New York governor Andrew Cuomo declined calls for his resignation on Sunday after new allegations of inappropriate workplace behavior were raised. However, he will sign a bill that removes his emergency powers to fight the Covid-19 pandemic as he faces growing political pressure from his own party.
The Democratic governor, who grappled with waves of criticism and called for his resignation over dueling crises in his government, also vowed that he would “not be distracted” in the fight against Covid.
“I am signing the law on emergency powers today and I will implement it today,” Cuomo said on a conference call with reporters.
Cuomo said he would take this step with the “major change” that would allow Empire State restaurants outside of New York City to increase indoor dining capacity from 50% to 75%.
“The numbers have gone down. If the numbers have gone down, we’ll adjust the economic reopening valve,” said Cuomo.
The change will be implemented on March 19, according to the governor. But he warned: “If the numbers change, if something happens, if there is a downturn, then obviously we will adjust.”
Cuomo is under fire amid a growing number of allegations of sexual harassment or inappropriate workplace behavior, as well as an ongoing scandal surrounding his government’s handling of care home deaths in Covid.
New York Senate majority leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins on Sunday called for Cuomo’s resignation after two more women were added to the file to accuse the governor of inappropriate behavior.
“Every day there is a different report that stands out from the government business,” said Stewart-Cousins.
“We have allegations of sexual harassment, a toxic work environment, the loss of credibility related to the Covid-19 nursing home data and questions about the construction of a major infrastructure project.”
“New York is still in the midst of this pandemic and still facing the social, health and economic repercussions,” she said. “We have to govern without daily distraction. For the good of the state, Governor Cuomo must resign.”
Carl Heastie, the Democratic spokesman for the New York State Assembly, said in a statement on Sunday that he agreed with Stewart’s cousins ”on the governor’s ability to continue running this state.”
“The allegations about the governor that have been reported over the past few weeks have been deeply troubling and have no place in government, at work or anywhere else,” said Heastie.
“We have many challenges to face and I think it is time for the governor to give serious thought to whether he can effectively meet the needs of the people of New York.”
But Cuomo was defiant earlier on Sunday when he was riddled with questions about several women’s allegations, including two more who came forward on Saturday.
“There are some lawmakers suggesting that I step down on allegations,” Cuomo said. Some members of Cuomo’s own party, including Senator Alessandra Biaggi, have asked him to resign.
“I was elected by the people of this state, I was not elected by politicians. I will not resign on charges,” he said.
“The premise of resigning on allegations is indeed anti-democratic,” added Cuomo. He urged people to let New York Attorney General Letitia James conduct her independent investigation into harassment claims before drawing any conclusions.
“Let the attorney general do her job. She’s very good, she’s very competent. And that’s going to be a due process and then we’ll have the facts,” he said.
“There is no way I can step down,” added Cuomo. “But I won’t let that distract me either … We have a lot to do.”
When asked about Biaggi in particular, Cuomo replied: “I have a flash of news for you: There is politics in politics.”
“I have political differences with people,” said Cuomo, also with some Democrats and Biaggi. “But they don’t override the will of the people. They don’t override elections. They cannot hear an allegation and decide on the allegation,” he said.
– CNBC’s Dan Mangan contributed to this report.