Cuomo fires emergency management boss over tree removal

Steve Kuhr, who headed the Office for Emergency Steve Kuhr, who headed the Office for Emergency Management for less than a year, was dismissed, Cuomo administration officials said. Photo Credit: NY.gov

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ALBANY - Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo fired his emergency management chief after finding out he asked a Suffolk County official to have workers clear a tree from his home on Long Island during the height of superstorm Sandy, officials confirmed Wednesday.

Steve Kuhr, of East Northport, who headed the Office for Emergency Management for about one year, was dismissed Tuesday, Cuomo administration officials said.

Kuhr was paid $153,000 a year, according to a database maintained by the Empire Center for New York State Policy, a think tank.

Kuhr had been working primarily out of an emergency-command center in Albany during the storm, said officials who asked to remain anonymous because the decision had yet to be publicly announced.

Kuhr learned that a tree had fallen on his property -- though not his house -- and asked the county to remove it, several officials said.

Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider said Wednesday that Kuhr called Suffolk's emergency operations center in Yaphank and talked with Fire Rescue and Emergency Services Commissioner Joseph Williams early in the storm.

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During the same conversation, Kuhr informed Williams about "a tree that was blocking the entrance to his home," according to Schneider.

Schneider said a team of volunteer firefighters was called to the home to clear a path -- "a service we would do for anyone."

Williams later mentioned Kuhr's request to Chief Deputy County Executive Regina Calcaterra, who brought it to the attention of the governor's staff.

Kuhr could not be reached for comment.

Cuomo picked Kuhr to lead his agency on Oct. 25, 2011, one year and four days before Sandy pummeled New York and New Jersey, knocking out power to more than 2 million and killing more than 100 along the Atlantic Coast.

In choosing Kuhr to head state emergency management operations, the governor had said "no one is better suited" for the job.

He said Kuhr was part of a team that would "bring ample experience from both the public and private sectors that will strengthen our operations and make this vital agency work better for New Yorkers."

Before taking the state job, Kuhr was the president of Strategic Emergency Group LLC, a private emergency-management and homeland-security company.

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Before that, he worked for New York City for 20 years, serving as a deputy director for emergency-management services and as a division captain for emergency services with the New York Fire Department.

Kuhr wasn't considered an inside player in the Cuomo administration's response to the storm and didn't travel to the governor's downstate offices to assist with response efforts, an official said.

--With Rick Brand

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