On September 19, students, staff, faculty and friends of BMCC gathered in Icarus Plaza at the entrance to the college’s main campus building on Chambers Street, donned cobalt-blue BMCC T-shirts and walked in a procession down Greenwich Street to The Miles and Shirley Fiterman Hall.
BMCC, an intergenerational community
Holding hands and wearing BMCC T-shirts that reached to their knees, small children from the BMCC Early Childhood Center (ECC) led the way. At the newly opened Fiterman Hall, they sat on the floor in front of a dais in the North Lobby, and performed a chant about squiggly fish and other marine creatures.
Ginnella Osorio is a Human Services major and parent of Hillarie, who attends the ECC while her mother is in class and was mesmerized by the plush red carpet leading to the lobby celebration.
“She’s taken part in several events at BMCC," said Ororio. "She sees the school as a place to learn and interact with other kids, but also to interact with the community.”
A fruitful journey
A Music and Art faculty ensemble—Kurt Briggs on violin, Maureen Keenan on flute, George Dewar on cello and Howard Meltzer on piano—performed at the event, and BMCC President Antonio Pérez opened the celebration.
“It’s really been a journey, one that we have found to be very fruitful,” he said, looking out over the animated group of small children, and the BMCC community members assembled around them.
“We are here to celebrate the future of the young people today and their parents. It took over 11 years to have Fiterman Hall deconstructed and rebuilt. I want to express the gratitude our college has for all your efforts.”
He asked the faculty and staff who were employed at BMCC in 2001 when the terrorist attacks occurred to raise their hands, and led a round of applause to acknowledge their role in the building's history.
Righting a wrong
Steve Fiterman, son of Shirley and the late Miles Fiterman—who donated to BMCC and CUNY an office building that became the original Fiterman Hall—welcomed the audience.
“I want you to understand how proud we are today, as a family,” he said, and explained that rebuilding Fiterman Hall was “righting a wrong that happened in 2001. It was something that had to be done, and was accomplished by the courageous people of New York.”
Looking down at the children whose blue BMCC T-shirts read, “Focusing on the Future,” he spoke of the “wonderful synergy between having these youngsters here and this building. I don’t think there is another educational facility in the country that can compare with what you have here.”
"Pushing the human race forward"
“I was sitting in my seventh-grade classroom in Jamaica when the teacher rushed in and announced that the World Trade Center had been attacked,” said Andrew Grant, President of the BMCC Student Government Association.
“Fast forward to this day,” he continued. “We are now ready to serve as an incubator for the bright minds of students here.”
He thanked the Fiterman family for its “steadfast belief in the future and the value of education,” and said in reference to the attacks of 9/11, “I speak on behalf of our 24,463 students for the eight students we lost on that day.”
He closed with a quote by Steve Jobs, the late co-founder of Apple, Inc., and applied it to the fortitude of people who worked to see Fiterman Hall rebuilt, despite opposition and the struggle for funding.
“Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers,” Grant quoted. “...They push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
A triumphant story
On behalf of the faculty of BMCC, Professor Hollis Glaser, Chair of the BMCC Academic Senate, thanked “all the people who worked to make the deconstruction and rebuilding of Fiterman Hall a reality.”
Looking back on the events of 9/11, “there will come a day when none of my students will remember that day," she said, "but Fiterman tells a triumphant story. It sends a message to students that they matter. They’re like this building. They’re resilient.”
She described the relief from overcrowding that Fiterman Hall creates, as it provides BMCC with a third more classroom space.
“It has opened up the entire campus,” Glaser said, noting that even the sidewalks on Chambers Street are less congested, and the elevators at nearby 70 Murray Street, an additional site where BMCC holds classes, “have cleared out.”
Understanding how to use the building
Scott Anderson, BMCC Vice President of Administration and Planning shared that,
“We’ve gone through a lot of hardship as a community,” and reminded the audience, “It will take us another six months to really understand how to use this building.”
He gave as an example of that learning curve, the recently installed skip-stop system in some of the elevator banks in Fiterman, which helps expedite student traffic to class.
“We can’t forget where we came from,” he closed, and briefly described improvements planned for the campus’s main building at 199 Chambers Street, which opened in 1983.
“We’re embarked on a serious campaign at 199,” he said, to renovate the bathrooms, repair the roof, and create the “largest solar panel installation in Manhattan.”
“This is going to be a great semester”
BMCC Vice President for Student Affairs Marva Craig closed the program.
“Instead of having a ribbon cutting, we’re having a wearing of the ribbon today,” she said, “and a cutting of the cake for the ‘birthday’ of Fiterman Hall.”
SGA President Andrew Grant, President Pérez and Steve Fiterman cut the lavish cake—there were actually several cakes; chocolate, vanilla and banana walnut—as cameras flashed. Cupcakes were handed out to the youngsters from the ECC, and the rest of the audience lined up for dessert. They also took home commemorative T-shirts, pens, and soap.
“I honestly didn’t know about the history of this building until I came to BMCC,” said Liberal Arts major Rosanna Garcia, who wants to be a music teacher someday. “Now I’m glad I’m getting my education here. It’s wonderful, especially the lighting, the colors, the space.”
Scott K. Williams, part of the first semester of BMCC students to major in Communication Studies, stood in the vast, sunny lobby of Fiterman Hall and mused, “Brand new major, brand new building.”
Fiterman Hall, he said, “is a perfect blend of education and places for down time, with all the little study areas. So many of us have such busy schedules. Having a place to sit down and relax can mean so much. This semester is going to be a great semester.”