WEST BRIGHTON — Spring got the go-ahead Saturday when New York's officials groundhog failed to see his shadow, predicting that spring was on its way.
But Staten Island Chuck, or Chuck E. Hogg, as he's formally known, missed out on his final chance to nip at the mayor, after Mayor Michael Bloomberg bowed out of his role of predictor for the annual tradition at the Staten Island Zoo in his final year of service.
Instead, mayoral hopeful and Council Speaker Christine Quinn stood in as a guest of honor, and official predictor, at the ceremony, grasping the chubby furball with her heavily gloved hands and making the final call — that Mr. Hogg did not see his shadow.
"He's having a good day this morning. We had a little conference and he told me what's going to happen, and he wants everybody to know spring is coming," said Quinn.
The forecast, for those New Yorkers with faith in his expertise, is that the city will be spared from any more cold snaps, freezing rain, or frigid flurries, with spring "officially" well on its way.
While Chuck didn't want to come out at first — it took a nudge from his handlers — Quinn said his call was a certain one.
"...He didn't equivocate at all as a prognosticator. He was clear that it was going to be spring early, and he didn't bite me at all," she said, referring to the 2009 incident when the rodent chomped on Mayor Bloomberg's finger. In 2011, Bloomberg refused to go in after him, and instead used a plunger to assist in prodding the animal from his burrow.
"Besides, I think Chuck got a pretty good deal this morning; what more could he want than a cute redhead first thing in the morning?" Quinn added.
If Staten Island Chuck had instead seen his shadow upon emerging from his hutch, the legend would have had New Yorkers bearing out six more weeks of winter.
In Punxatawny, Pa. the famous Phil, who emerged from his burrow at Gobbler's Knob, had a similar prediction:
"And so ye faithful, there is no shadow to see, an early Spring for you and me," proclaimed Bob Roberts, one of Phil's handlers, in a pronouncement reported by ABC News.
Despite his fame being, er, overshadowed by his Pennsylvanian brethren, Chuck's got more credibility as a weather forecaster, noted Quinn.
"Punxsutawney Phil seems to get a lot of attention, but he's no competition for Staten Island Chuck, because Staten Island Chuck has been right 80 percent of the time, and Phil — only 40," she bragged.