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Staten Island Chuck Breathes Easily as Mayor Says He'll Skip Groundhog Day

By Nicholas Rizzi | January 28, 2016 4:22pm
 Mayor Bill de Blasio said he would skip this year's Groundhog Day ceremony in Staten Island to help Hillary Clinton campaign in Iowa.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said he would skip this year's Groundhog Day ceremony in Staten Island to help Hillary Clinton campaign in Iowa.
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DNAinfo/Nicholas Rizzi

STATEN ISLAND — Staten Island Chuck is safe for another year after Mayor Bill de Blasio who dropped a Chuck stand-in at a previous event — announced he'd be skipping the annual Groundhog Day ceremony to campaign in Iowa.

De Blasio joked at a separate press conference Thursday that the city's groundhogs won't mind him missing this year's festivities.

"I think if there were a groundhog union they would ask me to miss Groundhog Day, no question about it," de Blasio said. "If they were taking a vote, I would not be invited to Groundhog Day."

In 2014, de Blasio dropped the groundhog — which was later revealed to be a stand-in named Charlotte — as he took her out of her home at the Staten Island Zoo to make the annual prediction.

A week later Charlotte was found dead in her cage from internal injuries related to the fall, the New York Post reported.

A spokesman for the zoo said she showed no signs of trauma or pain during a medical examination after the ceremony and blamed her death on injuries she got during the week of the event.

Last year, Staten Island Chuck was kept safe in a Plexiglass box and was lifted from his burrow by an elevator instead of being picked up by the mayor.

"The zoo has come up with a new progressive, exciting approach to groundhog diplomacy," de Blasio said last year. "This new approach will be safer for both species involved."

The fall to the ground wasn't the first unpleasant run-in the weather forecaster had with the mayor of New York City. Chuck had a testy relationship with former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, which started in 2009 when he bit hizzoner's finger.

In 2011, Bloomberg used a plunger to get Chuck out instead of his hand and called the groundhog a "son of a b—ch."

"I love the plunger," Bloomberg said on a video originally posted by the Daily News. "That was so much better than having to reach in and let the son of a b—ch bite you."

In their final meeting in 2012, Bloomberg vowed to bite back if Chuck struck again. He skipped the 2013 prediction.

While Chuck competes with Pennsylvania's Punxsutawney Phil for Groundhog Day celebrity, the Staten Islander has had a better ratio of correct predictions, with a better than 80 percent accuracy rating, the zoo said.

If the groundhog sees his shadow after he emerges, six more weeks of winter are expected. If he doesn't, an early spring should be on its way.

The ceremony is open to the public and will be at the Staten Island Zoo located 614 Broadway, with gates opening at 6:30 a.m.