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It’s only Wednesday, but it has already been a long week for Andrew Cuomo. The governor, who is responsible for the state-owned MTA, has been working overtime since Sunday morning when a Metro-North train flew off the rails in the Bronx, throwing five cars on their sides, killing four passengers and injuring 63.
On Monday, in addition to questions about the MTA’s safety record, Cuomo began fielding inquiries about the Moreland Commission’s long-awaited report criticizing Albany’s culture of corruption. The commission (hand-picked by Cuomo himself) said money had an outsize influence on power — the words “legalized bribery” were used — and called much of what goes on in Albany “perfectly legal yet profoundly wrong.”
It was slightly unfortunate timing then that the day after the report was released Cuomo’s campaign was hanging streamers and inflating balloons for a lavish birthday party-slash-fundraiser at the Roseland Ballroom, tickets for which ranged from $250 to $50,000 a piece. But, hey, you only turn 56 once!
On the guest list for Tuesday night’s “New York State of Mind” soiree were Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, his one-time campaign rival Bill Thompson, and Semi-Homemade‘s Sandra Lee, the governor’s girlfriend, who crowd-sourced her choice in evening wear.
Piano man Billy Joel, who formally announced a Madison Square Garden residency on Wednesday, was on hand to serenade the governor.
The New York GOP released a “birthday card” skewering the event with a set-list of fake Billy Joel songs, including “‘Movin’ Out (Andrew’s Song),’ or, Why New York’s Businesses Keep Leaving for Lower-Tax States,” “‘In the Middle of the Night,’ or, How Andrew Cuomo Passed the SAFE Act,” and “‘The Longest Time,’ or, The Story of the Fracking Decision.”
Joel, who calls the governor “a friend,” did sing a version of “Honesty” personalized for the occasion.
The NY GOP was not the only one assailing the governor for the glacial pace it has taken him to issue a decision on whether to allow hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in New York.
Thirty four environmental groups, including Food and Water Watch, Environment New York, and New Yorkers Against Fracking, marshaled supporters at a demonstration outside the Roseland Ballroom on Tuesday evening urging Cuomo to outlaw the practice.
The protestors, quarantined behind cattle-pen police barricades, hoisted a papier-mâché rendering of Monopoly’s Rich Uncle Pennybags, banners and signs urging the governor to “Ban Fracking Now.”
As recently as last month, Cuomo reiterated a pledge to announce before the 2014 election whether he would allow drilling of the Marcellus and Utica shale formations in Western New York. Cuomo says he is waiting for a report on the environmental effects from his health commissioner, Nirav Shah.