May 23, 2016 | 12:24am
Gov. Cuomo, hobbled by US Attorney Preet Bharara’s probe of longtime political operative Joseph Percoco, will take personal control of the state Democratic Party on Monday — even as he names Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown as its new “figurehead” chairman, sources told The Post.
Brown’s selection — to be rubber-stamped at a meeting of the state Democratic Committee — is worrying many city and suburban Democrats, who say the Buffalo mayor, unlike Percoco, won’t have direct access to the governor when important decisions have to be made.“ Joe was also Andrew’s eyes and ears, letting him know how party people were feeling, but Byron’s a six-hour drive from [Albany] and he can’t do that,’’ a senior Democrat said.A second prominent Democrat called Percoco “the ‘go to’ person,’’ and asked, “Who will we go to now?”
Cuomo is also expected to name former New York City Council speaker Christine Quinn as the state party’s No. 2 official, but her selection was described by party insiders as more a rebuke to Mayor de Blasio, the governor’s nemesis, and not an effort to find a replacement for Percoco. Brown was described by a well-known Democratic official as “always a gentleman and never temperamental,’’ but also as someone out for personal or political gain.“He’s the most transactional person I ever met in politics,’’ said the source.
Party activists said Brown’s selection was meant in part as a gesture to economically distressed Buffalo, where many leaders fear that Bharara’s investigation has put the governor’s Buffalo Billion project in danger. “Cuomo’s whole upstate political strategy is built around helping Buffalo in one way or another, and what’s going on with Bharara looking at the Buffalo Billion is obviously of concern to him,’’ said a source close to the governor.Percoco — Cuomo’s former top aide and close friend and, since December, senior vice president at Madison Square Garden — and Cuomo family associate Todd Howe are the subject of an explosive investigation by Bharara over the fees they received helping clients with business before the state.
Bharara served Cuomo’s office with a subpoena late last month seeking records related to Percoco, Howe and 24 other individuals and companies involved in a massive set of state contracts, including the Buffalo Billion project.
The subpoena rocked the Cuomo administration, where what some call a fearful “lockdown’’ is in effect, and has left many close to the governor convinced that criminal indictments are forthcoming. “Preet Bharara’s subpoena is a turning point for the Cuomo administration,’’ said a source with firsthand knowledge of the situation. “The administration isn’t what it was and, depending what Bharara comes up with, it may never be the same.’’