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NY Gov. Kathy Hochul taps donor, 91, to CUNY trustees board despite ‘hate speech’ outcry

NY Gov. Kathy Hochul taps donor, 91, to CUNY trustees board despite ‘hate speech’ outcry

Gov. Kathy Hochul has appointed a wealthy 91-year-old campaign donor to the City University of New York’s board of trustees amid outcries over hate speech and a machete-wielding professor.

Hochul nominated Barbaralee Diamonstein Spielvogel to replace trustee Fernando Ferrer, former Bronx borough president, MTA board member and mayoral candidate.

Ferrer’s term expires at the end of June.

He was appointed to the board by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2016.

But Ferrer likely did not endear himself to Hochul when he endorsed her Democratic primary rival, former Long Island Rep. Tom Suozzi last year and served as his campaign chairman.

“I did not reapply or seek reappointment,” Ferrer told The Post Wednesday.

Dr. Diamondstein-Spielvogel, who has donated $7,500 to Hochul’s campaigns, has worked at the White House, as the first director of Cultural Affairs for New York City, as city Landmarks Preservation commissioner and chair of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Foundation.


Gov. Kathy Hochul
Gov. Kathy Hochul has appointed a wealthy 91-year-old campaign donor to the City University of New York’s board of trustees amid outcries over hate speech and a machete-wielding professor.
AP

Her husband, Carl Spielvogel, was a prominent ad executive and served as U.S. ambassador to the Slovak Republic, died in 2021.

He, too, was a prestigious campaign donor.

Aside from Hochul, she and her husband delivered hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations combined to heavy Democratic Party hitters, including the campaigns of President Biden, former President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, the Democratic National Committee, former Govs. Andrew Cuomo, Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Congressman Jerry Nadler, among many others.

The appointment of Diamondstein-Spielvogel, who is Jewish, comes at a time when Jewish activists have complained about a paucity of leaders who are Jewish at CUNY’s 25 campuses amid accusations of antisemitism against Jewish students and faculty.


Barbaralee Diamonstein Spielvogel, Edward Albee
Hochul nominated Barbaralee Diamonstein Spielvogel to replace trustee Fernando Ferrer.
Getty Images

She was selected by then-President Ronald Reagan to the board of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and served as chair and CEO of the New York State Council on the Arts.

As chairwoman of the Diamonstein-Spielvogel Foundation, which was co-founded with her late husband, she has donated to projects focused on civic leadership, public affairs and diplomacy; projects of cultural merit; original educational initiatives; and science, medicine and health.

“All funding initiatives are through an invitational process only; we are unable to accept unsolicited applications,” the foundation’s website said.

A person who answered the phone at Diamonstein-Spielvogel’s home declined comment.


CUNY School of Law
Dr. Diamondstein-Spielvogel, who has donated $7,500 to Hochul’s campaigns, has worked at the White House, as the first director of Cultural Affairs for New York City.
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Hochul did maintain some stability on the CUNY board, despite the furor over CUNY law school grad Fatima Mousa Mohammed’s incendiary commencement address calling the Jewish state of Israel murderers and the NYPD and the U.S. military fascists, as well as a Hunter College professor arrested for wielding a machete at a Post reporter.

She reappointed CUNY board chairman Bill Thompson, a Cuomo selection in 2016, to a second term. Thompson co-signed a statement slamming Mohammed’s address as “hate speech.”

Hochul also reappointed vice chair Sandra Wilkin.

Jeffrey Lax, business department chair at CUNY’s Kingsborough Community College and founder of S.A.F.E. — Students and Faculty for Equality — issued a statement on twitter accusing Thompson of advising Chancellor Felix Matos Rodriguez not to testify at a City Council hearing on campus antisemitism last year — for which the chancellor was roundly criticized, though subordinates testified.

The claim was picked up by Jewish media.

“For a year @ChancellorCUNY  has deservedly taken flak all over the media for skipping out at the last minute from not one but two City Council hearings probing CUNY Antisemitism. We have just learned from an immaculate source that his absence goes HIGHER than the chancellor. The decision was made ABOVE HIM,” Lax said.”@SAFECUNY has learned that CUNY Board of Trustees Chair Bill Thompson TOLD the chancellor NOT TO ATTEND the antisemitism hearings.If this is true, @KathyHochul   must get involved in this horrifying antisemitic mess IMMEDIATELY,” Lax said.

Thompson flatly denied that he ordered Matos Rodriguez not to appear.

“I never instructed the chancellor not to attend the Council hearing. The statement in the article is absolutely false and the chancellor is issuing a statement to that effect,” Thompson told The Post.

Also on Wednesday, Alums for Campus Fairness, a group that fights campus antisemitism, is urging Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams to join its call for the U.S. Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights to investigate and address “the steady stream of antisemitic hate at the City University of New York.” New Jersey Rep. Josh Gottheimer also urged a federal civil rights probe on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Assemblyman Sam Pirozzolo (R-Staten Island) and 17 of his GOP colleagues sent a letter to Thompson calling for Chancellor Matos Rodriguez to be removed as chancellor over complaints of hate speech and antisemitism.

Elsewhere, Councilwoman Inna Vernikov is urging the New York Bar Association not to admit Fatima Mohammed for law license over her “bigoted, one-sided, and hate-filled viewpoints.”

Mohammed declined multiple Post requests to comment about her speech.