The mood at the state Capitol on Tuesday among state lawmakers and staff seemed like one of near-elation. A history-making new governor — the first woman, one who pledged to end a culture of toxicity and bullying in the state's chief executive office — was outlining her plans to lead the state through the uncertainty of the ongoing pandemic.
But a 15-minute walk from the Capitol told a different story.
Supporters of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo gathered in Albany to protest his resignation and the process that led to what has been described almost universally as a damning 165-page report on allegations he sexually harassed 11 women and that his office worked to retaliate against those who came forward.
"We're not anti-Kathy Hochul," said Barbara Falcone who traveled to Albany from Long Island to be part of the demonstration. "We're hoping she does well. This is like a parent handing over a child. We don't want her to fail."
But the process that ultimately led Cuomo to lose support from the state Legislature, labor union leaders and much of the Democratic establishment in New York was unfair and lacked due process, she said.
"You have to have a level playing field and it has to be fair," Falcone said.
Cuomo by his own admission is not a people person. He does not hold rallies or town hall events where he dives into the crowd at the end to shake hands or embrace supporters along a rope line looking for selfies. And, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cuomo never inspired much outward love from New Yorkers.
Sure, he was generally popular in a Democratic state that had elected his father three times, and Cuomo himself three times as governor, once as attorney general. But for the balance of his time in office, he was a figure very much of Albany and state government, a consummate insider who never much was interested in small talk.
Cuomo's daily pandemic briefings changed that impression for the public at large, and a distinctly unique version of fandom native to social media cropped up around him in the process.
The PowerPoint slides, the inside jokes for those who tuned in every day in an increasingly uncertain world, the lack of daytime programming for the homebound beyond the Cuomo Show on cable, the impression the Trump administration's response was insufficient, all contributed to a new kind of Andrew Cuomo for a public that may have only thought about him in passing.
Amazon sold pro-Cuomo trinkets, like votive candles and a "Cuomosexual" coffee mug.
Cuomo's handling of the pandemic has been called into question, including whether the state moved to close businesses and schools early enough, whether Cuomo squandered too much time bickering with his nemesis New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, and whether an order to alleviate the strain on hospitals by discharging COVID-19 patients into nursing homes contributed to unnecessary deaths and anguish for thousands of families.
But the fandom, generated in part by Cuomo's ability to go around gatekeepers of information, grew exponentially.
These fans have now become Cuomo's staunchest defenders, even as the establishment in New York, and many Democratic voters, pulled their support for him amid the allegations.
That unquestioning fandom has collided with the role a skeptical press is generally is supposed to play with politicians, and reporters who have covered Cuomo and the scandals engulfing his administration have been bombarded with angry pro-Cuomo messages in their replies on Twitter.
But for Cuomo's supporters, it's the press that should have been more skeptical of the report and the process that produced it.
"We don't automatically believe anybody based upon their gender and we feel Tish James and the investigators went into this saying we have to believe women," Falcone said. "The accused should have the right to see what all the allegations against him are."
Cuomo had earlier this year empowered the attorney general's office to investigate the allegations after initially proposing investigators who had ties to him or his administration.
But Cuomo and his remaining allies — mainly those who have worked for him — spent the final days of his administration complaining about the process surrounding the report released by Attorney General Letitia James. His attorney Rita Glavin has said repeatedly transcripts of interviews conducted by investigators are yet to be made public and could call into question the conclusions of the report.
Cuomo himself has denied the most serious allegations that he inappropriately touched a woman, Brittany Commisso, at the Executive Mansion. The allegation is now the subject of a criminal probe in Albany County.
Cuomo has complained the process was politicized, and also one woman, Charlotte Bennett, misinterpreted him. Bennett, who has accused the governor of propositioning and grooming her, has strenuously denied that.
His former senior advisor, Rich Azzopardi, predicted James will run for governor next year. And his former top aide, Melissa DeRosa on Twitter lamented that if journalists like the late Jimmy Breslin, Pete Hamill and Jim Dwyer had been alive "this story would have been cracked wide open."
Still, attorneys independent of the investigation who specialize in workplace law have said the report paints a clear picture of sexual harassment and retaliation.
The report compiled by investigators included thousands of documents, including messages that show Cuomo's aides working to undermine the credibility of the first woman to accuse Cuomo of harassment, Lindsey Boylan, through the release of personnel records and a never-published op/ed.
Cuomo's problems went beyond sexual harassment. A criminal investigation into the counting of nursing home fatalities is underway at the U.S. attorney's office in Brooklyn. James' office is probing the use of government resources by Cuomo to help him write a memoir about the pandemic. His family members reportedly received access to COVID-19 testing kits when supplies were scarce in the early days of the pandemic.
For Cuomo's supporters, however, the evidence does not weigh down on the side of the 11 women, or the evidence compiled by investigators.
Alaina Ables, a Manhattan resident, was among those who gathered outside of the Executive Mansion on Tuesday on a sweltering summer afternoon to protest. The group chanted "release the transcripts" and "fire Tish James" — a separately elected state official. A chant of "fake news" was also heard at one point.
Ables, wearing a mask with a collage of the former governor's faces, said Cuomo's briefings helped give her "peace of mind" during the worst days of the pandemic.
"When COVID hit I was by myself and all my roommates left and Cuomo was the constant in my life — helped with anxiety and just overall information in the epicenter," she said.
Would she ever change her mind about him?
"I feel like it would have to take a lot to change my mind," she said.