 per day to 40,000 per day. But look, they put aside their feelings and their emotions, and they focused on the job at hand and I respect that, you know.
Alan Chartock: Who is- who is the “they?” Who is the “they?” Was uh, Mnuchin? Who was there?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: Secretary Mnuchin was there. Mark Meadows, the Chief of Staff was there. The president was there. We had a series of discussions. Dr. Birx was there, who does the briefings on the Coronavirus task force. Admiral Giroir was there. Jared Kushner was there, who knows New York, who was very helpful in expediting a lot of issues. So, you know, all the main players were all there. And it worked. And the reason I am saying it was, it was good and surprisingly good. Because really, Alan, that's the way it should be. Who really cares how I feel about the president or how the president feels about me, right? Who cares about our emotions?
Alan Chartock: I care. I look at the television, I think that guy's a monster. I yell at, I yell at, yell at the television and I say "Get off of there. You're terrible." And, you know, so, so I'm assuming, since you have feelings, too- You've already expressed them that you might not be happy either with these guys, and yet you got to sit in a room with them and pretend, so you get stuff done.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: Yeah, but you have to, you have to because the- We use the analogy of a war and it is a war people are dying. You're in a foxhole with someone. Nobody says "Well, do you like the guy in the foxhole?" "If you don't like them, then don't defend him." You know, "If you do like- ". You're in the foxhole, you're in the foxhole. Here's the person. It's not about your emotions. It's far, wait here- Then your personal feelings. Do your job in the foxhole, charge the hill. Get up to the top of the hill. Take the hill, that's your job. And do your job and put your own personal feelings aside and deal with them some time down the road when you have the luxury of dealing with your emotions. That's how it should work in a crisis. And that's how it worked yesterday.
Alan Chartock: Ok, fair enough. What about Bloomberg? Now, how did that happen? All of a sudden, you're telling us that the New York City Mayor, former New York City Mayor will be involved in a tri-state effort to test, trace and isolate. What exactly is he gonna do? And secondly, how does it come about?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: Well, we have to undertake this testing, tracing isolation. It's hundreds of people, newly trained, never been done before. How do you trace a person quickly, find all their contacts, who may be positive, get them to isolation, coordinate with local health departments to make sure they're following up on the quarantine, and you have to do it for the tri-state area and you have to do it tomorrow. It's an enormous undertaking.
Alan Chartock: So, who called who? You call him? Or do you call you?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: I don't know how the conversation started. I know, you know, Michael Bloomberg has been very engaged and doing good things since he's been mayor. I worked with the mayor, obviously, when he was mayor for a number of years, and he's, he's a good fellow, and he was a good manager, with good people. And that's what we need now. And he was willing to come forward because he wanted to help because he's a New Yorker now and he wants to do his part. And I appreciate that and I respect it and he has tremendous capacity, tremendous experience. He also was running a company that went through the China shut-down and open-up and went through the European shut down and opening up. So he's, he's seen this, he's been there, he know what- knows what worked and what didn't work, and he's willing to help. And God bless, I need help.
Alan Chartock: So, you really don't remember whether you picked up the phone and called him or somebody else called him or he called you? I think that's important. That's why I'm asking him and trying to know it.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: No, but it didn't start with me. It started with Melissa DeRosa, the Secretary, brought the idea to me, she had been talking to them. I don't know how it started.
Alan Chartock: She is terrific. By the way, I just thought I mention that.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: She is a superstar. She really is a superstar.
Alan Chartock: It's unbelievable the way that she, you know, she's always ready and during these press conferences and what she does. So, okay. So, will you be talking to Bloomberg on a regular basis? Or how's that gonna work? Who's going to handle that?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: Yes. I'll be talking to Mike. Yes.
Alan Chartock: And he's apparently putting 10 million bucks of his own money into this at least because-
Governor Andrew Cuomo: Yes, yes. Yes. Because, again, this is, we have John Hopkins, etc. But, and, and Mike has worked with them and funded their organization. So there is an infrastructure, that is already in place. But he's an enormously capable person, obviously. And this is an essential task. And as I said, New York needs help, where we're doing all these things that we've never done before, they have to be brought to scale on a level never imagined. So get as many good people to help as you can.
Alan Chartock: Can I go a place I probably shouldn't go with you? I just thought I'd ask about this. You know, there used to be a lot of people who say, well, "Andrew's tough guy", "Andrew is too tough." "I don't like him". And yet now, so many of those people, including to a wonderful doctor I was talking to today, said I never liked him. But now I really love him and- I have great respect for him and I wrote him a letter and I told him how much you like him." Have you had a personality change?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: No. Has the doctor?
Alan Chartock: No, but here you are. It's like Eisenhower before the, before the Invasion of Normandy, Invasion, all the rest of it. Here you are. Has this changed you, is the question. I think it's a fair question.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: Oh, yes, but let's do this on two levels. I don't think- do I operate any differently in my job? No. I do the same press conference, the same way, the same PowerPoint that they all ridiculed- by the way for years. And then I'm with Dr. Birx, in the White House yesterday. She says "Those PowerPoints are so good because people need to have both the visual, as well as the auditory because they process differently". I said "Thank you, Doctor. I wish you were in New York." But anyway, I do the same thing Alan. And you know me, 100 years, I do exactly the same thing. Now, government matters more to people now than before. It always mattered to me, and I always thought it was an art form. And I always thought it had great potential to do great things. But, you know, people weren't there. Government became like a boutique, cocktail party discussion, but it wasn't highly relevant. And now, yeah, it matters. And competence matters and performance matters. And it's a matter of life and death. So, their perspective changed, not mine. But on your question of have I changed?
Alan Chartock: Yes, that's the question.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: This is a humbling experience. You know, it is. 15,000 people die. 15,000 people die and you can't do anything about it. You can't protect your children. Your brother gets sick. There's nothing you can even do about it. Friends in the hospital, you can't even go see them. I mean, it is- you think you had any control of your own life, of others. And "Man plans, and God laughs" and then in one day. It's all a mockery, you control nothing. You're governor of the state, you're trying to help people. Over 400 people died yesterday. So, despite all your efforts, brought hospital capacity up to 90,000 frontline workers, everyone does everything they could do. It was a beautiful manifestation of social compassion, and mobilization. And still you can't save lives. I mean, that is a really sad reality to be faced with.
Alan Chartock: Well, you have a hell of a job. Let's face it. It's a hell of a job. You have a fairly large staff that works for you. You mentioned Melissa DeRosa who's so terrific and all of the other people. Do you lose your temper? You ever lose your temper? Do you ever say "Hey, wait a second now, you know, let's get this right. Come on now, folks, let's go."
Governor Andrew Cuomo: Yeah, I have a capacity to lose my temper. I have a high stand- more so when I was younger, to tell you the truth.
Alan Chartock: That's what I meant. You've changed!
Governor Andrew Cuomo: Yeah. Well, is there a mellowing over years? Yes. That is true. Was true was my father, was true with me. Was true with most people. But in this immediate situation? No, I have not lost my temper at all. But you know, losing a temper is almost a luxury. Any emotion is a luxury, right? I feel bad. I feel sad. I feel angry. I feel frustrated. Who cares how you feel? Just do the job now, and put all those nice emotions in a little box and we'll deal with them down the road. So no, whatever it has been, 53 days. No. You don't have the luxury of emotions, nobody cares and nobody should care. Just do the darn job 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and then we'll figure it out.
Alan Chartock: You keep saying "We'll deal with that later". "We'll deal with that later". Should people be scared if they screwed- screwed you during this time or screwed around with you?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: Be scared of what?
Alan Chartock: You.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: What?
Alan Chartock: You know? You.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: What? I'm gonna get them in the afterlife. What am I going to do? What recrimination is there?
Alan Chartock: "Get them in the afterlife." I love that. So, look, Mitch McConnell. Not one of my favorite people in the world said today that struggling state and local government should consider bankruptcy rather than federal aid to stay afloat and said the aid was a "blue state bailout". Wow, what do you think?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: That is one of the saddest, really dumb comments of all time. "Okay, let's all- have all the states declare bankruptcy. That's the way to bring the national economy back." And then hyper-partisan "blue state". No, not blue state, not red state. States where people are dying. Why don't we think about that? Not red and and blue, red, white and blue. They're just Americans dying. The Coronavirus doesn't infect Democrats or Republicans. It infects them- Americans. When are they going to stop with the partisanship? Not even on life and death? I mean, it's so ridiculous. And then for them to not fund the states? It's not like the states- You know, I put the money in my pocket. They funded small businesses. Great, good move. How about police? How about fire? How about teachers? How about schools? "The governors have to reopen." Okay. Do you want to- the states are bankrupt as he just said they are supposed to be doing reopening? You want to reopen the economy, Mr. McConnell, so everyone gets the job back. But the people you put in charge of reopening, the governors in the states should declare bankruptcy. That's how you want to reopen? By bankrupting the states? That's going to get people back to work faster? I mean, it's just a really dumb statement.
Alan Chartock: There have been protesters that have been coming around the Capitol have been honking their horns saying "We want, we want back in and we don't want you to- we don't want you to stop us from doing anything we want to do." Do you suspect as I do, I certainly do, that the Trump people are putting them up to this?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: Do I think politics is behind it? Probably. "Gambling, gambling?" Yes. I'm not surprised. And look, do they express a frustration that is real? Yes. The frustration is universal. "I haven't gotten a paycheck, the bills keep coming. The bills have packed, stacking up. I don't know when I'll go back to work. I don't know if I'll have a job. When I go back to work. I don't know if my business will be there. I have high anxiety and I can't stay in the house any longer." I get it. The question is, what do you do about it? It's too easy to express the frustration. So, I let everybody go back to work and then we kill- then more people die. Well, that's not okay. It's just not okay. Not after our grand accomplishment, which has been controlling the spread of the virus because we did all of the above. Closed down, double the hospital capacity, frontline health care workers do a phenomenal job, police go out there and keep us safe and get sick. And all of this, we should throw away the accomplishment because now we're frustrated and were emotionally bothered by, by staying in place? No, that's not the right response.
Alan Chartock: Do they get you angry? These folks in the honking horns in the cars?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: Nah, I don't care. Again, forget anger, anger we do when they get a vac-
Alan Chartock: Later on. Later on.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: After the vaccine. We get very angry for a prolonged period of time. But we don't have that luxury now. No, they do pressure local governments. And see, what we have to watch is the local officials. First the local officials, all want to be able to say "Well I'm in charge here I make the rules- And my town, my village, my city, my county." And they're feeling political pressure, and my phone rings with them on the other end. And they say, you know, "We have a lot of political pressure here". To them I say, "Number one, now was no time to do anything stupid. Number two, don't worry about it because you have the greatest excuse in the world. You don't have the legal authority to make any of these decisions." The State Emergency order says, in essence, the local officials can't open their own schools and they can't open their parks and their- whatever they want to do. So, uh, they have a perfect out. Just say, "I can't do it. Blame the governor", because it is me. And if they're feeling political pressure, they can't do it legally. The law's on this side they can say they "Would love to do it. But the governor's stopping me". Just point at me.
Alan Chartock: Is there anybody in particular you'd like to name right here, right now? Who has gotten you on the phone and who you find, you know, has really gone over the traces. Is there a name you want to give us?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: No names, no names. But look, I get the political pressure. I get it, get the desire to show you're in control of your elected subdivision. I get that. But then I say to them," Look, you say you're going to open your schools. I'm going to say, 'No, you're not.' And now what happens? You don't open your schools. And all we've communicated to the public is chaos and confusion, and political division, which is the last thing we should be communicating now." People need to believe that their government is working and believe in its competence, because that's the only thing they have. That's the only thing they have. That our leaders know what they're doing? Why do so many people watch my boring briefing?
Alan Chartock: Not at all.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: Because they want the information.
Alan Chartock: It's not boring. It's terrific.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: Thank you for saying that.
Alan Chartock: I want to ask you a question. I left it open from last week since you are on the floor, on the cover of Rolling Stone and now you're a rock star. A lot of people think so I saw your sister in law talking about how there's a long line of people who want to date you, for whatever that's worth. So, can you remember what the first album you ever bought was?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: Well, hold it. Let's get back to the long line of people who want to date me. Do we have names on that list? Are they, any names there?
Alan Chartock: You give me your names I'll give you my names. Okay. So that must have been quite a thing to be on the cover of Rolling Stone. I mean, you know, not since you are picking up cars in your, you know, in your John Travolta jacket back in the day. Have you been, you know, this distinguished by a major cultural group like Rolling Stone, it's gotta have gone to you, the kids must have loved it.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: First of all, I still have my John Travolta jacket and I still wear it. And it is now cool, by the way, now they call it cool. Did you see how terrible the picture was? And the picture was so bad, and it was a great likeness, which actually made it worse.
Alan Chartock: I actually thought it was quite distinguished. And quite an honor to be on Rolling Stone, anybody can be on them, you know, in the New York Times or one of those places, but Rolling Stone. That puts you in a whole other league, Governor, and you should accept that, you know, for what it's worth.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: I looked at that picture. I saw my father's face when I looked at that picture.
Alan Chartock: Yeah, we all do that. Yeah, that's amazing. That's amazing. And, and, and that shouldn't have bothered you, right? I mean, you love your father. I can seldom think of anybody who loves their parent more. You know, I've often written and said that you both love him and you compete with them. You think that's fair?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: Oh, I don't compete with him. Or you know, you say that and I know you think that. And no Freudian, and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I had, I had nothing but pure love for that man. Whatever he did, we did together, positive or negative. That's why I took the criticism of him to heart while he was in office, and after, because I was part of whatever he did, and he was part of whatever I did. What do you think, that I wasn't talking to him when I became governor? It was no- it wasn't a one sided relationship. Whatever I did, he was part of. We did that marriage equality bill. He was so happy, so proud. The infrastructure work he loved because that was one of the great criticisms of him, right? Post-Defeat, when they all came out all the critics and all the Monday morning quarterbacks. "Well, this is what he didn't do. He was a governor of words but no action, no accomplishment. All he did was the rest stops on the thruway." All that ugly, nastiness in this business. I endured all of that with him. And he was part of what I did. There was no competition. There was no competition.
Alan Chartock: Well, do you, you know you say you're running for a fourth term? He couldn't make that fourth term. Now a little bit competitive?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: No. Look, I'm saying I think I'm good at doing this. I want the people to hire me again. I don't want to do anything else, Alan. Go to Washington, I've been there. I did that. I don't want to do that, again.
Alan Chartock: I want to ask you- Yup, Go ahead.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: I want do my best service. When the people of New York say "We've had enough of you,” fine. Then that's that.
Alan Chartock: You say you want to, you want to test 19 million people. Can you really do that?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: No.
Alan Chartock: I mean there's 8 million people in New York, right?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: No, you can't do that. You can't.
Alan Chartock: Can't you?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: You'll never get past... Look, if your maximum is 40,000 a day. You know, so your maximum, if you did that seven days a week, what do you do, six days a week? So you do 250,000 a week? You do a million a month. You know, how long can you do this? And how long until a therapeutic, or to a vaccine? You'll never get there. But you do the best you can and set the bar high. You know, that's what I do.
Alan Chartock: So, I'm still puzzled about how you were doing all of this. You know, you turn on the television and there you are doing a terrific job, I may say. And you and then you, you're here for us at WAMC. We're very, very proud of this by the way, and, you know, do you ever rest? I mean, is there ever a moment when you say, "Okay, I'm just exhausted." You talk about having extra time to talk to your kids, but I don't know where that's coming from because all I do is see you working.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: Well, the kids are there. The kids that just restless, roaming, roaming and restless? And I get home and they want answers. Yeah. When does this end? What are you doing? Can't you end it now? Can you end it next week? I have places to go, people to see, Dad. I can't hang out here with you anymore.
Alan Chartock: Well, that happens. Right. What about A.J. Parkinson? Now, A.J. Parkinson, as you know, was a fabulous philosopher.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: Yes. Fabulous.
Alan Chartock: Yes. Fabulous. And made, and made all kinds of headlines. There those people who falsely accused your father of having made up A.J. Parkinson.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: Never, never, what a false accusation.
Alan Chartock: Could not be. But the other day you came up with a rule, a law. And sounds like something AJ Parkinson may have, may have come up with, you know? It was a law about how you treat your son-in-law. You know, not your son-in-law, but your, your daughter's beau, and it sounded like it sounded like a particular A.J. Parkinson moment.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: Well, I'll tell you what's funny. I quoted AJ Parkinson last time week, on the screen. Nobody said a word. Nobody.
Alan Chartock: Is that right?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: Nobody said a word, which means they are not students of A.J.
Alan Chartock: Oh no, well, some of them, some of them are really not, not with it because they- some people who actually think there is no A.J. Parkinson, but we know there is. That was one of your father's most brilliant inventions because everybody knows Parkinson's Law and everything else. So when he came up with AJ Parkinson, it was amazing. There was quiet there too, I think was the New York Times who finally figured out or suggested probably falsely, that there was no A.J Parkinson.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: Yeah, to which you could never prove it was so so Mario brilliant. Right?
Alan Chartock: Right.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: Prove there is no AJ Parkinson. First of all that there are A.J. Parkinsons. There are numerous A.J. Parkinsons. It could be Andrew John Parkinson, it could be Aaron Judah Parkinson. I mean there are A.J. Parkinsons, so go prove that no AJ Parkinson said that. I dare you.
Alan Chartock: Well, Governor, I've taken up too much of your time because of the little problem we had and getting started today. And I do apologize for that. I know how valuable your time is. And I'm sure you have something else to do right now. Right?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: Always do, always do. By the way to you know being governor, that's why we get the big bucks. Take care of yourself, Doctor, get a new phone system, I will contribute. You have convinced me.
Alan Chartock: You're the best. Thanks. Bye.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: Thank you. Thanks, bye.