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'Chosen in secret': New Yorkers slam Gov. Cuomo for latest COVID-related mess

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Photo by Mary Altaffer-Pool/Getty Images

It seems that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) knows only how to rankle — or kill — people when it comes to dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

His policies led to the deaths of thousands of people in long-term care facilities in New York.

His attempt to cover up the scandal led to investigation and open ridicule and disdain from state officials — including members of his own party.

His effort to capitalize on the pandemic by writing a book touting his leadership during the crisis earned him mockery from coast to coast.

Now, as he tries to honor the efforts of essential workers over the last year and a half, New Yorkers are ripping him for snatching up rare and valuable green space in lower Manhattan, the New York Post reported Tuesday.

What's happening?

Cuomo announced a plan recently to grab green space from the local Rockefeller Park in Battery Park City to create a concrete "Circle of Heroes" monument to honor essential workers — but he announced the plan without input from the local community, the Post said.

And now community members are fighting back.

One resident, Adrian Mak, told the Post that the memorial will require bulldozing a local park's grass and trees, which will be replaced with concrete and some sort of "eternal flame."

"The memorial site was chosen in secret without any public hearings, public meetings, or community input," Mak said.

Critics of Cuomo's memorial plan claim the governor "appointed a task force consisting exclusively of union leaders to recommend a site and excluded any members of the Battery Park City community," according to the Post.

Opponents of the land grab started a Change.org petition calling for the monument to be moved, which currently has more than 5,200 signatures.

And now they've got elected officials on their side.

City Councilwoman Margaret Chin, who represents Battery Park City, was not pleased and sent a terse letter to Cuomo about his plan, pointing out that this is the third time Cuomo has done this to her community.

"I am writing to urge you to halt current plans to erect a memorial in Battery Park City's Rockefeller Park," Chin wrote, the Post reported. "The announcement on June 23rd about the monument's siting and expedited construction timeline came as a shock to my office and the local Battery Park City community."

"The project is on course to create serious quality of life issues for local residents, who have relied on this open green space throughout the pandemic," she added. "I strongly encourage you to order construction to stop until there has been a proper process of community engagement with local residents and elected officials."

U.S. Rep. Jerry Nadler (D) asked the governor to "pause the saws."

"New York's essential workers deserve our honor and respect—and we can commemorate them with a memorial," he tweeted. "But bulldozing vital open space in lower Manhattan isn't the way to do it. @NYGovCuomo needs to #PauseTheSaws and consult with the community on location and design."

State Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou — who famously went after the governor's lies when he attempted to cover up the COVID-19 nursing home deaths – criticized Cuomo for not seeking community input.

The Manhattan Community Board accused the governor of refusing to work with his nemesis, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, and ripped him for not consulting locals.

"Governor Cuomo announced he was taking away park space last week and the earth moving equipment showed up before the weekend was up," the group said. "All this because he refuses to work with the Mayor to jointly honor Essential Workers. This is where the children play. #politicsoverparks."

"What is the rush? Which of our representatives will speak truth to power?" they continued. "Is this the best way to honor the Essential Workers? Who knows!? We have no idea who was consulted or contributed to the design!"

Following the blowback, the Post said, Cuomo's office announced that the monument, which will take up 2% of the park's acreage, would be moved from the center of the park to a corner area.

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