Ex-Santos allies wax relevant in NY
One right-wing organization in this region has made itself well worth watching in 2024.
Ask any of the old-school Republican operatives around Long Island and upstate, and they’ll tell you as a factual assessment, as one told The Point recently, that those who run the Manhattan-based New York Young Republican Club “do whatever they want and don’t answer to anybody.”
But none of the regulars can deny that the club now occupies a New York perch in MAGA world. On Dec. 9, former President Donald Trump appeared and was cheered before an NYYRC gala where he told the upscale crowd he will win traditionally Democratic states in next year’s presidential election. Trump added: “This election will decide whether your generation inherits a fascist country or a free country.” (Many Democrats agree, but with an opposing interpretation.)
The Dec. 9 gala was at Cipriani Wall Street, which is not far from the courtroom in Manhattan where Trump remains on trial on civil fraud charges. Gavin M. Wax — the NYYRC’s 29-year-old president who once lived in Merrick, Bellmore and Lynbrook — hosted Trump at his table. He told The Point the event raised $750,000 and said it filled the big ballroom. The fete drew, among other elected Republicans, Reps. Matt Gaetz and Cory Mills of Florida and Sen. Roger Marshall of Kansas.
Wax had an interesting bit of impact on state government in the still-roiling furor over redistricting. In defiance of a bipartisan deal with legislative leaders, Wax and others sued to overturn the Democratic-drawn Assembly map, excluded from prior lawsuits. His side won, and the lines were recast, though not in a process the plaintiffs preferred.
Wax’s club was on different pages from the mainstream GOP on a higher-profile matter — the now-terminated congressional career of fabulist George Santos, an NYYRC member. Santos’ former operations director and MAGA activist Viswanag B. Burra is still executive secretary of the club, whose interests were of course not aligned with that of mainstream Republicans and GOP colleagues who pushed for Santos’ ouster.
Wax says his view on booting Santos, whose deceptions he hasn’t defended, is the same as it was on the congressional ejection — that it shouldn’t be done until or unless a person is convicted.
Last Saturday, former Rep. Lee Zeldin, whose strong 2022 run against Gov. Kathy Hochul had the collateral impact of helping sweep Santos into office, attended another NYYRC gathering, at the Women's National Republican Club in Manhattan. Zeldin helped round up other attendees with a mailing the previous week that said: “Young Republicans recognize the importance of fighting for New York because they stand to lose the most. They are bucking the status quo and staying here to fight for our future.”
Wax said he sees this as Zeldin, with potential future ambitions, coming around to the club’s side after the NYYRC endorsed Andrew Giuliani against him in last year’s GOP gubernatorial primary (the club supported Zeldin in the general election).
In the state GOP, Zeldin’s alliances are no small thing. Not for Wax. But he acknowledges that Zeldin is expected to be looking to a future election in the state, perhaps with an eye toward doing better in New York City.
As a young firebrand, Wax told a previous NYYRC dinner in 2022: “We want to cross the Rubicon. We want total war. We must be prepared to do battle in every arena. In the media. In the courtroom. At the ballot box. And in the streets. This is the only language the left understands. The language of pure and unadulterated power.”
In the past, Wax told The Point, establishment Republicans “tried to pretend before we weren’t a big force.”
— Dan Janison firstname.lastname@example.org
Many resolutions, few solutions
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A high degree of foresight on LI
Long Island was growing in 1955. Its view of the future was optimistic but also tempered by the challenges ahead.
One of those was the availability of higher education, which rapidly was being seen as a vehicle to get ahead in life. As Newsday’s editorial board noted on Dec. 20 of that year, “During the next 15 years on Long Island, the number of students who want to go to college is expected to increase more than 400%.”
That was four times the expected rate of increase statewide.
The board noted that even with planned expansions, Hofstra and Adelphi, both colleges at the time, “will never be able to take care of the big new demand.”
The answer, the board wrote, was in the work being done by a committee of the State University of New York that reportedly was recommending three new two-year colleges and one four-year school for the region. Newsday’s board was an enthusiastic backer.
“Governor [Averell] Harriman and the state Board of Regents should act promptly to get the necessary enabling bill through the legislature,” the board wrote in a piece called “New Colleges?”
That push culminated, of course, in SUNY landing on Long Island. Stony Brook University opened in 1957, on a temporary campus in Oyster Bay while the permanent campus was being built on 480 acres in Stony Brook donated by Ward Melville. Nassau Community College and Suffolk County Community College both opened in 1960.
Give Newsday’s editorial board back in 1955 credit for recognizing so early on the need for community colleges. “Not only is there an absolute need for expanded educational facilities on Long Island,” the board wrote. “There is also a specific need for just this kind of community college that offers two-year courses of study preparing students for specific vocations.”
That concern reverberates today as the expense of attending a four-year school and the critical need for skilled workers in a variety of fields have combined to compel students and parents to take a longer look at community college as an option.
Enrollment figures have long shown the board — and the state — were right about the need for more colleges on Long Island. Though many schools took an enrollment hit from the pandemic, Nassau and Suffolk community colleges combined enroll more than 36,000 students and Stony Brook has nearly 26,000.
The SUNY committee and Newsday’s board clearly had the right idea 68 years ago. But one aspect of the plan no doubt will elicit rueful groans today: SUNY proposed that tuition would be $200 a year for community colleges, and $400 for the four-year school.
— Michael Dobie email@example.com, Amanda Fiscina-Wells firstname.lastname@example.org