NYS Governor’s debate sparks protest outside the University


Protestors outside of 3 Spruce St. (Photo/Mandi Karpo)

Michael Huertas, Staff Writer

Students chanted through megaphones, others held up signs that read, “What’s your plan to save clinic jobs?” More than 70 supporters congregated across from City Hall in an arranged demonstration.

University students unexpectedly entered the crossfire of passionate political demonstrators outside of One Pace Plaza and 3 Spruce St., while the NYS Gubernatorial debate between Dem. Gov. Kathy Hochul vs. Rep. Congressman Lee Zeldin New York took place inside the University’s Schimmel Center on Oct. 25. The tense atmosphere permitted students to join in intense exchanges with opposers, chanting and reinforcing their favored governor’s ideology. 

The crowds were split on either side of the street, with Zeldin’s supporters gathered beside New York Presbyterian Hospital. Zeldin, the Republican candidate for New York Governor, is an American attorney, politician and officer in the United States Army Reserve. He has represented New York’s first congressional district in the United States White House of Representatives since 2015. 

His opponent Gov. Kathy Hochul, a member of the Democratic Party, became the 57th Governor of New York, as well as the first female leader in the state in 2021. She previously served as the Lieutenant Governor and assumed power after former Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned.

Her supporters stood behind metal barriers beside the University’s Spruce Street entrance, chanting, “Healthcare is a human right. Fight. Fight. Fight.” 

Recently, Hochul asserted her concerns over Zeldin’s relationship with former President Donald J. Trump, primarily referring to Zeldin’s congressional vote to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Her supporters seem to share her concern–among the crowd was a mobile billboard truck touting the words “Lee Zeldin helped the Trump White House try to overturn the 2020 election” and “Zeldin & Trump: Too Extreme for New York.”

Mobile billboard outside of 3 Spruce St. (Photo/Mandi Karpo)

A collection of street interviews was gathered to further understand the extremities of this event.

A large group of Hochul’s supporters are associated with Housing Works, a New York City-based non-profit fighting AIDS and homelessness. “We are here because community health centers like Housing Works rely on a program called ‘340B’… If the governor or potential opponent does not act, there will be a cut of $100 million across the states to community healthcare centers like Housing Works,” informed Seth Pollack, Housing Works Director of Community Mobilization.

340B is a Federal Drug Pricing Program that, according to The Commonwealth Fund,is intended to allow qualifying hospitals and clinics serving large numbers of low-income and uninsured patients to purchase discounted outpatient prescription drugs.”  

Pollack also shared that Housing Works backers hope that the candidates recognize that this pharmaceutical cut will not be taken quietly, that their organization and other community healthcare centers are very concerned about it and they will have this top-of-mind as they vote.

Another attendee, Brooke Brailey, was in support of Housing Works as well. “We need our governor, whomever that may be, to repeal the Cuomo carve-out, save 340B programs in New York and save community healthcare,” she reported. 

On another note, Zeldin supporters collectively shared their opinions about the rise of crime cases—roughly aligned with his “tough-on-crime” effort. Justin, who did not disclose his last name, is in support of the congressman. “Going against crime, that’s the main priority… People are dying, people are getting slashed on the subways, people are afraid to leave their homes… I live in the Bronx, where all the unnecessary garbage happens. I want to see progress,” he commented. 

Alisha, a mother of a University student, also expressed her support for Zeldin, saying, “I hope to end the mandates, Lee will do that… make our streets safer, our city safer, our state safer and that’s what I care about. I care about my kids walking around here and not having to move out because it is not safe.”

Zeldin remains stagnant on his policies to prevent crime and criticized Hochul in his opening remarks, declaring, “You’re poorer and less safe because of Kathy Hochul and [her] extreme policies. This is your opportunity to save New York.”

Roger Williamson, a Navigator for Housing Works argued, “If Zeldin is such a good Governor, and he cares about the protection of his people, then why are they trying to eliminate these cost-effective programs that are saving lives? We are getting drug users off the street, we are getting dirty needles off the streets and we are giving them safe havens to use. I do not promote nor condone drug use, but an atmosphere where it is controlled is saving lives.”

Even students that were unaware that the New York Governor’s debate was taking place at the University were eager to share their opinions with opposers.

“The majority of the crowd were Democrats, and they were there to represent that healthcare matters and is a human right,” University junior Victoria Bahary observed, astonished at the ferocity of the demonstrators.  

According to a Quinnipiac University poll of likely voters in New York State released on Oct. 18, Hochul holds a slight margin over Zeldin in the New York Governor’s race.

The General Election voting starts on Tuesday, Nov. 8, and early voting is going on from Oct. 29 to Nov. 6. Students can register to vote at the New York State Board of Elections and find their local polling location.