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Long IslandPoliticsSpin Cycle

CSEA union president in rally refers to Cuomo as monkey

ALBANY -- The president of a major public workers' union Wednesday called Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo a monkey.

"Open for business?" said Danny Donohue, president of the Civil Service Employees Association, mocking Cuomo's slogan for his economic development push. "It's monkey business!" Donohue said to cheers at a rally that rocked a cavernous hall. "And the son of Mario Cuomo is the biggest monkey."

Donohue spoke as hundreds of unionized public workers from several labor organizations united against Cuomo and his proposed budget cuts in the rally near the Capitol.

A Cuomo spokesman had no immediate comment on Donohue's statements.

CSEA spokesman Stephen Madarasz said in an interview afterward that Donohue's passionate rhetoric before a partisan crowd isn't an issue. The important issues, Madarasz said, are the governor's decision to close some prisons and health facilities, including Sagamore Children's Psychiatric Center in Dix Hills, as the state shifts patient care to regional centers or community-based residential facilities.

The plan calls for Sagamore to lose its 54 beds next July. Long Island children who need to be hospitalized would have to go to facilities in Queens or the Bronx. Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi said Wednesday that the governor is reviewing a request by Long Island senators to keep Sagamore open.

Past governors also have drawn some unfavorable comparisons from unions and other groups opposed to their policies. Former Gov. David Paterson, for example, was stalked for months outside the Capitol and at his public events by a 10-foot inflatable rat after he ordered layoffs in 2010.

A Siena College poll this month found Cuomo may fare better with union members away from the Capitol: 61 percent of union households had a favorable view of Cuomo, compared with 35 percent who didn't.

Cuomo has negotiated mostly flat contracts with public worker unions as part of dealing with a $10 billion deficit when he took office. He has also reduced the workforce in what he called a move toward greater efficiency.

Now he wants to direct a $2 billion surplus to tax breaks.

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