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DeRosa’s ‘not public revenge’ revenge book

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Oct 24, 2023 View in browser

By Jeff Coltin, Emily Ngo and Nick Reisman

With help from Jason Beeferman

Melissa DeRosa, who served as a top aide to former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, is releasing her political memoir today. | Jeenah Moon/Getty Images

The last five pages may be the most fascinating part of Melissa DeRosa’s new book on her time as the top aide to former Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

It’s a series of 13 short blurbs highlighting the downfalls — or at least, the low points — of all the people and organizations that had crossed her and the Cuomo administration.

Example: “Alessandra Biaggis dream of running for Congress came true. During the campaign, a number of her staffers accused of her of fostering a toxic and hostile work environment. She lost the election by thirty-four points and subsequently announced she was enrolling in divinity school.”

“This is not a burn book, this is not public revenge,” DeRosa said in an interview with Playbook. That part is just like the closing credits of a movie, she said, filling the reader in on where everybody ended up.

Engaged readers of New York political news — the people who would read the memoir released today, “What’s Left Unsaid: My Life at the Center of Power, Politics & Crisis” — already know where everybody ended up. And many won’t accept DeRosa’s defense.

“It just seems like retribution,” one consultant close to the Cuomo administration told Playbook. “This seems like a big ‘I went down, he went down, I’m trying to take people down with me.’”

“There’s a lot of eyerolls” among Albany insiders talking about the book, said another political consultant. “There’s a little bit of desperation here.”

In fact, DeRosa is threatening to sue New York magazine for writer Rebecca Traister’s piece out today on the book, Semafor reported.

Some of the newsiest bits have been shared with journalists already. Joe Biden personally convinced Cuomo not to run for president in 2020. Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown was Cuomo’s top choice for a 2014 running mate. And New York Times Albany Bureau Chief Jesse McKinley was pulled off Cuomo coverage because DeRosa filed a complaint with the paper that he’d made her uncomfortable flirting with her in 2020.

Why do that, after so ardently defending Cuomo from, in her words, “seemingly frivolous” harassment allegations?

It’s The Times — which told The Washington Post a review “did not substantiate Ms. DeRosa’s characterization of the events” — that’s hypocritical, DeRosa said. “They allowed him to take the lead driving the coverage of a #MeToo story.” And it’s important that readers know that when evaluating the press’s role in Cuomo’s resignation, she said.

When DeRosa isn’t settling scores, the book reads like a testimony for the defense: Over closing businesses during the pandemic. Over nursing home deaths. Over going on TV with Chris Cuomo. Over the governor’s memoir on Covid-19. Over sexual harassment. Over resignation.

Ambitious aides, however, will love her stories of being in the governor’s mansion or at the Capitol where it happened, or, in one episode, convincing President Donald Trump to call off his plan to send federal troops to fight crime in New York City by yelling at Jared Kushner.

That is, if they’re not scared out of the profession by her description of 20-hour days, two phones at the bedside — and no apologies for yelling at people.

No, Cuomo didn’t get to edit the book, DeRosa says. He was only given a copy last week, since she didn’t want the infamous micromanager “telling me that I needed to move commas and change this and change that.”

But Cuomo probably wouldn’t find anything to object to. “The first draft of history is written by reporters in real time,” and they screwed it up, DeRosa said. “This is what was happening when the camera wasn't rolling. This is the truth about how an administration was undone.”

IT’S TUESDAY. Got news? Send it our way: Jeff Coltin, Emily Ngo and Nick Reisman.

WHERE’S KATHY? Appearing on CNN and making a renewable energy announcement in Long Island City.

WHERE’S ERIC? Making a health and workforce-related announcement, holding an in-person media availability, speaking with Department of Education Chancellor David Banks to kick off a new mindfulness initiative, speaking at the groundbreaking for Sunset Pier 94 Studios, hosting a reception for staff and supporters of New York City’s Asylum Application Help Center and receiving an award at the AID FOR AIDS’ 21st My Hero gala.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It’s hard for people to pay attention to what I do because I’m not a shiny object. But I’m very effective in getting things done.” — Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand told the Daily News.


GO INSIDE THE CAPITOL DOME: From the outset, POLITICO has been your eyes and ears on Capitol Hill, providing the most thorough Congress coverage — from political characters and emerging leaders to leadership squabbles and policy nuggets during committee markups and hearings. We're stepping up our game to ensure you’re fully informed on every key detail inside the Capitol Dome, all day, every day. Start your day with Playbook AM, refuel at midday with our Playbook PM halftime report and enrich your evening discussions with Huddle. Plus, stay updated with real-time buzz all day through our brand new Inside Congress Live feature. Learn more and subscribe here.


Mayor Eric Adams at the September community conversation where he said the cost of migrants "will destroy New York City." | Benny Polatseck/Mayoral Photography Office

MIGRANT WORRY: With the exception of liberal Democrats, New Yorkers broadly agree with Mayor Eric Adams that the migrant crisis “will destroy New York City,” according to a poll released today. And no one is more in alignment than Republicans.

“Never in my life have I had a problem that I did not see an ending to — I don’t see an end to this,” Adams said during a September town hall. “This issue will destroy New York City.”

More than 80 percent of conservatives throughout the state agree with the outspoken mayor, according to the Siena College Research Institute, with more than half of moderates also on board.

The numbers come as state residents sour on asylum seekers overall: More than half of New Yorkers believe migrants have been a burden rather than a benefit, compared to just under 50 percent in August. And more than two-thirds of residents believe leaders should work to stop the flow rather than accept new migrants, a share that has also inched upward since the summer.

Those dim views, however, have not tanked opinions about how Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul are handling the crisis, at least with their bases. Both were above water with Democrats, with Hochul’s approval at 51 percent to 36 percent and Adams at 42 percent to 39 percent. But overall, voters disapproved of Adams’ handling of the crisis 46 percent to 30 percent and Hochul at 52 percent to 37 percent. — Joe Anuta


City Council Member Diana Ayala called for more information about the location, funding and responsibilities of the city's Office of Asylum Seeker Operations in a Monday hearing. | Gerardo Romo/NYC Council Media Unit

MYSTERIOUS MIGRANT OFFICE: A City Council hearing Monday shed more light into Adams’ enigmatic Office of Asylum Seeker Operations.

“The council’s still not fully clear about where this office is located or funded and what the responsibilities of the office are,” Council Member Diana Ayala said at a joint oversight hearing on the costs of the migrant crisis.

The office, announced in March and operating quietly since, currently has a $1.6 million budget, 10 staff members and is based in the mayor’s office, overseen by chief of staff Camille Joseph Varlack, administration officials responded.

The office’s interim director, Molly Schaeffer, acknowledged that it’s hiring and looking to expand to 26 workers, but she left room for a change in plans.

“We continue to pivot and shift as this crisis requires us to,” Schaeffer said, echoing the mayor.

The office’s focuses include getting migrants authorized to work, refining the citywide infrastructure, cutting costs and resettlement models, she said. — Emily Ngo

More from the city:

The 30-day limit in place for migrants will extend to those in standard housing for the homeless run by the Department of Homeless Services. (New York Post)

Adams has expanded remote work option to non-unionized city employees. (POLITICO Pro)


Gov. Kathy Hochul would not reveal how her trip to Israel was paid for when asked by reporters on Monday. | Shlomi Amsalem

WHO PAID FOR IT:  A non-profit group agreed to pay for Hochul’s three-day trip to Israel last week, her office said.

The name of the organization was not divulged, however, and the Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government is in "the final stages of reviewing this arrangement to ensure it fully complies with state ethics laws," the governor's office said.

"A New York-based nonprofit that works with the Jewish community has committed to cover the costs of the governor's trip," spokesperson Avi Small said.

Speaking with reporters on Monday at an unrelated event, Hochul said the final cost of the trip was not yet known.

“The State Police costs are picked up by the state of New York for security,” Hochul said. “We literally just arrived (back in the U.S.) 6 a.m. Friday morning, so I can’t say what the total calculation is for that right now.”

Hochul’s trip was arranged after Hamas attacked Israeli communities and killed more than 1,000 people and took hostages. Hochul made the trip in a bid to show support with Israel.

“Our teams worked very quickly,” she said. “I said I need to get over there, work it out, and I said just follow all ethics rules.”

The governor, meanwhile, has no immediate plans to return to Israel as the war with Hamas continues.

She pointed to meeting with victims of the attack and family members whose loved ones have been taken hostage, as well as time spent with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The goal of the trip was to highlight both solidarity as well as shine a light on the people who are still missing.

“We accomplished what we needed to,” she said. — Nick Reisman

JAMES GOES TO BAT: Attorney General Tish James is taking a swing at Major League Baseball’s antitrust exemption.

On Monday, James signed onto an effort along with more than a dozen attorneys general that urged the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a challenge to the antitrust exemption after MLB contracted its affiliated minor league teams from 160 to 120.

Four ball clubs were affected in New York. Two of them, the Tri-City ValleyCats of Troy, a former Astros affiliate, as well as the Oneonta Athletic Corp., are suing.

“Minor league clubs are part of the fabric of hundreds of communities throughout the nation that don’t have nearby access to a Major League Baseball stadium,” James said in a statement. “By calling these clubs out of the system, Major League Baseball is punishing the fans and local communities.” — Nick Reisman

MORE BAD POLL NUMBERS FOR NEW YORK DEMS: President Joe Biden’s poll numbers continue to plummet in New York, according to a Siena College Research Institute poll released this morning.

For the first time, most New York Democrats don’t want Biden to be nominated again. Only 41 percent supported a new nomination, while 52 percent said they would prefer their party go with a “different candidate.”

Biden had a slim 38-31 lead over predecessor Donald Trump in a four-candidate race.

“Is New York still ‘true blue’? True, 49 percent of voters are enrolled as Democrats and only 23 percent as Republicans,” Siena spokesperson Steve Greenberg said in a statement. “But also true is that just last year, a Republican came within seven points of being elected governor.”

Other Democrats remained in the doldrums where they’ve spent most of 2023. Sen. Chuck Schumer was viewed favorably by a margin of 44 percent to 41 percent, his worst-ever showing in 18 years’ worth of Siena polls. — Bill Mahoney

More from Albany:

— Residents in upstate cities are facing a crush of medical debt, a new study finds. (LoHud)

A cyberattack on the state Gaming Commission forced Jake’s 58 casino on Long Island to close for a few days. (New York Post)

— Hochul honored the first responders who aided the high school victims of a bus crash in Orange County. (Newsday)


About 30 candidates are eager to take Rep. George Santos' Long Island congressional seat, but Santos said he won't be taking a plea deal anytime soon. | Alex Brandon/AP

WATCHING AND WAITING IN NY-3: The wait to replace indicted Rep. George Santos has lasted longer than his rivals expected.

Both Democratic and Republican candidates have been using that time to lay the groundwork for his ouster, POLITICO reports today.

Long Island political leaders are preparing for the possibility of a special election to succeed Santos amid his legal woes. The Republican congressman is due in court Friday to answer still more criminal fraud charges.

His attorney Joe Murray told Playbook his client will plead not guilty. And Santos has told reporters he won’t take a plea deal.

Between the Democratic and Republicans parties, about 30 candidates — with varying degrees of viability — are jockeying for Santos’ seat.

Top contenders told Playbook they’re ready for both a lower-turnout special election as early as January or February, if Santos is removed soon from office, as well as a June primary, if Santos sticks it out. And then, there will be a November general election, when potentially redrawn district lines could be a complicating factor. — Emily Ngo


PLAYBOOK IS GOING GLOBAL! We’re excited to introduce Global Playbook, POLITICO’s premier newsletter that brings you inside the most important conversations at the most influential events in the world. From the buzzy echoes emanating from the snowy peaks at the WEF in Davos to the discussions and personalities at Milken Global in Beverly Hills, to the heart of diplomacy at UNGA in New York City – author Suzanne Lynch brings it all to your fingertips. Experience the elite. Witness the influential. And never miss a global beat. BE PART OF THE CONVERSATION. SUBSCRIBE NOW.


The most powerful New Yorkers you’ve never heard of … though if you’re reading this newsletter you’ve definitely heard of at least a few of them, tbh. (New York Magazine)

— 92NY has paused its esteemed literary reading series after blowback from the organization’s decision to cancel a reading with an author critical of Israel. (The New York Times)

Forget the broomsticks, New York’s wickedest witches prefer to travel via paddleboard along the Hudson River. (LoHud)


MAKING MOVES: Sarah Mann is now a managing director at The Levinson Group. She was an associate partner at Dentons Global Advisors and is a WeWork and FTI alum.

— Kim Wolf Price has been promoted to be chief strategy and diversity officer at Bond, Schoeneck & King in Syracuse.

MEDIAWATCH: Former 1010 WINS and News 12 N.J. reporter Samantha Liebman has joined NY1 as a transportation reporter.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: NYT’s Jonathan Weisman … Bloomberg’s Nancy Cook … CNN’s Pamela Kirkland Zephyr Teachout … Tusk Strategies’ Alex Sommer … Vox Media’s Lauren Starke … former Rep. José E. Serrano (D-N.Y.) … Henry Schuster of “60 Minutes” … Judy Kopff

WAS MONDAY: Gerald Sorin ... Ken Kurson ... Amy Kurzweil 

Real Estate

Hochul has signed legislation that expands tax benefits for affordable housing developers. (Crain’s New York Business)

Behind a Chinatown real estate deal, a web of shifting alliances and political connections. (The City)


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DeRosa’s ‘not public revenge’ revenge book


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