York Alumna Wins Council Seat

In its 45-year history York College has had only three known graduates elected to political office; but it can now add a fourth.

Gay Lee, a member of York’s Class of 1991, recently won a City Council seat in Newburg, New York and in so doing, joins fellow-alumni Jeremy Weinstein, ’71, Sal Albanese, ’72; and Wayne Hall, ’76, as members of that select group.

Weinstein, now an administrative judge in Queens, served as a New York State Senator in the 1980s, Albanese served in the New York City Council in the 1990s, and Wayne Hall currently serves as mayor of Hempstead, Long Island. Lee will be the first known woman graduate connected to York elected to office.

Ms. Lee, a York College Social Work graduate, went on to earn the MSW at Smith College for Social Work and after a successful career as executive director and program director at North General AIDS Housing Development Fund Corp. in New York City and as adjunct professor at institutions such as City Tech/CUNY, College of New Rochelle and Touro College, decided to run for Newburg City Council, taking on an entrenched incumbent.

“I went to all the meetings,” Lee says of her self-initiation into municipal politics. “If I disagreed with something, I was very vocal about it and in fact, there was a picture of me in the newspaper, pointing and yelling, ‘No!’ at a meeting. I used it in my campaign literature.”

It all worked to give Lee the edge over the incumbent.

Although she was still new to the area having relocated there from Brooklyn in 2005, she quickly made her presence known and soon everyone knew the name and reputation of one Kay Lee.

“I can’t imagine how I won,” she said with a laugh. “I made no campaign promises. The Hudson Valley region is a community of 30,000 and I’m still new.’”

But Lee’s chutzpah was nurtured as a student at York with friends such as Marjorie Grant and professors like Dr. William Divale, a veteran Social Sciences professor who served as her research mentor.

“York is where I cut my teeth,” she said. “It was really a home away from home and we had such a good time. But when I was struggling with a class I went for tutoring.”

Lee, who will take office in January, is now looking forward to getting to work on the very issues she advocated for as a lay person. Issues such as crime, diminished public services, education and housing, have long resonated with her as a social worker and will continue to be important to her now as a legislator.

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