Young Republicans Go Underground for Manhattan Bash

Florida Republican US House firebrand Matt Gaetz is said to be headlining a young Republican gathering — possibly a superspreader event — somewhere in Manhattan on December 3.
Reuters/ Mandel Ngan

The New York Young Republican Club (NYYR) has been selling tickets for its 108th “gala” — allegedly on December 3 — for months but almost like a closeted gay group from the 1950s is trying to keep its location secret from the public.

While it is Republican extremists around the country who have been openly threatening violence — often against GOP election officials who have certified the election of Joe Biden — Gavin Wax, the president of the club who would not return calls from Gay City News, has expressed fear that attendees could be in danger from activists on the left if the location were known.

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Rise & Resist had been looking to protest the event as a COVID-19 “super-spreader.” On Thanksgiving Day, the group took a Trump Rat balloon to Caldwell Factory, an event space in Chelsea that had been listed by NYYR as the venue. A spokesperson for the venue said, “The Caldwell Factory has no knowledge of this event. Due to the pandemic and government restrictions, the venue has been closed for months, and remains so, and no events have been booked.”

NYYR also listed MMEink as its party planner, but that outfit, too, denied any association with the event and said all of their events have been canceled during the pandemic. NYYR had previously listed another event space, Landmark on the Park on Central Park West, as their venue but that spot, too, has suspended all gatherings and said it never agreed to do one with the Republicans.

All of this suggests that New York Young Republicans, like their hero, the lame duck Donald Trump, have been doing all this for attention and they have gotten lots from the media, the governor, out gay Manhattan State Senator Brad Hoylman, Out gay Chelsea City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, the City Sheriff’s office, and the New York State Department of Health.

But in this past election they were woefully unsuccessful in attracting votes. Biden beat Trump 60.2 to 38.3 percent statewide and 86.8 to 12.3 percent in Manhattan. The New York State Legislature now has — for the first time — veto-proof Democratic majorities in both the Assembly and Senate, and of course there is a Democratic governor.

The club baited people with a promised appearance by former half-term Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska, but switched to Representative Matt Gaetz, a flamboyantly Trumpist Republican from Florida, this week.

Jack Sterne, a spokesperson for Governor Andrew Cuomo, said, “It doesn’t matter if you’re a young Republican, old Democrat, or middle-aged Independent — in New York, non-essential gatherings like this are limited to no more than 50 people, and anyone traveling from a non-contiguous state must follow New York’s travel advisory rules, including protocols for quarantining or testing. Remember: we are already facing a dangerous nationwide surge in COVID cases that is threatening to overwhelm hospital capacity and everyone needs to do their part to stop the spread.”

Many NYYR events have been held at the Women’s National Republican Club at 3 West 51st Street. That group would not return calls so I wrote to their caterer asking what was on the menu for the Kosher meal — $50 extra! — at the December 3 gala and she wrote back saying that the event would be a “passed hors d’oeuvres” party.

That seemed to confirm the venue and on that basis Hoylman blasted the club for holding it, saying, “Exactly a week after so many of us made the sacrifice of an in-person gathering with family and loved ones on Thanksgiving to stop the spread of COVID, the New York Young Republicans are setting the stage for a superspreader event in my district.”

Wax and the Women’s Club quickly attacked Hoylman for misinformation, demanding retractions but still would not say where the event would be.

The caterer may have been confused with the Log Cabin Republicans’ holiday party set for December 4 at the Women’s club, but the president of the Women’s club would not answer questions about that or how the club in general was keeping its events within state COVID guidelines.

Speaker Johnson said, “Everyone should be adhering to public health guidelines right now, especially with regard to avoiding indoor gatherings. As described, this event seems incredibly reckless and irresponsible. Our office has alerted the appropriate authorities so they are aware of this potential danger to the community.”

According to the City Sheriff Joseph Fucito, it is possible to have these events in Manhattan, which is not yet in a hot zone as locales such as Staten Island are. He said they are limited to 25 percent occupancy and had to have temperature checks, contact tracing, no bar, and mask-wearing when not seated. (Both GOP events tout open bars.)

Wax is telling the press they will abide by health requirements that he is nevertheless highly critical of. But he won’t say how many tickets he’s sold. And attendees are being told they are accepting the risk of “exposure to COVID” and “indemnify” the club from any liability.

Rise & Resist plans no further action, though the group’s Jackie Rudin said, “In view of the fact that we don’t have an address, we decided that we basically have accomplished the action by annoying the shit out of them and alerting all who can shut them down. A few of us will maintain an affinity group and should we find the address at the last minute, show up at the event.”

It remains to be seen what the sheriff and health department will do.

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