There’s a moratorium on hydraulic fracking in New York, but Cuomo didn’t say a word about the controversial practice during his appearance at B&N. The Democratic governor, running for his second term with election day less than three weeks away, also didn’t mention the noisy band of environmental activists who gathered outside the bookstore in a light rain, chanting slogans like “Hey Hey ho ho/ Cuomo/ hydrofracking has gotta go!”
“I’m concerned about [fracking] destroying New York and the planet,” said Jessica Roff, a Brooklyn member of New Yorkers Against Fracking. “This is about land contamination. Water contamination. I want a statewide ban,” she added, noting that the governor is currently sitting on the fence. “Cuomo says he’s waiting for the science,” she said. “But the science is in and it shows contamination. We’ve heard people are tampering with the studies.”
Cuomo is considered a shoo-in for re-election but several in the crowd of anti-fracking demonstrators made it plain that Republican Rob Astorino, the Westchester County executive, is not the governor’s only rival for the top slot in Albany.
“We don’t want Cuomo to be governor anymore — we’re running a candidate [Teamster Howie Hawkins] who will be on the ballot Nov. 4,” said 35-year-old Michael O’Neill of Bushwick, co-chair of the Green Party of NY State. “Cuomo would be fracking already if it weren’t for the heroic efforts” of green activists, O’Neill claimed.
Book buyers and supporters of Cuomo inside the store were far less fervent than the protestors outside. A bookstore executive estimated that the fourth floor crowd for Cuomo “almost” filled its capacity of 350.
Betty Emermian, a Scarsdale businesswoman and Cuomo fan, hoped to be photographed next to the governor as he signed her book. She and a friend groused about security holding their bags until they left the fourth floor.
Cuomo briefly addressed the crowd from a podium shortly after 7 p.m., noting he was a first-time author who found the process of writing a book alternately tedious and “heart wrenching” but ultimate rewarding. He said his book was divided into three parts, the first being a personal story about loss – when he withdrew from the Democratic primary race for governor in 2002 and also went through a divorce (from Kerry Kennedy).
“It was a long and difficult period in my life after a period of success and I wasn’t prepared for it,” he said, adding with a smile that he considered writing a book about loss. “Very little has been written on loss, but the truth is that winners are really people who overcome loss.”
Then he began signing books. Cuomo was still signing them when Barnes & Noble staffers told reporters and photographers to pack up and leave. Outside the protestors had swelled to about 100, according to a police officer from the NYPD’s 13th Precinct. They were still chanting, this time saying in unison, “Sign the ban, not the book!”
A few yards away, an older woman in a raincoat, apparently from the Astorino camp, held up a sign assailing Cuomo on “corruption.” As noted in news reports, Astorino had offered to pay $1,000 to anyone at the book signing who could get Cuomo to answer five questions about why he disbanded the Moreland Commission, his panel delving into corruption in government.