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Opinion

Everyone’s a critic

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in Manhattan.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in Manhattan. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

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Daily Point

Open to criticism

Everyone’s talking about the anonymous Trump administration official’s New York Times op-ed, even Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul. She told WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Thursday morning that she wanted to “commend” the Times for its “courage” in publishing the piece. Then Lehrer asked her how she would feel if someone inside Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration had written such an op-ed.

“I would be looking it at very differently than the way I think Donald Trump has with his extreme paranoia,” she said. “If there are problems like that, that someone needs to have come forward, I’d want to find out what they are and make sure we’re addressing them because people deserve to have the best government possible.”

So there you have it. Cuomo’s administration, so iron-fisted that former aides have testified that those who want to leave have received threats, is open to freewheeling internal criticism and there would be no drama about nameless staffers spouting off in anonymous op-eds.

Hey, second floor, anyone willing to test-drive Hochul’s optimism? Reach us at oped@newsday.com.

Mark Chiusano

Talking Point

Laser-focused on East Side Access

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is prepared to do for East Side Access what he did for the Second Avenue Subway — even if it means going down into the bowels of Grand Central Terminal and checking on the project’s progress himself.

“East Side Access, we’re going to accelerate,” Cuomo told the editorial board on Wednesday, sounding confident about a third term. “As soon as I get into January, I’m going to focus on that like a laser.”

Cuomo recalled that when the Second Avenue Subway, which opened at the start of 2017, was still under construction, Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials told him that they were going to have to “move the deadline” — by a year, or even a year and a half. Cuomo got all of the contractors in a room together and threatened to send each of them a “letter of debarment” — a notice that would permanently remove them from being able to do business with the state. That, he suggested in the meeting, could have a significant-enough impact on their publicly traded companies that they’d have to notify the Securities and Exchange Commission.

After making the threat, Cuomo “got up and walked out of the room,” he said.

The contractors took Cuomo seriously, and found a way to stay on schedule, subsequently meeting twice a week in Cuomo’s office, where the governor would quiz them about how many people they had working on the subway.

“On the way home every night, I would stop at one of the stations, I’d go down and count how many people were down there,” said Cuomo, who then would compare his count with the contractors’ promises.

Cuomo is envisioning a similar scenario for East Side Access, the effort to extend the Long Island Rail Road to Grand Central Terminal.

“East Side Access is going to be that situation,” he warned.

The MTA has said it expects East Side Access to be done by the end of 2022, and Cuomo said he couldn’t yet promise whether the deadline could be any sooner, because he’s still talking with the contractors and evaluating the situation.

“I will get it done as fast as it can humanly be done,” Cuomo said. “Any way we can get it done faster, we’ll get it done faster.”

Randi F. Marshall

Pencil Point

Selling fear

Reference Point

A decades-old argument resurfaces

Newsday’s editorial board has been critical of cross endorsements in principle, and has condemned in particular the deals engineered by Suffolk County Democratic boss Rich Schaffer that seek to deprive voters of choices in November. This week, the board urged Democratic voters in the Sept. 13 primary to reject the latest Schaffer plan that included the Suffolk Surrogate’s Court judgeship as part of a nine-judge deal.

The board, as it turns out, has been making this case for at least six decades.

On Sept. 6, 1958, Newsday’s editorial board criticized a system for selecting State Supreme Court judges on Long Island that also did not give voters any say in the matter.

After noting the 14-year term for judges and the $32,000 annual salary, the board wrote, “It’s nice work if you can get it; Long Island political leaders under the present bipartisan system of choosing a single slate of candidates can get it — for themselves — and often do. What does the public get? The same privilege of saying ‘da’ at the polls afforded a Soviet citizen; choosing judges who may or may not be qualified but will serve for life.”

The editorial noted that then-Patchogue Mayor George Lechtrecker had objected to being asked at the Democratic convention to endorse the same slate of seven judges that Republicans had approved.

“There must be a better way to pick judges than through political bosses,” the board wrote.

The board’s suggestion back then was to give the responsibility to someone who must face voters and let the governor pick Supreme Court judges, with or without State Senate approval. Let’s see whether that suggestion can fly next time around in Albany.

Michael Dobie

Columns