Twenty-five years before he became Assembly Speaker, Carl Heastie was a Bronx kid finding a safe home in the halls of Stony Brook University, a SUNY school on Long Island. Friends say it was there the applied math and statistics major found his political calling— while also managing to have some typical college fun, too. NY1's Josh Robin filed this report.
Before becoming state Assembly Speaker, he was Carl Heastie, Stony Brook student.
Friends trace Heastie's political rise to the Suffolk County college.
"We were just students who were very conscious—socially conscious, and active," says Patrick Jenkins, a friend of Heastie.
Public Enemy was often the soundtrack.
Heastie and friends fought to divest SUNY from firms doing business in South Africa.
He also led a minority student group, growing it to include Asian, gay and lesbian students.
"I think we all were different than we left. Stony Brook gave a lot of us the opportunity to find that inner leader in ourselves," says friend Dwayne Andrews.
It also gave them an escape from the city's crack-fueled violence.
More than 2,200 people people were murdered in 1990.
Heastie came from a middle class Bronx family.
Even with murder at a record low, Stony Brook is seen as a haven now, with its bucolic, studious quiet.
"We're beyond excited that we have someone who understands the challenges that our students face," says the university's Cheryl Hamilton.
"It's not a lot of us here, and the clubs and the organizations that do exist for people of color try their best," says Stony Brook student Randy Ferguson.
The school is six percent black, about the same percentage during Heastie's time—although the raw numbers have grown.
Still, the Blackworld newspaper doesn't appear as vibrant. During Heastie's time, it was a reliable mirror into students' racial identity.
Heastie penned articles, including one about himself, written in the third person.
It wasn't all so sincere, though. This is college after all. There was plenty of talk about sports and girls, plus playing a version of nintendo that would probably look quaint to Stony Brook students now.
"He played a mean game of Tecmobowl," Andrews says.
As Andrews flipped through the yearbook this week, he made a notable find. On the page for Blackworld was a plea for more state aid. It was addressed to the state Assembly speaker, the very position Carl Heastie, class of 90, has now.