Cuomo Gives Commencement Address at Elite Private School on Upper West Side

Governor Andrew Cuomo gave the commencement address Thursday at an elite private school on Manhattan's Upper West Side. The unusual speaking engagement drew immediate scrutiny about why Cuomo chose that particular school. Zack Fink filed the following report.

On Thursday morning, Governor Andrew Cuomo's security detail waited patiently outside Lincoln Center as the governor delivered the commencement address for high school seniors at Columbia Grammar and Preparatory school. The event was closed to the press, and when we inquired about why Cuomo chose this school above others, we were not provided with an answer.

"It's a high school graduation. The governor is talking to a high school graduation," said John Kaehny of Reinvent Albany. "How many does he do in a year? Any?"

Columbia Prep is one of the city's elite private schools. President Donald Trump's son Barron is a student there, and the tuition per year is close to $48,000 a year, out of reach for the vast majority of New Yorkers. By comparison, Harvard University's tuition is a little more than $43,000, less than Columbia the high school.

But there is more. We asked if there was some kind of Cuomo family connection to the school, and apparently there is not. But according to Columbia's website, the president of the school's board of trustees is Andrew Zaro, who founded Cavalry Portfolio Services, a debt resolution financial services company.

According to the State Board of Elections, in January, Zaro and his wife Lois each contributed $25,000 to Cuomo's 2018 re-election campaign, $50,000 total.

This is not the first time Zaro has given campaign contributions to Cuomo. Since 2010, the Zaro's have given roughly $100,000.

"Talking before wealthy donors at ritzy schools, those are good times for the governor, rather than doing the people's work in Albany," Kaehny said.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the governor says, "The Governor was invited by the school to deliver the commencement address at this year's graduation and was proud to address students on both the opportunities and challenges presented to them now and in the future."

There are still a lot of unresolved oustanding issues in Albany, but it's unclear how engaged Cuomo will be in these final three weeks of the legislative session. He hasn't been in Albany much since the budget was passed in April, and next week, he is expected to be in Manhattan on Tuesday for a Democratic rally to take back the House of Representatives. 

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