New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver personally delivered the BMCC community good news Thursday, Nov. 13, announcing inside a packed Richard Harris Terrace that the financing is now in place to rebuild Fiterman Hall, the college's educational facility destroyed during the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
In a press conference filled with high expectations -- and held in the midst of an economic crisis -- Bloomberg said the city government will contribute $139 million of the $325 million necessary to complete the deconstruction of the old Fiterman Hall, and reconstruction of the new building. An insurance settlement will kick in roughly $80 million, with the state and CUNY picking up the balance.
BMCC President Antonio Pérez opened the news conference by introducing Bloomberg as mayor who is "unflinching in his advocacy of public higher education," adding that "his far-sighted vision for our city's future certainly incorporates the mission and work of The City University of New York."
"It's over," Bloomberg said when he took the podium, drawing loud applause from school officials and student leaders. "The Borough of Manhattan Community College as well as Lower Manhattan residents have arrived at a day they have long been waiting for. ... This new agreement will allow us to seamlessly press ahead with the next phases of work at the Fiterman Hall site."
Silver -- who represents a slice of the downtown and Lower East Side portions of Manhattan -- had been hosting monthly meetings of the Fiterman Hall Community Advisory Committee, along with CUNY and state officials. He attributed the news to everyone involved working together so well.
"This is another great victory in the rebuilding of the Lower Manhattan community," Silver said, "and great news for BMCC students, faculty and staff."
CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein extended his "deepest appreciation" to Bloomberg and Silver "for their leadership in finalizing the funding." Goldstein recalled meeting with Pérez the day after the attacks that left Fiterman destroyed.
"I said, 'We are going to get this redone.' We didn't know if we would have to repair or tear it down. But I made that promise, and today that promised is being realized."
Fiterman is Essential to Revitalization of Lower Manhattan
Once decontamination at the old Fiterman finishes in mid-February, a six-month long deconstruction and 30-month long reconstruction will go forth, and the new, larger Fiterman Hall -- at 14 floors and 390,000 square feet -- will open in the spring of 2012, said Bloomberg. The building will house classrooms, science labs, faculty and staff offices, meeting rooms and student lounges.
"We see this site as an essential part of the revitalization of Lower Manhattan," said Bloomberg. After all the negotiations, Bloomberg and officials came to the realization that "we just couldn't get it done for less money, and we needed the building."
Asked by a reporter why it took so long to announce the rebuilding of Fiterman, Bloomberg said that he's "never been one to look back."
"We should have smiles on our faces and not be beating ourselves for not having smiles on our faces in the past," he said. "Should have, could have, would have doesn't get us anywhere."
Borough President Scott Stringer lauded the news as "a major step forward" in efforts to restore Lower Manhattan.
"This agreement among the city, the state and CUNY will ensure a vibrant future for this downtown neighborhood," he said.
After the announcement, the Downtown Alliance -- an organization that advocates for Lower Manhattan -- released a statement echoing Stringer's remarks.
"A thriving an expanding Borough of Manhattan Community College contributes to Lower Manhattan's standing as a competitive and world-renowned business district, and a new Fiterman Hall will soon be another important reason that Lower Manhattan is a global model of the 21st century," it read.
Education in an Economic Downturn
"Fiterman Hall was going to be a second home for our college," said BMCC President Pérez. The building, he said, was meant "for the benefit of our ever-growing student body, seeking their own American dream."
"Yet today we learn their dreams -- our dreams -- have not been deferred."
With the economy the way it is, more people are going back to college to sharpen their skills, with plans to renter the workforce smarter than before -- making investing in education "good financial policy," according to Bloomberg.
Moreover, CUNY Chancellor Goldstein said that roughly 45 percent of all college students nationwide are in community colleges, meaning schools like BMCC are critically important. The funding for Fiterman, said Goldstein, sends a message that education does not lose priority in a "difficult economic climate."
"The rebuilding of Fiterman Hall is a powerful signal to our entire nation that New York City is moving forward by investing in higher education," Goldstein added.
Bloomberg and Silver made their announcement alongside city and state officials including: Paul Williams Jr., the executive director of the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY); Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer; CUNY Vice Chancellor Iris Weinshall; City Council member Alan Gerson (District 1), chair of the Council's Lower Manhattan Redevelopment Committee; and state Assembly member Deborah Glick, who represents a chunk of Manhattan stretching from TriBeca to 14th street on the West side.
Williams, who was at the press conference representing Governor David Paterson, said that he was looking "forward to the day in the not-so-distant future where we can meet back here for the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Fiterman Hall."
Fiterman Hall Timeline
• The original building was constructed in 1959 and donated to BMCC in 1993 by Miles and Shirley Fiterman.
• CUNY and DASNY undertook a major renovation of the building to convert it to classroom use. The renovation was nearing completion on Sept. 11, 2001 when the collapse of the adjacent World Trade Center 7 caused serious structural damage to Fiterman Hall rendering it unfit for use.
• In 2004, following extensive negotiations to resolve insurance issues, CUNY and DASNY retained a team of consultants, headed by the architectural firm of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners Architects LLP, to develop a plan for the remediation and deconstruction of the existing Fiterman Hall, as well as a design for the new building.
• Activity at the site re-commenced in August, 2005 with the construction of a decontamination unit directly outside Fiterman Hall. In the following months the consultant team evaluated the physical condition of the building and gathered samples to determine the scope of the required remediation work.
• In August 2006 a contractor was selected to perform the remediation and deconstruction portions of the project.
• The remediation plan developed by the consultants was subjected to a lengthy approval process due in part to concerns over air quality in the Lower Manhattan community. In the summer of 2007, the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was reviewing the remediation plan when the fatal Deutsche Bank building fire occurred. New regulations resulting from the fire required the inclusion of new provisions to the plan and additional regulatory reviews, causing further delays.
• The plan for the remediation of Fiterman Hall was approved by the regulatory agencies having jurisdiction over the project in March, 2008. The remediation began immediately thereafter and is expected to be completed by February 2009.
• Demolition of Fiterman Hall will begin immediately upon completion of the remediation and is expected to take approximately 6 months, finishing in the summer of 2009.
• As the demolition of Fiterman Hall is proceeding, preparations for the new building are underway. Drawings and specifications are already nearly complete and in the coming months the construction manager for the new building will be bidding out the core and shell portion of the project. It is anticipated that the construction of the new building will commence immediately upon completion of the demolition.
• The construction of the new building is expected to take approximately 30 months from the completion of the demolition. It is anticipated that the new building will be ready for occupancy in the spring of 2012.
More on Fiterman
Take a virtual tour of the new Fiterman Hall.
For a more complete history of Fiterman Hall, click here.
For more information, visit BMCC's Fiterman Hall News page.