Cuomo faulted for wanting to honor essential workers on Memorial Day weekend

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 May 2021 at 8:16 am

Local state legislators say governor ‘diluting’ significance of holiday

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday announced that flags on state buildings would be at half-staff and a dozen a state landmarks, including Niagara Falls and the Empire State Building, would be lit in red, white and blue on Sunday to honor essential workers who lost their lives due to Covid-19.

On Monday, Memorial Day, flags will remain at half-staff until noon and landmarks will remain lit in honor of the service members who lost their lives fighting to defend the United States.

“It takes a special person, when every instinct in your body says, that’s dangerous, don’t go there run away, it takes a special person to say, no, I’m going in because I think I can help someone,” Cuomo said on Monday. “And the essential workers did that day, after day, after day, after day, every day, walking into the fire, not knowing, God forbid, am I getting infected?”

He wants to recognize the courage and sacrifice of nurses, doctors, hospital staff, teachers, food delivery workers, bus drivers, subway drivers and other essential workers. Cuomo said about 1,000 essential workers died in the state due to Covid.

“They walked into the fire every day, and we owe them a profound, profound, thank you,” Cuomo said. “They showed their character, and their strength, and their courage, and their unity. And remember them and their families on Memorial Day.”

His announcement about recognizing the essential workers a day before Memorial Day has drawn the ire of two local state legislators: Assemblyman Steve Hawley of Batavia and State Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt of North Tonawanda. Both of their districts include Orleans County.

“This directive by the governor was issued in incredibly poor taste, and is an insult to all of the New Yorkers who made the ultimate sacrifice for the liberty of our countrymen and people throughout the globe,” Hawley said. “To say this slighting of our nation’s fallen heroes is a disgrace would be an understatement, and I implore the governor to see that this directive is reversed immediately.”

Hawley and Ortt are both veterans. Hawley spent seven years in the Ohio Army National Guard and the U. S. Army Reserves. Ortt enlisted in N.Y. Army National Guard in October 2001 and served in Afghanistan from March 2008 until December 2008.

Ortt said he wears four names on his wrist every day of soldiers he served with who died in Afghanistan.

“The offensive suggestion by the Governor that we fly flags at half-staff in honor of our front line workers on Memorial Day weekend would effectively dilute the one time a year that we stop to honor the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of our nation,” Ortt said on Tuesday. “While I certainly respect and appreciate our front line workers for all they’ve done, there is no shortage of days the Governor could choose to pay tribute to them.”