NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — State politics has long been criticized for the way decisions are made in Albany.
But as CBS2’s Lisa Rozner reported Tuesday, that’s about to be turned on its head.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who resigned Tuesday effective in two weeks due to a sexual harassment scandal, leaves behind a legislative legacy that has been criticized for years, the so-called “three men in a room” process where the governor and two legislative leaders negotiate state business behind closed doors.
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In 2015, the three men were Cuomo, current Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and then-Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan.
Now, for the first time in state history, those three powerful people will not be all men.
“The three men in the room are now two women and two African Americans,” political strategist Basil Smikle said.
Add to that the power of Attorney General Letitia James, whose investigation ultimately took down Cuomo.
“We now have two women and one man in the room who are going to be able to really move forward progress for African Americans, for women, for the LGBTQ community,” said Sonia Ossorio, president of the National Organization for Women of New York. “Women traditionally have been underrepresented in government as leaders. We don’t have a lot of things we need like quality affordable child care. Too many families are left out and education. Who’s going to get that right? Mothers.”
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer tweeted, in part, “I’m looking forward to working with Kathy Hochul, who will become governor of a state with women as majority leader of both chambers of the Legislature, a woman serving as chief justice of our highest court, a woman as attorney general, a woman as secretary of state, and our acting lieutenant governor will be a woman as well.”
a state with women as majority leader of both chambers of the legislature, a woman serving as Chief Justice of our highest court, a woman as attorney general, a woman as Secretary of State, and our acting lieutenant governor will be a woman as well.
— Gale A. Brewer (@galeabrewer) August 10, 2021
“It’s not just a woman, it’s a very qualified woman, and she’s been upstate and downstate. She fits in in both,” Brewer told CBS2.
Watch Lisa Rozner’s report —
The changes come years after former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara mocked the “three men in a room”-style of governor. It was after he had charged former Assembly Speaker Silver with corruption. At a speech, he said, in part, “Why three men? Can there be a woman? Do they always have to be white? How small is the room that they can only fit three men?”
“What’s interesting when you really look at what has happened over the last 10, 12 years in our state government, we’ve had the elevation of an African American governor and now the first woman to be governor because of the scandals of white men,” Smikle said. “I hope that it changes the culture. I certainly think that it will and hopefully the kind of progressive state New York purports to be.”
“This is no longer your grandfather’s Democratic party. This Democratic party in the city is much more progressive,” political commentator J.C. Polanco said.
READ MORE: The Rise And Fall Of Andrew Cuomo
But there’s no time to bask in the history of it all; the state is still navigating the pandemic and the lingering fallout from the Cuomo investigation.
“We still need transparency. We still need sunlight in this process,” Assembly Member Yuh-Line Niou told CBS2’s Aundrea Cline-Thomas. “And we need to change this culture, and we need to also change how Albany works.”
Political experts say we will see how that new culture takes shape during budget negotiations and the beginning of the legislative cycle, which starts in January.
Political experts also say Cuomo had confided in very few people, most of whom stepped down recently. Those who know Hochul told CBS2 they expect her management style to be more collaborative.
CBS2’s Lisa Rozner contributed to this report.