The second-weirdest thing about Andrew Cuomo’s career as governor of New York is the way that he has been able to pretend, through two full terms and into a third one, that he has only just now acquired the powers and responsibilities of his office. Corruption in Albany? A wayward caucus of Democratic legislators blocking reforms? The New York subway system crumbling because of neglect and mismanagement? Andrew Cuomo is perpetually ready to step up and attack all the problems that some other person—who must have had the job and duties of the governor of New York—has been ignoring, if not causing.
The weirdest thing is that the press goes along with it. The New York Times, in endorsing Cuomo over his challenger Cynthia Nixon, wrote that “when he confronts a real problem and gets down to work, he is a very capable governor.” A few days later, after his campaign had been caught sending out a mailer smearing Nixon as an anti-Semite, the editorial board wrote that he “deserves a third term because of his potential to lead.” Eight years into his governorship, at the age of 60, he was somehow able to run on what he might still prove able to do, despite not having done it.
So yesterday, four months before the long-planned shutdown of the L train for overdue repairs to damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, Cuomo—who had been governor, and thus in charge of the MTA, when the storm hit and through the entire repair-planning process—canceled the whole plan. The train line would keep running. A panel of experts, hastily gathered by the governor, had found a solution that made the old plans (produced by other experts on behalf of the governor back then, whoever he was) obsolete.
And the papers bought it, deliriously. “Brooklynites, rejoice!” the Times tweeted. “L- YEAH!” and “L YEAH!” chorused the wood on the Post and the Daily News, respectively. It won’t matter if the new plan turns out to be a farce, any more than it mattered when Cuomo hurriedly announced the opening of a new span of the Tappan Zee Bridge during the last campaign, then immediately had to announce its closing because the old part of the bridge threatened to collapse onto it. So what if the whole thing breaks down? The governor, with the papers behind him, can just announce another brand-new plan to fix it.