CUNY leadership and two members of the City Council today called on the Bloomberg administration to pony up more money to demolish and redevelop Fiterman Hall, one of two remaining buildings awaiting deconstruction after being damaged by the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The comments came at a hearing held by Councilmen Alan Gerson and Charles Barron on the Borough of Manhattan Community College’s (BMCC)–a division of CUNY– Fiterman Hall, a building student union representative Horace Henry called the last “open sore that is yet to be healed.”
The fist-pounding, uproarious 200-plus crowd that overflowed the main floor and gushed into the mezzanine of Council Chambers—unusual for a Friday afternoon Council hearing in the summer, to say the least— was a testament to the fervor that has come to accompany this almost seven-year project.
The freshly renovated Fiterman Hall was damaged when 7 World Trade Center collapsed on September 11. Monetary wrangling between the city and the state has sidelined the reconstruction effort recently.
Today, Mr. Gerson said “rebuilding is both an educational and moral imperative which our city must fulfill.” Faculty and student testimonies were laden with support for the project; as the BMCC class of 2008 salutatorian, Khrystal DeMyers, put it, the “sugar coating of what is real” has to stop.
Iris Weinshall, the vice chancellor of the City University for facilities planning, construction, and management, said the $325 million deconstruction and redevelopment project cannot begin until all the money is in place. For that, she looked to the city. “Simply put, to make all this happen on schedule, $71.2 million is needed from the city,” in addition to $20.8 million worth of city money that must be moved forward from the 2010 budget, she said.
Ms. Weinshall explained that the 18 percent increase in cost per year — the original estimate for the project was $160 million– is a product of increased construction and steel costs.
The hearing also addressed the $60 million of FEMA money that the city had been allocated for Fiterman Hall. CUNY and the state insist that this money has always been “non-matchable,” but the city has recently claimed the amount as part of its contribution to the project.
“There is no FEMA money,” mayoral spokesman Jason Post said. “The $60 million from FEMA was never delivered, so the city came up with $60 million in funds to fill that hole, and has actually allocated $80 million to the project.
“We are now in the middle of negotiations with the Council; we will seek to address their concerns,” he said.
The city has also criticized the size of the project’s budget.