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Vaccine Czar Asks County Officials About Loyalty to Cuomo

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It’s Monday.

Weather: Sunny, but breezy and nippy. High in the upper 30s.

Alternate-side parking: In effect until March 28 (Passover).

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has found his political position growing increasingly perilous in recent weeks. He faces accusations from several women of groping, sexual harassment or other inappropriate behavior. A number of Democratic politicians have called on the governor to resign. State lawmakers have opened an impeachment inquiry.

And amid the scandals, a new development emerged on Sunday that raised alarms: Larry Schwartz, a former top aide to Mr. Cuomo who was tapped to lead the state’s vaccination efforts, has also been asking state Democratic leaders to support the governor, while continuing to discuss the urgent business of immunization.

[Mr. Schwartz, in charge of vaccination planning, has assumed the role of political operative.]

The calls

At least two Democratic county executives said they had received such calls.

In one case, a county executive, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, said that after Mr. Schwartz had discussed the governor’s political situation, he then pivoted directly to a conversation about vaccine distribution.

In another example, a second county executive said Mr. Schwartz called immediately after a different Cuomo administration official had called about vaccine distribution.

The second executive’s legal counsel filed a preliminary complaint on Friday with the state attorney general’s office’s public integrity bureau about a possible ethics violation by the governor’s office, according to an official with direct knowledge of the complaint.

Mr. Schwartz, a former top aide to the governor who returned as an unpaid adviser, has been in charge of vaccination planning, a position that puts him in frequent contact with local officials.

But the two county executives said the calls had to do with politics, not vaccine. A third county official said that Mr. Schwartz had called to gauge the official’s opinion of Mr. Cuomo’s political situation, but that the issue of vaccination had not come up.

Several county executives, both Republican and Democratic, said they did not receive similar calls.

The response

Local officials in recent months have quietly raised worries that the Cuomo administration may have viewed its control over vaccine as a means to reward or punish local officials.

Mr. Schwartz said in a statement on Sunday that he had never mixed Covid-response policy with political considerations, noting that “distribution and the administration of vaccines in New York State is based on a clear formula.”

“All decisions regarding vaccines are done based on public health considerations, not politics,” Mr. Schwartz said.

Beth Garvey, the acting counsel to the governor, praised Mr. Schwartz. “Any suggestion that he acted in any way unethically or in any way other than in the best interest of the New Yorkers that he selflessly served,” she said, “is patently false.”

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Want more news? Check out our full coverage.

The Mini Crossword: Here is today’s puzzle.

What we’re reading

About half of New York City’s office workers won’t return to the workplace until September, according to a survey of companies. [Gothamist]

An online class about wilderness survival is helping students navigate remote learning. [Daily News]

A police officer who said there was corruption in a Queens precinct is under internal investigation, which his lawyer said amounted to “retaliation.” [N.Y. Post]

And finally: Remembering a photographer who quietly captured the city

Almost nobody knew who Aaron Rose was during most of his decades as a photographer roaming New York City.

Mr. Rose said he liked it that way.

“All around me I saw people who became cynical and bitter when they didn’t get the recognition they thought they deserved, and I wanted to be free of that,” Mr. Rose said in an interview with The New York Times in 1997, when his work debuted at the Whitney Biennial. “I wanted only to do my work, for myself, without any commercial influences.”

Mr. Rose, who created tens of thousands of photographs of the city’s scenery and denizens that he then imbued with color using his own darkroom technique, died in February.

His artful photographs included the demolition of Penn Station in Manhattan, rooftop scenes, sunbathers on Coney Island and intriguing visuals of the natural world. Many successful art photographers make series of the same prints to sell, but he tried to make almost every picture unique.

“He lived a quiet, private life of creative brilliance, in seclusion in the center of the maelstrom of New York,” Paul Goldberger, the Pulitzer Prize-winning critic who wrote the 1997 piece about Mr. Rose, told my colleague Neil Genzlinger.

It’s Monday — take your shot.

Metropolitan Diary: Heavy snow

Dear Diary:

The heavy snow is upon us, so my husband does what he can when two boys appear on our Brooklyn stoop. Neither is older than 12.

“Shovel your walk, Mister?”

“How much?” my husband asks.

“10 bucks,” the taller of the two says.

My husband agrees, and they get to work.

When they have finished, my husband hands them a 20.

“I don’t have change, Mister,” the taller boy says.

“No change required,” my husband says.

— Madeleine Henley

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