Gov. Cuomo apparently had never given a commencement address as governor until he found the time for an exclusive Manhattan K-12 prep school — where the board chairman and his wife donated $100,000 to his campaign.
Cuomo spoke Thursday morning at Lincoln Center, where the Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School held its graduation.
Founded in 1764 by England’s King George, Columbia is the oldest and most prestigious private school in the Big Apple, and its $47,500 annual tuition is steeper than Harvard University’s $43,280.
Alums include the writer Herman Melville, ex-Time Warner CEO Steve Ross and actress Ally Sheedy. First son Barron Trump also attended before transferring to a school in Washington, DC.
Board of trustees president Andrew Zaro of the Zaro’s Bakery family and his wife, Lois, have forked over $100,000 to Cuomo’s campaigns, records show.
But Zaro, chairman of debt-collection firm Cavalry Portfolio Services, told The Post his generous campaign donations had nothing to do with Cuomo’s appearance. “That’s silly. Everyone in the room [at the commencement] has given money to him. Everyone in the school knows him,” Zaro said.
Cuomo’s father, the late ex-Gov. Mario Cuomo, had spoken at a Columbia commencement in 2009, and Zaro said the board thought it would be “a nice gesture” to have his son speak at what was the final commencement presided over by Headmaster Richard Soghoian, who is retiring after 36 years at the school on West 93rd Street across from Central Park.
Zaro said he could not remember whether he personally reached out to Cuomo to ask him to speak, adding it could have been another board member. Cuomo’s staff could not name another school where Cuomo had spoken to graduates while governor.
But John Kaehny, of watchdog group Reinvent Albany, said the governor’s appearance doesn’t look good in light of pay-to-play accusations swirling in Albany.
“He’s giving a private audience to super-rich political donors at one of America’s most expensive private schools,” Kaehny said.
NY1 first reported the story.