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CUNY selling posh homes for campus presidents amid pandemic

CUNY selling posh homes for campus presidents amid pandemic

CUNY is selling the posh digs that typically house campus presidents at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn and the College of Staten Island — to generate millions of dollars in revenue amid the coronavirus pandemic, The Post has learned.

CUNY had purchased a condo unit at 1 Hanson Place — in the iconic Williamsburgh Savings tower building near the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn — for $1.5 million in 2010 as a perk to house the Medgar Evers College president, currently Rudy Crew, a former New York City schools chancellor.

The condo unit is now appraised at $3 million, City University of New York officials said.

Meanwhile CUNY is unloading a house at 35 Beebe St. in Staten Island’s tony Emerson Hill community facing the New York Harbor, which it bought in 1999. William Fritz is the CSI president.

The island property is now appraised at $1.3 million, officials said.

The board of CUNY’s Construction Fund quietly approved a resolution to sell the properties during a meeting last month.

“This is part of an overall strategy to get CUNY out of the residential business,” Hector Batista, CUNY’s vice chancellor and CEO, told the Construction Board board members.

“We’re here to educate our students,” he said.

Batista said in some cases it costs CUNY “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to maintain the presidential properties, particularly mentioning the house on Staten Island.

CUNY spokesman Frank Sobrino said, “Regarding the Medgar Evers College and College of Staten Island residences: As part of an ongoing review of assets to identify potential sources of revenue or savings that could support the University’s core educational mission, CUNY has decided to sell these properties.”

CUNY’s generous policy of providing free housing to its chancellor and campus presidents has long been a source of controversy, and discussions to unload the properties go back 20 years.

35 Beebe St. in Staten Island
CUNY is unloading a house at 35 Beebe St. in Staten Island’s Emerson Hill community which it it bought in 1999.
J.C. Rice

Other CUNY campuses that still have a residence for their presidents include Baruch College, Lehman College, Queens College and Brooklyn College.

But CUNY’s spectacular $2.5 million waterfront mansion for the Queens College president facing Little Neck Bay in Douglaston sits empty.

In 2018, the Post reported that then-Queens College president Felix Matos-Rodriguez, now the CUNY chancellor, was getting a $5,000 a monthly stipend from the university while he resided at his own place in Westchester, not the university’s waterfront abode.

Current Queens College president Frank H. Weu resides at a home closer to the campus, not at the CUNY waterfront residence.

The sale comes as Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s new $192.9 billion budget plan gives CUNY the opportunity to sell other under-utilized properties to generate $60 million in revenue to offset cuts in state aid.

Dr. Rudolph 'Rudy' Crew
Dr. Rudolph ‘Rudy’ Crew

Cuomo’s budget plan also allows the board of trustees of CUNY and SUNY to sock students with tuition hikes of up to $200 per year over the next four years.

CUNY also is currently conducting its first-ever sweeping review to assess the value of all the university’s 300 buildings across the five boroughs for potential revenue opportunities.

The study has not been completed, CUNY’s Sobrino said.

Among the sites CUNY officials have discussed selling is John Jay College’s former administration building on 59th Street near Lincoln Center and Fordham University’s Manhattan campus.

State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Queens), the higher education committee chairwoman who serves as an appointee to the CUNY Construction Fund, voted to unload the two CUNY presidential properties.

“I would rather see a property sale rather than raising tuition on students or firing professors,” Stavisky said.

She also said there is benefit to government coffers if an under-utilized CUNY property is sold to a private entity, because it ends up on the property tax rolls and generates revenues. CUNY is a not-for-profit educational entity whose properties are tax exempt.

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Devon Bell

Devon is a fitness enthusiast who loves playing Golf in his free time. He keeps in touch with the Golf events happening all around the world and jots down fine news pieces for the website.

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