Tears and tortured faces filled county offices Thursday as hundreds of workers were called and told to pack up their belongings and turn in their identification badges in a round of mass layoffs.
In all, 262 civil service workers were fired. Most were from the county departments of social services, probation and public works, and were, according to union officials, among the lowest paid in the county.
Another 137 workers were demoted, with their pay cut, according to a Nassau County spokesman.
"This shouldn't be taken out on the workers of Nassau county," said a tearful Lisa Kuriga, who was fired from her job of 14 years as a child support investigator.
The layoffs are being blamed on Nassau's looming $310 million budget deficit.
"While it pains me to see anyone lose their job, I informed Nassau's unions months ago that layoffs would occur if they didn't provide the concessions needed to protect residents from a tax hike," County Executive Mangano said in a statement.
"Blaming us is just an excuse," said CSEA union president Jerry Laricchuita, who insisted that every layoff could have been avoided with a tax increase of just 25 cents a day.
Nassau's Republican majority refused to go along with that, demanding an across-the-board, 20 percent pay cut and a five-year pay freeze, according to the union boss.
"My members would have never accepted that," said Laricchuita. "This is politics and bad government."
After the layoffs, the county executive's office pointed out that the county workforce is now at its smallest number since the 1950s.
"That's not necessarily a good thing," said one worker.
Others claimed the layoffs would damage the delivery of county services and diminish quality of life. And with layoffs in areas like child protective services, lives could be put at risk, said union boss Laricchuita.