131-year-old Drake Business School closes

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There was speculation that the school's decision to shut down might have been related to the attack on Chief Executive Officer David Cary Hart, 54, who is recovering from a gunshot wound to the lower back.

City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) said the shooting at the subway stop during rush hour Friday and sudden closure of the school were suspect. He vowed to investigate.

"There is something about the whole situation that doesn't make any sense and I'm looking in to it," said Vallone "It's a big loss to the neighborhood."

Confused students who had planned to begin classes for their second semester Tuesday milled around the Drake campus at 32-03 Steinway Street as officials of the school met inside.

"They just slapped us in the face with this morning," said Yaimy Cuello, 22, of Ozone Park.

"They just said the school was broke basically," said Karen Herrera, 30, of Astoria.

Hart told the New York Post in an interview that the nonprofit school had been struggling financially from deferred state grants.

High-ranking school officials could not be reached for comment. A secretary greeting visitors at its Astoria campus said the school's dean and president would not talk to reporters.

"We're closed," said the woman, who did not give her name.

The school's board was relying on Hart to steer its financial recovery and voted to close the institution after learning it would take him a year to recover, the newspaper reported.

Cuello and Herrera said they were among some 50 students called into a Drake classroom and given the news early Tuesday. Each woman had been enrolled for more than six months and were looking forward to graduating and finding good jobs as office assistants.

Hart, a consultant who became CEO of the school in February, was shot after work during rush hour by a lone gunman in an underground subway stop a half block away from the school's Astoria campus. Police have made no arrests in the case.

The school also has branches in Staten Island, the Bronx, and Manhattan. It specializes in one-year-business and medical office assistant programs for low-income adults, President Donna Hallam said in an interview last week. She said the school has about 1,000 students, 260 of them in Astoria.

Several of those students set to start the new semester Tuesday sat dazed in front of the campus, trying to figure out their next move.

"I wanted to do something for myself - for my life," said Cuello, who got her GED through the school. "It was going great till this morning."

Reach reporter Matthew Monks by e-mail at or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

Posted 7:05 pm, October 10, 2011
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