City gets $71M for CUNY

LaGuardia President Gail Mellow (c.) speaks about the new renovations that will be coming to LaGuardia Community College's Center 3 building thanks to $142 million granted to CUNY from the city and state. She is joined by elected and CUNY officials. Photo by Rebecca Henely
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City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) visited LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City last week to announce that the city had at last allocated $71 million for needed repairs to City University of New York colleges, including critical projects at LaGuardia and Queensborough Community College.

“CUNY is finally getting a long-overdue makeover,” Quinn said.

The $71 million is part of the city’s fiscal year 2013 budget. Iris Weinshall, vice chancellor for facilities for CUNY, said the college system had reached out to the city and state for funding years ago, but while the state had secured $71 million, it was unable to deliver because the city had initially been unable to secure its share.

Now that they were able to get the funding through this year’s budget, the $142 million between the state and city will be distributed to CUNY throughout the next four years.

Councilman Domenic Recchia Jr. (D-Brooklyn), who chairs the Council Finance Committee, said Quinn had given the Council marching orders to secure the funds.

“People don’t realize how tough this was,” he said.

While the money will not add any new wings or buildings to the campuses it will make critical improvements on some college buildings, replacing fire alarm systems and windows.

“We have to make sure our buildings have the foundation they need,” Quinn said.

The first project paid for by the funds will be on LaGuardia’s Center 3 building, a 100-year-old structure, at 29-10 Thomson Ave., once used by the Nabisco cookie company. The Center 3 building — which houses LaGuardia’s business incubator, Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses education program and green job initiative program — will have its facade and windows replaced to make it more modern and energy-efficient.

“This is extremely exciting,” said LaGuardia President Dr. Gail Mellow.

With the funding, Bayside’s Queensborough Community College, at 222-05 56th Ave., will also get an upgrade. Three roofs will be replaced and the theater on campus will get improvements compliant with the American Disabilities Act, such as a new elevator, more handicapped-accessible ramps and upgrades to the stage and restrooms.

Other institutions to get critical updates include Kingsborough, Borough of Manhattan, Bronx and Hostos community colleges.

State Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan (D-Ridgewood) said securing the funding was a long time coming.

“We love our community colleges,” Nolan said. “This is where the real learning takes place.”

State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) said the current economic climate made the boost in CUNY’s infrastructure critical.

“It’s exactly when times are tough that investing in higher education is the right move to make,” Gianaris said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

Posted 10:47 pm, October 10, 2012
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