Is the BMCC Site Still in Play?

BMCC from Pier 25In February 2013, the New York Times reported that Related Companies was trying to persuade the Borough of Manhattan Community College to abandon its sprawling Tribeca campus for a spot near Penn Station. The City University of New York (which oversees BMCC) and Governor Cuomo were said to be uninterested. We didn’t hear more about the matter until a year later, when the Wall Street Journal said that Related was still lobbying for the plan, and the state was still holding out. Then, nothing.

Last night, at the meeting of Community Board 1’s Tribeca Committee (Unofficial Minutes to follow later today), a committee member mentioned that “Related is still in quiet talks to move BMCC.” The member works in real estate, so maybe he has reason to know, or maybe it’s conjecture. Or maybe it’s common sense: That land—all along West Street, from Chambers to N. Moore—has only grown in value. And it has to be worth far, far more than the cost of building a new campus elsewhere, if a spot in Manhattan can be found. I suspect we won’t hear more until it’s essentially a done deal, and I’m only writing about it now because I think it’s important we all be prepared when the pre-announcement whispers start.

The community ramifications are tremendous, of course. How many 111 Murray–style towers could be built on the site? Three? Four? We could end up with a wall of glass buildings like the dreadful Trump ones on the Upper West Side. If I were the owner of the Independence Plaza buildings, I’d be lobbying hard against such a change….

From BMCC’s point of view, moving away from its new building at Fiterman Hall and its long lease at 255 Greenwich can’t be appealing, but any inconvenience is likely to be softened considerably by the thought of trading its decrepit old campus for a spiffy new one, probably larger and definitely paid for by someone else.



  1. Because money Trumps everything. The only value a community has is the degree to which it can be monetized. Is there any scenario in which this is not true?

  2. This would not only be a loss to glass walls, but a loss of diversity for the community. BMCC brings thousands of young people from various backgrounds to the neighborhood. It’s no Ivy League, but at least they come for an education. Soon this area will be nothing but nannies and babies crowding the sidewalks.

    • So what? You moved there. Hopefully the community college board will do what’s best for education and their facilities and worry less about you wanting college kids around for your pleasure.

  3. at 3pm every day, Greenwich and Chambers is a wonderful confluence of BMMC students, Stuyvesant kids (is that building also for sale?) 234 families, and 289 kids. Its a delightfully hot mess of everyone and everything.

    • Where did you hear that Stuyvesant may be selling their building?

      • And this is how rumors get started…. I don’t think anyone has heard anything about Stuyvesant.

        • The Stuy building comment was a joke. In this developer driven environment nothing is sacred–everything is in theory up for sale to the highest bidder. One can make a reasonable argument that Stuy should be moved to Queens where many kids love anyways and the DOE could have a much needed infusion of cash.

  4. i wouldn’t miss bmcc..but wouldnt mind it if they put a height restriction on the new building

  5. I think this month BMCC is host to the Downtown Dance Factory recital, PS234 graduation ceremony, PS150 school musical, and more. The community uses their space, and I’m not sure there are other comparable amenities in the community.

  6. RIP Tribeca…. we hardly knew ye.

  7. If an education institution can get a ton of money that it can use for an eternal endowment, for scholarships, for staff and facilities, it has (in my opinion) a responsibility to take it.

    As for the community, we’d have to work hard to make sure whatever replaced it also met our needs.

    • I agree. The money is going to a public educational institution, which will help many more students if they sell. I just hope that BMCC board strikes a good deal and doesn’t leave money on the table.

      • In all likely hood any money would go towards administration costs and the cost of rebuilding a campus. I think we’re all fooling ourselves if we think they’re going to start lowering tuition prices or handing out scholarships.

  8. i don’t think you can fairly characterize bmcc’s existing 1980’s campus as decrepit. moving cuny’s much more decrepit harlem campus would be unthinkable. this plan is clearly motivated by greed.

    the best tactic available to us is to delay any project as long as possible and hope this insane real estate bubble pops before it completely ruins our neighborhood.

    • I swam there for years. You may be right about the rest of the building, but the pool and locker room were decrepit.

      • The auditorium is in great condition. I have not seen the classrooms, but been in the shared spaces of the first floor and lower level. There was nothing decrepit about those spaces, in fact, they were bright and inviting. It was built in the 80s, the 1980s, not 1880s, and personally it is hard to accept that buildings are only acceptable for a 30 year life span–seems extraordinarily wasteful. I have not been in the pool, so I have no opinion about that.
        As a community we should try and influence what comes to that space, but I have little hope given Cuomo’s eagerness to favor funders over the community. This would be a real boon for Related and you can bet they are doing what it takes to persuade Cuomo–maybe a couple hundred thousand might be all it takes.

        • I took a self-guided photo tour a few years ago (link below), and the building is not in great condition and kind of an architectural mess. (I called it “manic brutalist” at the time, which still feels right.) Now that BMCC has had a taste of a new, functioning building with Fiterman Hall, there’s no way they wouldn’t get rid of the old building if they could. The cost of upkeep for the current building must be extraordinary.

          Fiterman Hall:

          • Eric,
            Re: BMCC

            As a founding member of CRAB (Community Recreation Advisory Board), I worked with Alan Wade, Linda Stein, and others who used the pool regularly under the BMCC Community Rec program. Sounds like you were using it too.
            CRAB fought bureaucratic dis-interest for years to keep BMCC to its word, which was a pledge when the college opened to have an active FREE community recreation program available for locals to use. That program vanished, to be replaced by a pay per semester fee system. Then BMCC threatened to drop community access altogether. This was a clear breech of the BMCC original agreement, and at one point CB One stepped in to demand that the college honor its agreement.

            The pool has now been closed for years, and the community program with it. As a swimmer, the loss of the facility has left the option of Stuyvesant’s pool or the Manhattan Youth pool. Both often crowded as the community has grown. Swimmer friends also mention Asphalt Green but I’ve not seen it.

            The last email I could find from BMCC (below) is from 2010, so that’s five years ago…

            Date: Tue, Jan 26, 2010 at 2:24 PM
            Subject: BMCC Community Swim

            good afternoon – although January is about to end, swim season at BMCC is just about to begin!

            We wanted to get back in touch with you to confirm that the college’s Community Recreation program will operate this season as follows:

            start date: Jan 28, 2010
            end date: May 25, 2010
            weekday mornings – 7am-10am
            weekday evenings – 6pm-8pm
            weekends – Sat/Sun – 8am-10am

            pool closure dates:
            Feb 12 & 15
            March 29-30-31
            April 1-2-3-4-5

            You can register either on-line from a home computer or in-person, however please note that the Continuing Education Dept. moved to 25 Broadway during Aug., 2009 – so this is the new location for in-person registrations.

            When you register, you will receive a reciept which you can use to gain access to the pool. This receipt can be used for 3-5 days. At that point we ask that you obtain a photo ID from the campus Public Safety office which is on the main level at the college, Room S-206, 199 Chambers St.

            If you need assistance changing or confirming your username or password when registering for lap swim membership on-line, please call our Continuing Education Customer Service Desk at 212.346.8410 (Mon-Thurs, 9am-8pm, and Fri-Sun, 9am-4:30pm).


            Shortly before the pool was closed, the college renovated the locker room, installing new lockers etc. However the badly disfunctional shower room wasn’t touched. The BMCC pool is currently under renovation, and a site visit this week found two staffers who both advised they were told the pool would reopen in the fall. Time will tell.


      • I swam at BMCC pool for 30 years until it closed for needed repairs. The locker rooms were re done In 2010 or 2011 and the shower/locker rooms could use some rehab but still not as bad as those at Stuyvesant HS. After 9/11 the school took a big hit because of the attacks and with overcrowding, classrooms and hallways were expanded to make way for more classroom space as Fiterman Hall was being constructed. I’m hoping BMCC stays where it is for our community.

  9. It would be a huge disservice to the community to have BMCC move and put up Trump Condos! BMCC adds a youthful buzz and component to the neighborhood as well as an amenity with the theater that is irreplaceable. Not even the new Performing Arts Center at WTC when it opens will offer the things that TPAC can and does; they have already said that is not their purpose. If the community wants to keep it – they need to speak up LOUDLY…or it will go away and be replaced by more luxury houseing.

  10. Soulless. Destroying a soulful neighborhood, bit by bit, including Murray 101. Shame on the system, shame on the Landmark Preservation people. How do we get control of what comes up there? Does steve ross and steve witkoff really need more money/work? Its fine if he/they get control of this area, but only if something representative of the neighborhood’s soul/tradition/lifestyle is allowed to be built. Has no one learnt anything from the success of preserving the Highline?

    • The reason the Highline preservation has been such a success is because it was a unique element of the city and its history that was actually WORTH preserving. The Highline’s potential inspired people to focus their energies to create a vital new addition to the city’s urban fabric and spawned the growth of a brand new community. One of the key reasons for its success is that the Highline partnered with developers to fund the elevated park you see today. BMCC is an architectural eyesore that cuts the Tribeca community off from the river and Hudson River Park. A sale of the BMCC building that would provide the opportunity for the community to develop a new school, playground, park space, etc. along with residential towers would be a chance to create something spectacular rather than gripe about the continued loss of the “real Tribeca”.

  11. CB1 should set up a lobby group to voice the united community’s protest against Related’s plan to take over BMCC. This would have more impact than individual comments. The sooner the better, before it’s a done deal.

  12. BMCC is a hideous building, ugly beyond redemption. The sorrow I feel is not that it might go, but that the new building will only be worse. It will be much taller and it will be glass and no, it will not connect us back to the river. That is because the Mayor is pursuing a policy of “hyper-density”, a policy that basically says: built as tall as possible, anywhere at all, and if you mess up the historic districts, who cares?

    This is a policy that only benefits Big Real Estate. We’ll get another horrific “Atlantic Yards” type mess. We will lose light and wind will only increase on Greenwich, and historic Tribeca will be thoroughly walled in from every corner.

    Community Boards are tools of government and can only do so much. They are not democratic entities that represent the community. The only way to stop this kind of nightmare from continuing is to send a message to the Mayor: you aren’t going to get re-elected unless you change your vision about how the city is going to look like. We need voters to demand policies that support a human-scaled city. To start that, go here and sign: (cut and paste into your browser if it doesn’t work as a link.

    Lynn Ellsworth, Chair, Tribeca Trust

  13. The BMCC question came up again at one of our recent club (Downtown Progressive Dem) meetings, May 27, when Councilmember Margaret Chin was present and she emphatically shot it down. NOPE, NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. BMCC was offered a chance to move a few years back, when the 34th Post Office was still in play, but it all fell through. CB 1, and I was involved, mounted a HUGE protest, as did just about every elected, as so much city, State and Federal money was involved, and CUNY wisely decided to keep BMCC just where it is. Thank goodness, we finally got those portable trailer classes moved off the West Side Highway sidewalks. Their theater is a neighborhood gem. Many of their 2 year students go on to top-notch 4-year colleges. And frankly, for years, they let us Mom’s & Dads let our kids use their bathrooms until our Washington Sq Park finally built its own. We owe BMCC a lot.

    • Two more tidbits
      Years ago when I came here, a giant dustbowl sat in front of what was to become BMCC. We parents put a chain link fence around what we had heard was supposed to be the BMCC Parking Lot. Paying $10 each, we got keys for everyone and put up play equipment for our kids.

      It eventually became what we now know as Washington Market Park, which we ran as a PRIVATE park for years, not becoming a CITY park until very recently.

      We also thwarted many attempts by BMCC to have access to it its top steps, preventing the park gates which once opened at Chambers and Greenwich from ever being unlocked. The new fence you’ll note is gate free.

      Jean Grillo, District Leader 66th AD Part B

      • Jean,

        I really, really want to believe Margaret Chin, but I have a hard time doing so based on her past involvement in development deals. For example, about the NYU expansion:

        On this subject, Chin says that she and her staff are actively involved in every land deal each step along the way. Referring to the NYU deal, Chin explains that the deal provided “a real opportunity to ensure development was done in the right way.” For Chin, the “right” way involves balancing the interests of all parties. She explains that she wanted to ensure the deals took into consideration economic opportunity and the preservation of both open space and affordable housing, among other factors. (from

        How wouldn’t this quote apply to developing the BMCC site with Pier 40 air rights, thereby benefitting HRP, assuming Related includes a few more affordable apartments than usual?