N.Y. Today: Fallout for Cuomo

What you need to know for Thursday.

The Fallout for Cuomo Over Nursing Home Deaths

By Troy Closson

Metro

It's Thursday.

Weather: Snow begins this morning, with 5 inches or so expected today, and continues through tomorrow. High today in the upper 20s. Get storm updates here.

Alternate-side parking: Suspended through Saturday for snow removal.

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Johannes Eisele/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo wrote a memoir on pandemic leadership last year. But questions around New York's incomplete count of coronavirus-related deaths in nursing homes have undercut his national image.

Now, the Democratic leaders of the State Senate are in the final stages of crafting a bill that would strip him of emergency powers granted during the pandemic.

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"I believe they should be taken away, hopefully sooner than later," State Senator Gustavo Rivera said on Wednesday, adding that "we need to remind them that state government is not one big branch: There's three of them."

[Read more about the move by lawmakers.]

Here's what you need to know:

The details

Nearly a year ago, Mr. Cuomo was granted far-reaching authority to supersede state laws to combat the pandemic. He has signed dozens of executive orders since then, mandating shutdowns and instituting quarantine requirements for travelers, among other actions.

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The bill's passage, which could occur as soon as next week, would limit those powers and would be a remarkable rebuke in the aftermath of Mr. Cuomo's admission that he withheld nursing home data from the Legislature, according to my colleagues Jesse McKinley and Luis Ferré-Sadurní. It would also establish a 10-person commission to evaluate his future pandemic-related directives.

It remains unclear if the State Assembly would follow the Senate's lead, and any bill passed would also need to be signed by the governor himself — though Democrats could override a veto with supermajorities in both chambers.

The governor also faces a federal inquiry by the F.B.I. and the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District over his handling of nursing homes during the pandemic.

The context

Critiques of the governor's nursing home policies have been raised for months, and Mr. Cuomo had long dismissed them as partisan attacks. But on Wednesday, he lashed out at a critic from his own party, Assemblyman Ron Kim, a Queens Democrat who had said the governor had threatened him earlier.

After a report from the state attorney general and a court order, the official count of deaths of nursing home residents nearly doubled from about 8,500 to more than 15,000. Those who died in hospitals had not been initially included.

Mr. Cuomo's top aide, Melissa DeRosa, also privately told some lawmakers last week that officials had withheld data because they worried about a possible Trump Justice Department investigation, sparking further allegations of a cover-up. The governor has since said that his administration's lack of transparency was "a mistake," but has stopped short of a full apology.

"That void of information caused the families who lost a loved one tremendous pain," he said on Wednesday. "My administration created the void — and that I feel bad about. Not illegal, not unethical. But just failed people in that moment."

From The Times

The Mini Crossword: Here is today's puzzle.

What we're reading

The authorities recently raided a methamphetamine conversion lab in a Bronx apartment. It was the first of its kind discovered in the city. [Daily News]

The actress Olivia Munn said a friend's mother, who is Chinese, was assaulted in Queens as reports of attacks against Asian-Americans rise during the pandemic. [New York Post]

A driver was charged in the 2019 death of a 3-year-old child who prosecutors said was hit in a crosswalk in East Harlem. [NBC 4 New York]

And finally: Saying it with flowers

Three weeks ago, Julia Gray, a florist, delivered a bright bouquet of flowers to a customer in Queens. Judging by the accompanying card, which the sender had carefully dictated to Ms. Gray by telephone, a familial falling-out had taken place. The flowers were sent as an apology.

As the de facto manager of Donhauser Florist, an Astoria flower shop opened by her great-great-grandfather in 1889, Ms. Gray is used to brokering transactions of affection through bouquets. But the pandemic, she said, has intensified the process.

"Sending flowers has always had meaning, but now it's more serious," Ms. Gray said. "The messages used to be short — 'happy birthday, love so and so.' Now people are writing paragraphs, and they're much more specific."

Outside a pandemic, friends and loved ones might have congregated at a bar or restaurant to celebrate special occasions. Alas, in lieu of saying it in person, we're all saying it with flowers.

According to a recent survey conducted by the Society of American Florists, over 80 percent of respondents reported an increase in holiday sales compared with 2019. The industry's success at the retail level has revealed our zealous, if not slightly despairing, need to nurture relationships from a distance.

One of Ms. Gray's customers lives in Hawaii. Currently unable to return to New York, she has Ms. Gray deliver flowers to her parents' graves at St. Michael's Cemetery in East Elmhurst.

Emily Scott, who owns Floriconvento Flowers in Harlem, noted that having flowers to glance at can inspire much-needed breakthroughs in morale. "Even if it's just switching out the water in a vase, that can be good for mental health," she said. "People are sending flowers as a way of cheering people up."

It's Thursday — gather ye rosebuds.

Metropolitan Diary: Sledding

Dear Diary:

It was Dec. 16, 2020, and the biggest snowstorm in several years was beginning to blanket New York City. Our daughters were slightly upset because we did not own a sled.

My husband set out on foot to remedy the situation, but he soon came back empty-handed. The Upper West Side shops were all out of sleds. Undeterred, my 11-year-old prayed for divine intervention.

So late that night, we were in Riverside Park near the Hippo Playground, trying to slide down the hill on flattened Amazon boxes.

A family approached us.

"Do you girls want to use our toboggan?" the father asked.

After making a couple of runs down the hill, my daughters went to return the sled.

"Oh, you can keep it," the father said. "I brought it here to give away."

— Lydia S. Dugdale

New York Today is published weekdays around 6 a.m. You can also find it at nytoday.com.

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