The all-male, behind-closed-doors negotiations involving the governor, Assembly speaker and Senate majority leader were criticized for decades by editorial writers, reformers and good-government groups.
But "three men in a room" was doomed when Democrats regained control of the Senate in the November elections. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Senate minority leader since 2012, took over as majority leader when the Legislature convened earlier this month, making her the first woman and first African-American to lead the 63-member Senate.
Stewart-Cousin, 68, was feted during her chamber's opening day of the 2019 legislative session. Two weeks later, her first meeting with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Cuomo as a member of Albany's power trio didn't make headlines, despite the seismic shift it represents in New York politics.
Melissa Derosa, secretary to the governor, took to Twitter to mark the occasion, posting a photo of Stewart-Cousins, Cuomo and Heastie seated at a conference table in Cuomo's office. DeRosa's tweet read: "First leaders meeting of the year. Amen."
Stewart-Cousins "is singlehandedly redefining the power structure in Albany," said Sonia Ossorio, president of the New York City chapter of the National Organization for Women. "It's the shattering of a huge glass ceiling."
Stewart-Cousins, who represents parts of Westchester County, said her first meeting with Cuomo and Heastie as Senate majority leader "was sort of a spontaneous thing" without an agenda. The significance of that brief inaugural sit-down didn't hit her initially, but probably will someday, she said.
"I didn't have any particular thoughts other than the work at hand and the fact that we're going into a budget cycle and we accomplish as much for New Yorkers as possible," she said. "I'm happy to be in this position at this kind of historic moment and this reawakening of civic involvement."