ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's work to avert a strike on the nation's largest commuter rail system won praise from commuters and political observers alike — while playing nicely into his aggressively cultivated image as a pragmatist skilled at managing chaos.
The Democratic governor intervened Wednesday night, just days before a threatened strike on the Long Island Rail Road was set to paralyze the New York City metropolitan area. The deal he announced Thursday will give workers 17 percent raises over six and a half years but also require them to contribute to their health insurance costs for the first time. It won't require a fare hike.
"I'm glad he stepped up and stepped in to stand up for the people," commuter Jeff Rothfield told The Associated Press. "It doesn't change my opinion of him. I'd like to think everyone was doing what they were supposed to be doing."
The story of Cuomo intervening at the last minute to head off calamity is becoming a familiar one to observers of the governor. He brokered a deal in April to end a labor dispute between the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and its bus and subway drivers, and then hammered out a compromise on medical marijuana in the final days of this year's legislative session.
Believed to have presidential ambitions, Cuomo has promoted a reputation as a hard-nosed negotiator more interested in results than ideology.
A crippling strike — or a deal that resulted in higher fares — would have tarnished that image, said Peter Salins, a political science professor at Stony Brook University on Long Island.
"He made the strike — which would have been a nightmare — go away," Salins said. "In the short-term it's clearly a win for the governor and for Long Island commuters."
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