Governor Andrew Cuomo was very warmly received by the standing room only audience that packed Roswell’s Hohn Auditorium to the brim. Welcomed with a standing ovation as he entered the room — filled mostly with the Institution’s research and professional staff — Cuomo clearly enjoyed the reception.
The event was commemorating the renewal of Roswell Park’s designation as a comprehensive cancer institute and the extension of its federal “core grant” funding for another five years. Dr. Donald Trump praised Cuomo for his support of the institution, marking a transformation of sorts.
Cuomo’s relationship with the institution has evolved over the course of his term. When first elected in 2010, Cuomo pushed for over $1 billion in cuts over 10 years — or about $100 million a year from Roswell’s operating budget. Roswell, founded in 1892 as the nation’s first cancer hospital, had been a state hospital run by the Department of Health up until it became a public benefit corporation in 1999.
Cuomo had attempted to privatize the institution in his first budget, demanding that the campus become “operationally independent” of New York State within two years. That demand — for which, nearly our entire state legislative delegation voted –forced the hospital to impose harsh cuts that, some say, have caused very real damage to the institution.
After broad based outrage over the cuts, a behind-the-scenes deal was orchestrated by Robert Gioia, the Buffalo News has reported, and Cuomo quietly dropped his demand that the institution lose its state funding. Given the environmental vestiges of our industrial past and the elevated rates of cancer experienced in the region historically, it seems that Gioia had the upper political hand. Those cuts would hurt badly — for Cuomo — during election season.
That reversal has earned Cuomo much praise from Trump and local politicians.
“This Governor has done so much. When I see him, I say ‘welcome home,’ because he comes back so often it feels like he belongs here,” said Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, who is a statewide co-Chair of Cuomo’s reelection campaign, as she introduced him.
“It’s good to be home,” Cuomo then joked.
My only note would be in terms of optics: someone should man-up and tell Congressman Brian Higgins that he should unbutton his blazer when he sits. Seriously…