Sunday, 27 Sep 2020

Cuomo and Sandra Lee Deny Rumors of Breakup, but Are Leaving Westchester

After more than a decade of living at a picturesque manse in the Northern Westchester enclave of New Castle, N.Y., Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and his longtime girlfriend, Sandra Lee, are planning to sell the house, according to Ms. Lee.

Ms. Lee, the Food Network personality and author, said that she and Mr. Cuomo would live at the house until it is sold; after that, they planned to split their time among three different locations: her apartment in New York City, the governor’s mansion in Albany and the Hamptons. She said that she intended to list the house, a 1950s Colonial, on Friday for $2.3 million.

The reason for the sale has nothing to do with unhappiness with the property, or with each other, Ms. Lee said, but rather the fact that Mr. Cuomo’s three daughters are now adults, effectively leaving her and the governor as empty nesters.

“We don’t need the house,” said Ms. Lee, who owns the three-acre property, in a phone interview on Tuesday.

The New York Post reported on Tuesday afternoon that the couple was no longer living together, citing two anonymous sources. Ms. Lee and the governor’s office denied that the couple had separated. “We still live at Lily Pond,” she said, using a pet name for the house, “and yes, I go to Albany.”

She added that she and Mr. Cuomo often were apart because of their careers but still lived together, saying she “spent a lot of time in Albany” when the governor is there. Ms. Lee also spends time in California, where her elderly aunt and uncle — who is in failing health — live.

Ms. Lee, who refers to herself as “the first girlfriend,” has kept a low profile during Mr. Cuomo’s more than eight years in office, rarely appearing at political events and maintaining her privacy despite the governor’s high visibility.

“I don’t like the nonsense of the fighting,” Ms. Lee said in an interview last year, about the governor’s political battles. “I think it’s unnecessary. I think everybody deserves a seat at the table, and everybody gets a say.”

Over the years, Ms. Lee has showcased the New Castle property, which features a large duck pond, in a variety of publications, including a recent spread in People magazine in which she said the home “smells like cookies and feels like heaven.”

Ms. Lee, who has been outspoken about her battle with breast cancer, has lavishly decorated the home, complete with a nearly all-white sitting room, a dining room lined with reproductions of letters from the Founding Fathers and a den with a giant wooden replica of the Constitution. The backyard also features an outdoor cage for Ms. Lee’s two cockatoos, Phoenix and Halo.

In a lengthy Facebook post, Ms. Lee told the Post to “knock it off,” adding, “Andrew and I are still very much together after 14 years.”

“We keep our lives as private as possible,” Ms. Lee wrote, adding she was not getting married or pregnant either. “Seriously people.”

The governor’s office had no comment on the sale of the New Castle home, which will end nearly two decades of Mr. Cuomo’s maintaining a residence in Westchester County; he had previously lived in Bedford, N.Y., with his former wife, Kerry Kennedy.

Ms. Lee met Mr. Cuomo, a third-term Democrat, at a party in 2005, and she purchased the New Castle home in 2008, which they soon moved into together. Since then, Mr. Cuomo has been something of a local fixture, marching in holiday parades, voting there and using it as a prime example of the high property taxes that many New Yorkers pay. (Though Ms. Lee owns the home, Mr. Cuomo says he shares living and tax expenses with her.)

Ms. Lee said she hoped to find a buyer who loved the location as much as she did.

“Lily Pond is probably the most beautiful perfect house on this planet, and that is the truth,” she said. “It’s a family home and it should be loved and cherished by a beautiful family that deserves it.”

Jesse McKinley is The Times’s Albany bureau chief. He was previously the San Francisco bureau chief, and a theater columnist and Broadway reporter for the Culture Desk. @jessemckinley

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