With the status of the rebuilding of BMCC’s Fiterman Hall on hold, on Friday, June 20 at 12:30pm BMCC students, faculty, and staffers, led by President Antonio Pérez, walked in support of the college from the lobby of BMCC’s 199 Chambers St. campus to City Hall to sit in on a council meeting.
Those who participated in the walk were seeking the restoration of full-funding from the executive budget for the rebuilding of Fiterman Hall — the former BMCC building that was damaged on 9/11. Councilman Charles Barron, Chairman of the New York City Council Higher Education Committee, and Councilman Alan Gerson, Chairman of the Lower Manhattan Redevelopment Committee held a joint committee at City Hall to discuss Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Executive Budget and its impact on rebuilding Fiterman Hall.
Students speak in support of Fiterman Hall
With more than 200 BMCC students, faculty members, and staffers in attendance, even the balcony of the City Hall Council meeting held BMCC supporters who walked to the hearing. Some audience members even gathered in the back of the room to hear what the council members had to say.
When Pérez spoke at the meeting, he thanked everyone for attending, and was pleased with the large turnout of Fiterman hall supporters, that included a large number of students, faculty members, and staffers from BMCC.
The meeting opened with two recent BMCC graduates’ Horace Henry and Khrystal DeMyers speaking to the council about the importance of Fiterman Hall on the BMCC Campus.
Henry, the Vice-President of BMCC’s Student Government Association said in his speech, “BMCC is lacking the true spirit of a college environment. How would you feel as a freshman if you walked into a classroom that is a trailer sitting on the sidewalk of the Westside Highway.”
DeMyers, Salutatorian of this year’s graduation class at BMCC, told council members and the audience that, “Rebuilding Fiterman Hall is not just rebuilding a physical structure of bricks and cement. It’s rebuilding the confidence, the faith, and the trust of 19,000 students that this city will not disappoint us.”
The students were met were a thunderous round of claps and cheers after they spoke. In fact, the audience gave both Henry and DeMyers a standing ovation in support of their speeches and commitment to Fiterman Hall’s reconstruction.
Reconstruction Timeline estimated at 2.5 Years
According to Iris Weinshall, CUNY Vice Chancellor for Facilities, who was also at the meeting, based on an estimated timeline, decontamination of Fiterman Hall would be completed by the end of the summer, and construction would begin in March 2009.
Weinshall predicted a 2.5 year construction of Fiterman Hall, so that by the fall term of 2011, classes can resume in the building that once held Continuing Education classes, the accounting department, hi-tech computer labs, and many more facilities for students, staffers, and faculty at BMCC.
“To make all this happen, we currently have available $142.7 million of funding that does not have matching requirements from the city or state,” said Weinshall. “These funds are the $62.7 million of insurance funds, $15 million of Lower Manhattan Development Corporation funds and $60 million of FEMA Funding.”
BMCC needs the City of New York to move the $20.8 million of funding to Fiscal Year of 2009, and appropriate the final $71.2 million so that Fiterman Hall can be rebuilt in conjunction with the proposed timeline.
“We need every penny to rebuild Fiterman Hall right now,” said Barron. “We deserve that.”
More money needed to rebuild building in timely manner
With pictures of the Fiterman Hall building pre-9/11 displayed in the front of the council room for all guests and councilmember’s to see, Weinshall said, “We have had extensive discussions with the city’s Office of Management and Budget about the Fiterman Hall funding, and are now at a critical point,” said Weinshall.
Since 9/11, overcrowding has become a problem at BMCC. “Holding Fiterman Hall hostage today will have an even more dire impact for BMCC’s more than 20,000 students,” said Pérez.
According to Weinshall, funds must be placed in the Adopted Fiscal Year 2009 budget in order to generate the appropriations needed to keep the project on schedule. If this does not happen, BMCC will then have to go for an even longer period of time without enough space to accommodate students.
According to Pérez, this is not the first time that talks with the City of New York regarding BMCC’s construction have been delayed. “During the New York fiscal crisis of the mid-1970s, the construction of our main campus at 199 Chambers Street was put on hold for nearly a decade,” he said.
Fiterman Hall staple of BMCC community
Gerson said he is “100 percent” determined to reconstruct Fiterman Hall. “We are determined to do everything we can to assure full funding is included in the FY’09 budget without any delay,” he said. “It’s an integral part of our neighborhood and rebuilding Fiterman Hall remains an educational and moral imperative which our city must fulfill.” According to Gerson, no agreement has been made yet between the city and state about how much money will be distributed to BMCC for Fiterman Hall. “Politics stand in the way. We need to find a way to overcome the politics.”
According to Barron, BMCC is the only college in the nation that is a victim of a terrorist attack. “BMCC lost half of its campus to an act of terrorism and on 9/11 six BMCC students and two BMCC graduates lost their lives.”
BMCC’s main campus at 199 Chamber Street was used as command center and resting facility for 9/11 firefighters. “BMCC was there for you, America,” said Barron. “Now, you need to be there for us.”