A Capital Future

June 1, 2005 | CUNY Matters Columns

Get out your hard hats – and prepare yourselves for a period of building and restoration that will transform The City University of New York as we know it.

At the conclusion of this year’s city budget, the University is hopeful that it will have the largest capital program in its history, almost $2 billion for much-needed building and renovation projects across the University.

This anticipated multi-year investment in CUNY and its students is evidence of strong support from our state and city leaders, and I am very grateful for their recognition of CUNY’s critical educational mission. Though substantial capital needs remain, especially given the lack of adequate support in decades past, this proposed program represents welcome progress.

The new funding would address needs at every CUNY campus, including the construction of new buildings, renovation of existing structures, and fulfillment of health and safety code-compliance requirements. These substantive changes were necessitated by our growing enrollment, a shortage of research and classroom space, and public safety concerns. The funding is earmarked for a broad range of projects-from the replacement of Fiterman Hall at Borough of Manhattan Community College, to a new academic building at the New York City College of Technology, to the CUNY Small Business Incubator Network and roof replacements at Kingsborough Community College. It would also begin to answer our need for investment in the sciences, with funding to build new facilities or modernize existing science buildings at Brooklyn, Hunter, Lehman, Queens, and City Colleges, as well as funds for the new University-wide Advanced Science Research Center. These improvements to our physical plant are not merely decorative touches; they are integral to our ability to provide an environment conducive to learning at a high level.

CUNY’s six community colleges and Medgar Evers College are funded through matching appropriations from the city and the state. This year’s budget offers an unprecedented opportunity for enhancements to these campuses, which, of course, will lead to substantial improvements in the services they provide. For example, a new instructional building and library at Bronx Community College will offer classroom space, open study areas, and learning centers to replace classrooms located in what were once dormitories, ill suited to teaching and learning. And a new Holocaust Resource Center and Archives at Queensborough Community College will provide the center with almost 5,000 feet of additional space, enabling it to increase its exhibit programming, accommodate larger tour groups, and expand its library collection.

Other community college projects will address long-deferred renovations and upgrades.

An enhanced public investment in CUNY’s physical facilities also provides an opportunity for greater private investment. A public-private partnership can often make possible building projects that could not otherwise find adequate funding. For example, New York City College of Technology’s planned academic building is a mixed-use facility that will address the college’s acute space needs with classrooms, an auditorium, labs, and a dental hygiene clinic, among other things. Leveraging available real estate resources, such as air rights, would reduce the amount of state funds needed for the project. We will continue to pursue public-private opportunities for collaboration to meet our campuses’ need for space.

In addition to our state- and city-funded projects, City College broke ground in May for its first-ever residence hall, which is being built without public funds. The new facility will provide accommodations for about 600 students starting in the Fall 2006 semester. It offers students an alternative to late-night commutes after labs or design-studio work, and an even greater connection to the city itself.

I am indebted to CUNY’s students, faculty, and staff for their support of improved city and state budgets, including increased capital funding, through www.supportcuny.org. During the recent state budget process, more than 400,000 e-mails were sent to state legislators by members of the CUNY community, which was very helpful to our efforts to achieve a better budget. Thank you for bringing that message to your public representatives.

With the proposed capital program, we can truly build the University’s future, enabling CUNY to one day serve the children of the thousands of students graduating this month. Through continued public support, our physical spaces will inspire the next generation toward higher learning.