City and State Commit Funds for CUNY Repairs

October 4, 2012
By Marc Bussanich, LaborPress City Reporter

CUNY officials and several City Council members, led by Council Speaker Christine Quinn, announced outside LaGuardia College in Long Island City on Wednesday, October 3 a combined $141 million in city and state funds for infrastructure repairs and renovations to CUNY’s community colleges. CUNY Vice Chancellor Iris Weinshall said that the university is currently submitting bids, and would hire union workers via a project labor agreement.

If a PLA cannot be negotiated or union members are not available for the job, however, the university will pay prevailing wages to the workforce that is hired to do the work, Weinshall said.

In addition to LaGuardia College, Bronx Community College, Hostos Community College, Kingsborough Community College, Borough of Manhattan Community College and Queensborough Community College are the recipients. A wide range of work is planned, such as replacing aging heating and cooling systems, installing a fire alarm system, replacing roofs and installing energy efficient windows.

Council Speaker Quinn said that the City Council, with Councilman and Finance Chair Domenic Recchia Jr. leading the effort, worked with Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration to split the $71 million in funds, while the state will provide a $71 million match.

The state provides the bulk of CUNY’s funding; the balance is from tuition and fees and federal and local funds. For some reason, which was not given at the presser, the city did not cough up its share of funds up until yesterday, leaving state funds unused.

A possible reason why Mayor Bloomberg finally decided to release city funds is because LaGuardia College has partnered with the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses initiative “to help small businesses in the metropolitan area to grow and create jobs.” If Goldman Sachs is investing money to train small business owners on CUNY campuses which are deteriorating, CUNY has to invest in its building stock to maintain the partnership with the global investment banking and securities firm.

Dr. Gail Mellow, President of LaGuardia Community College, explained that LaGuardia was the anchor community college that elicited the expertise of very elite business colleges to create a curriculum that is “really going to make a difference for small businesses.” About 140 small business owners have already participated, learning the essential skills to run a small business such as accounting, negotiating, marketing, cash flow and creating proposals to submit to banks to get capital funding to expand their businesses.

Mellow said that one small business owner told her, “We’re a small business now, but we don’t want to stay small business.”

The partnership between CUNY and Goldman Sachs is the product of President Barack Obama’s vision, the American Graduation Initiative, to invest in community colleges to help American workers get the skills they need to work in fields such as nursing, health information technology, advanced manufacturing and green jobs.

Mellow noted that LaGuardia is currently teaching a seventh cohort of 30 small business owners, some of whom are women and foreign-born.

“For about one-third of them, their profitability has increased only after 20 weeks of completing the program. They’re making more money,” said Mellow.

“What’s important is that these small business owners go back to Main Street. They are in communities where big business is not. They stay there and anchor those communities and create other economic developments,” she added.

The funds will be distributed to each of the colleges based on the scope of the repairs. LaGuardia College resides in an old Nabisco factory that was built in 1914 and its façade is crumbling. Ms. Weinshall pointed to the building during the presser where workers have had to replace blocks of concrete to temporarily patch up the facade.

“CUNY is finally getting a makeover. With matching funds from the city and state, CUNY can make the vital repairs it needs to keep our public universities the crown jewel of New York City,” said Quinn.


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