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Activists rally against Cuomo’s alleged party defunding threat

More than 100 people from the Working Families Party and its supporters said they were angry that critical funding could be in jeopardy.

Activists rally in opposition to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's

Activists rally in opposition to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's alleged threat to defund members of a political party that endorsed his challenger in the Democratic primary in Foley Square on Thursday. Photo Credit: Marisol Diaz-Gordon

Left-leaning activists rallying in Manhattan called Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo “a demon,” “a thief,” “Albany’s top thug” and “phony as a three-dollar bill” over his alleged threat to defund members of a political party that endorsed his challenger.

Chanting in a drizzle-spotted Foley Square, more than 100 people from the Working Families Party and supporters such as Citizen Action, New York Communities for Change and Make the Road Action said they were furious that critical funding could be in jeopardy.

At issue is the Working Family Party’s endorsement this month of Cynthia Nixon, Cuomo’s Democratic primary challenger. Nixon, an activist, actress and co-star of TV show “Sex and the City,” has echoed the party’s criticism of Cuomo as insufficiently liberal, a clandestine enabler of legislative Republicans and beholden to wealthy donors.

Labor unions, some of which negotiate contracts with the state, quit the party over the Nixon endorsement.

At an unrelated event Thursday, Cuomo denied an allegation made by the party’s state director, Bill Lipton, who claimed the governor said, “If unions or anyone give money to any of these groups, they can lose my number.” Cuomo said he wouldn’t punish the groups.

“I’m not gonna punish — it has nothing to do with me,” Cuomo said. “You know, punishment is for, uh, God. Who the union should support or not support, that’s up to the unions. Nobody’s going to tell them what to do.”

Asked whether he would cut state funding to the groups — which help defend immigrants, provide services to the poor and marginalized, and advocate for those demographics — Cuomo said, “Yeah, that has nothing to do with it.”

Stanley Fritz of Citizen Action said of Cuomo: “Get ready to lose.”

“We are under attack by an empty-suited bully in Albany because we said ‘hell no’ to crony capitalism, we said ‘hell no’ to millionaires and billionaires, and we said ‘hell no’ to pay-as-you-go progressivism,” he said. “Governor Cuomo has short-circuited the State of New York for the last seven years. And now he wants to strut in for another four years and expects the people who have suffered under his poor leadership to just say OK.”

Speaker after speaker at Thursday’s rally unleashed personal attacks against Cuomo: Bertha Lewis of the Black Institute called him “as phony as a three-dollar bill,” “a gangster,” “a thief” and “a demon.” Maria Bautista of the Alliance for Quality Education said Cuomo was “Albany’s top thug.” The crowd sung several anti-Cuomo chants, including: “Cuomo, Cuomo, you can’t hide! We can see your greedy side!”

Several members of the City Council’s progressive caucus — including Ben Kallos of Manhattan, Jimmy Van Bramer of Queens, and Antonio Reynoso and Carlos Menchaca, both of Brooklyn — went to the rally to support the groups but neither mentioned the governor by name nor joined the anti-Cuomo cheers.

Letitia James, the city’s public advocate, had been scheduled to attend but didn’t. Her spokeswoman Delaney Kempner said James got stuck in a meeting.

Cuomo’s campaign spokesman Abbey Fashouer directed a reporter to his ally Charlie King, who hailed Cuomo’s record, including ordering a special prosecutor to probe certain killings by police, increasing the minimum wage and an announcement a day earlier that parolees would be enfranchised.

“Obviously, he’s not a demon,” King said. Reacting to Lewis’ claim that Cuomo likes to “steal . . . our issues that we fought for,” King said, “that’s actually called accomplishment and not thievery.”

Nixon has criticized Cuomo for enabling Albany Republicans — and stymieing even more left-leaning polices.

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