ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Wednesday dismissed as haters tens of thousands of people who have so far signed onto a petition to block the naming of the Tappan Zee bridge for his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo.
“These are very ugly political times and they are very partisan times,” the Democrat told reporters at a news event in Monticello. “You have an extreme Republican group that is running against my father’s name, which is personally hurtful. . . . It’s mean and it’s vindictive.”
The online petition of more than 40,000 names calls for keeping the name Tappan Zee and states “That bridge is our history.” Tappan was the name of a local Native American tribe and Zee is Dutch for sea. The petition is on a website run by a service that carries several unrelated petitions.
The petition doesn’t identify any single person or group promoting the petition.
Cuomo attributes the effort to Long Island billionaire Robert Mercer, who with his daughter Rebekah, have become known as supporters of conservative causes and President Donald Trump. Cuomo’s communications office noted that a group associated with the Mercer family, Reclaim New York, is promoting the petition on its website and in social media.
“For the Robert Mercers of the world . . . the haters of the world, there’s too much of the hate,” Cuomo said. “It’s going to destroy us. . . . I think it’s unfortunate, but it is the way of the time.”
Rebekah Mercer is the chairwoman and director of Reclaim New York, which bills itself as a nonpartisan organization “that empowers New Yorkers, through education and civic engagement, to reclaim ownership of their government.”
Reclaim New York denies it is behind the effort.
“We commend the initiative of the individual behind this petition,” said Reclaim New York in a statement. “People are sick of backroom deals in the middle of night. It’s time for the governor to accept reality. Hudson Valley residents are tired of Albany’s games whether it’s about a bridge name, tolls, taxes, or conspiracy theories.
During this year’s legislative session, the State Senate controlled by Republicans voted to name the new 3e-mile span for veterans who earned the Purple Heart after being wounded in combat. Weeks later, at a closed-door breakfast meeting at the governor’s mansion, an agreement was struck to name the bridge for Mario Cuomo.