Stony Brook University ranks 77th in U.S. News & World Report's “National...

Stony Brook University ranks 77th in U.S. News & World Report's “National Universities” category, above Buffalo, Binghamton and Albany. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Daily Point

Big Ten, big stadium play to match Stony Brook’s new ranking

Seeking his 11th term, Smithtown Assemb. Mike Fitzpatrick was the first candidate of the 2022 election endorsement season to chat with the editorial board. Hours after that Monday meeting, one of his big talking points got a boost from U.S. News & World Report’s annual college rankings.

Fitzpatrick says New York ought to have a single flagship university, as most states do, and argues the SUNY moniker carries with it an age-old negative bias. His vision is a University of New York, like Virginia, North Carolina or Michigan.

He wants the whole ball of wax, including a top conference football team with a full-sized stadium and other sports programs.

And he thinks the University of New York ought to be Stony Brook University, the neighbor of his district.

New York’s system has never had a single official flagship. It has four comprehensive doctoral-granting universities designated as "university centers" by SUNY: Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo, and Stony Brook. And in January, Gov. Kathy Hochul designated both Stony Brook and Buffalo as “flagships” over the objections of electeds and SUNY leaders from the rest of the state.

But now U.S. News & World Report has Fitzpatrick’s back.

In rankings released this week, Stony Brook was 77th in the “National Universities” category, while Buffalo was in 89th. In fact, Binghamton also outpaced Buffalo at 83rd, while Albany came in at No. 182.

“Stony Brook is a great state university, but it’s not a national brand, and because of that we lose out,” Fitzpatrick told the editorial board. “We play small ball as a state when it comes to college sports, and that costs us dramatically in excitement. But not having a flagship also has an implication of ‘less-than.’”

Fitzpatrick said he was close to a meeting with former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo before his resignation, and that former Chancellor Kristina Johnson also expressed interest in the idea of a flagship University of New York before decamping to The Ohio State University. It would also mean big-time spending on a football program and the stadium to match those ambitions.

Now he’s working to build excitement with Hochul, whose Buffalo-native friendliness might leave her cold to his wish to elevate Stony Brook. It also might leave her thinking that the stadium in Buffalo for the NFL Bills to which she just committed $600 million is a better spot for six big college games a year than a yet-to-be-proposed mega-stadium on an island where it can be hard to site a fast-food restaurant.

— Lane Filler @lanefiller

Talking Point

Lines crossed in the mail?

On Monday, Nick Langworthy, chairman of the state Republican Party and Buffalo-area congressional candidate, called a news teleconference to blast state Democrats over a recent mass mailing. Enclosed in those political missives were applications for absentee ballots to be sent by the local boards of elections. “Voting absentee is easy as 1-2-3,” goes the party’s pitch on a separate sheet.

Democrats called the privately paid mailing aimed at party registrants proper, with all the due disclosures, and Republicans admit the practice of sending out applications is legal.

What’s unusual, however, is that these forms come with a crucial box checked off — the reason for the application. There are six choices — absence from the home county on Election Day, temporary illness or physical disability/COVID-19 concerns, permanent disability, duties related to primary care of individuals who are ill or disabled, residence in a veterans’ hospital, or detention awaiting trial.

Of those choices, the box that covers COVID comes pre-checked on these Democrat-sent forms. That led Langworthy to tell reporters: “No one should fill out that box but the voter who’s requesting.” Also, the separate sheet promoting absentee voting is titled “New York State Voter Assistance Program” — which sounds quite official, and which Langworthy calls “deceitful.” Either way, it’s up to the voter to sign the form and send it in.

While this Democratic Party letter may sound official, Rep. Lee Zeldin, the GOP candidate for governor, last week sent out an official mailing that sounds promotional.

A current Zeldin constituent cited to The Point a piece from the four-term congressman proclaiming in bright red type his “record of hard work and results on top local priorities for Long Island.” It gives prominent play to his efforts to expand nationwide the Pfc. Joseph P. Dwyer Veterans’ Peer Support Program, his help in funding cleanup of Long Island Sound and the Zadroga 9/11 bill, and local sewer and infrastructure projects.

The colorful postal piece includes the necessary disclaimer that it was “prepared, published and mailed at taxpayer expense.” Its material and timing seem to fit accepted practices in Congress. But the situation here is unique: Zeldin is not seeking reelection but running for the state’s top spot. “There seems to be no use for a flyer advertising a lame-duck member of Congress,” said the CD1 resident.

More squabbles over where the line lies between a candidate’s official post and electoral ambitions can be expected from here to November.

— Dan Janison @Danjanison

Pencil Point

Anchored in unreality

Credit: Caglecartoons.com/Pat Byrnes

For more cartoons, visit www.newsday.com/nationalcartoons

Final Point

Understanding your flood risk

Flooding should be a big concern for many Long Island property owners now, and even more so in the decades to come. That's based on the region's experience with major storms like Superstorm Sandy and the reality of rising seas. A recent study https://firststreet.org/risk-factor/ paints an alarming picture.

First Street Foundation's risk modeling tool estimates more than 100,000 properties on Long Island could face moderate or worse damage during a severe flooding season. Find out more about the modeling, data, and proposals for mitigation — and view a map of Long Island properties at risk — at newsday.com/floodrisk.

— Jun-Kai Teoh @jkteoh