NEW YORK (PIX11) — Not only is Sen. Alessandra Biaggi among the dozens of New York lawmakers calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to resign amid multiple harassment allegations, but she also briefly worked in his administration. She called it “a very dark moment in my life.”
Biaggi is among more than 130 state legislators who have said he should step down after accusations that the governor sexually harassed or inappropriately touched several women, including ones who worked for him.
As the state Assembly examines impeachment based on the accusations and the Attorney General’s Office spearheads a an investigation, Biaggi shared her experience of working in the Executive Chamber for seven months in 2017. She said she wasn’t surprised by the reports that Cuomo’s longtime adviser and vaccine “czar” Larry Schwartz has been calling county executives to gauge their loyalty to the governor.
“This is something that has been done in the past,” she said. “The governor has people that he believes are ‘his people,’ and those who are not, those are the ones who are treated not only with vindictiveness, but with political retribution,” the senator added.
Reflecting on her time working on the Cuomo administration, Biaggi described it as “a culture of fear,” that comes from the top. “It is a culture where people are incessantly berated and yelled at,” she recalled. “There is intimidation tactics that happen if you’re not considered someone who is going to just carry out the orders or the commands of the governor in a way that, perhaps, that he sees fit, even if you believe that it’s unethical.”
Biaggi said she and many fellow staffers began their time at the administration excited at the prospect of doing good work for “this progressive beacon of a state.” Instead, Biaggi said it was an experience that led to depression and anxiety.
Biaggi maintained that, while she did not experience sexual harassment while working on the administration, she did experience “inappropriate behavior.” During her second week on the job, her team was at the governor’s mansion for a traditional “song and dance” about the budget process. Biaggi said that after getting off the stage with her peers, the governor did not formally introduce himself or give her a warm welcome to the team. Instead, she said he “grabbed my elbow and said, ‘nice dance moves.'”
She believes stories like this demonstrate a bigger pattern of Cuomo using his control to dominate and overpower people. “When we hear a lot of the governor’s accounts, and we’re listening to what he’s saying, the idea that he wouldn’t understand that that’s inappropriate, is not credible,” Biaggi said.
Cuomo has denied all accusations against him. And while he’s said that he will not resign, he has said he’ll “fully cooperate” with the investigation.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.