Mayor, Silver have a laugh as city pays up for Fiterman


One of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s biggest battles this year was over money for Fiterman Hall, the City University of New York classroom building damaged on 9/11.

Silver and CUNY said the city owed more than $70 million to the $325 million project, while Bloomberg said the city had put in plenty, especially since the cost estimate for a new Fiterman Hall was skyrocketing.

Very little of that acrimony remained last Thursday, when Bloomberg announced the city would pay its share to rebuild Fiterman Hall, as first reported by Downtown Express online last Wednesday. The major players from CUNY and state and city government stood side by side at the press conference, all smiles and jokes — though the mayor acknowledged the past in what sounded mostly like a compliment to Silver.

“To say that [Silver] has worked me over about Fiterman Hall a handful of times is one of the great understatements of all times,” Bloomberg said with Silver at his side. “He has been relentless. And because of that, perhaps, that’s why we’re here.”

Silver laughed as Bloomberg spoke, as did much of the audience gathered in the Borough of Manhattan Community College’s main building on Chambers St. Fiterman Hall was a B.M.C.C. classroom building on 9/11, and since then the contaminated building has stood shrouded as a reminder of all that has yet to be done at the site.

“It took a long time, maybe in retrospect longer than it should have, but I’ve never been one to look back,” Bloomberg said.

Asked the reason for the delay, Bloomberg said it was the “long and torturous negotiations” with the building’s insurers.

There was also a delay, albeit a shorter one, when the city said earlier this year that it would not pay any more money to the project. Bloomberg said Thursday that he had been holding out to make sure the construction was economical. He decided to put the money in now “because we just couldn’t get it done for less money, and we need the building,” he said. “You press and you press and you press, and when you finally say you’ve gotten as good a deal as you think you’ll be able to get, you go ahead and do it.”

Fiterman Hall is currently being decontaminated and is expected to be demolished by next fall. The new Fiterman Hall is scheduled to open in the spring of 2012.

Matthew Goldstein, CUNY’s chancellor, spoke Thursday about visiting ground zero on the morning of Sept. 12 with B.M.C.C. President Antonio Perez.

“We were all deeply traumatized,” Goldstein recalled, “but I looked him in the eye, and I said, ‘Tony we’re going to get this redone.’ And we didn’t know if we were going to be able to repair the building or if it had to be torn down and started anew. But I made that promise to the president and today that promise is being realized.”

— Julie Shapiro