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Cuomo fires emergency management boss over LI tree removal

From left, Walter Kowalczyk, Steven Kuhr, and Terri

From left, Walter Kowalczyk, Steven Kuhr, and Terri Kuhr . (Thomass A. Ferrara) Credit: From left, Walter Kowalczyk, Steven Kuhr, and Terri Kuhr . (Thomass A. Ferrara)

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

Steve Kuhr, an East Northport resident who headed the Office for Emergency Management for almost exactly one year, was dismissed Tuesday, Cuomo administration officials said.

Kuhr has been working out of an emergency-command center in Albany during the storm, said the officials who asked to remain anonymous because the decision had yet to be publicly announced. He learned that a tree had fallen on his property - though not his house -- and contacted the Suffolk County Department of Public Works to remove it, several officials said.

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.

One source said Suffolk County employees were irate about the incident. Suffolk County officials didn't immediately comment.

In making the selection, the governor had said "no one is better suited" than Kuhr to head state emergency management operations. 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."

Kuhr earned a $153,000 annual state salary, according to a database maintained by the Empire Center,a think tank.

Prior to joining the state, Kuhr was the president of Strategic Emergency Group LLC, a private emergency-management and homeland-security company. 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.

But 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.

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