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NEW YORK CITY-Downtown’s business and residential community on Friday welcomed the Bloomberg administration’s plan to construct a classroom building on the site of the Borough of Manhattan Community College’s Fiterman Hall. Rendered unfit for use in the collapse of the original 7 World Trade Center on 9/11, Fiterman Hall will be razed and replaced with a $325-million, 14-story structure.

In a statement, Elizabeth Berger, president of the Alliance for Downtown New York, says her constituents are “thrilled that Fiterman Hall is coming down after casting a physical and symbolic pall over Lower Manhattan for more than seven years. Fiterman Hall is a symbol of what was, not what is, and the deconstruction and reconstruction of this building is vital to Lower Manhattan’s and BMCC’s future growth.”

The plan, announced on Thursday, calls for Fiterman Hall to be demolished next year and for the 390,000-square-foot classroom building that replaces it to be ready for occupancy in spring 2012. The new structure will also be named Fiterman Hall, after the philanthropists who donated the original building to BMCC, a unit of the City University of New York. It will contain both classrooms and offices of various academic departments, helping to relieve overcrowded conditions at BMCC’s existing facilities, according to a release from the mayor’s office. The $325-million cost includes $48 million for all pre-construction costs, $202 million for construction of the core and shell and $75 million for the fit-out, according to a BMCC release.

On Sept. 10, 1993, the late Miles Fiterman and his wife Shirley gave BMCC a 15-story commercial office building, originally constructed in 1959 and located at 30 West Broadway. At the time, the $30-million donation was the largest private gift to a community college in the US. Eight years and one day later, as a conversion of 30 West Broadway to classroom use was nearing completion, part of 7 WTC collapsed onto the building. Along with sustaining structural damage, Fiterman Hall was contaminated.

The seven-year history of the subsequent efforts to raze and replace Fiterman Hall has parallels with other rebuilding projects Downtown. In 2004, following extensive negotiations to resolve insurance issues, CUNY and the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York retained a team of consultants, to develop a plan for the remediation and deconstruction of the existing Fiterman Hall, as well as a design for the new building. Activity at the site re-commenced in August 2005, and a contractor was selected a year later to perform remediation and deconstruction.

According to a BMCC release, the remediation plan developed by the consultants was subjected to a lengthy approval process due in part to concerns over air quality in the lower Manhattan community. A further delay occurred in the wake of the fatal Deustche Bank building fire, as new regulations resulting from the fire required the inclusion of new provisions to the plan and additional regulatory reviews. The remediation plan was approved last March, and remediation is expected to be completed in February 2009. Demolition of Fiterman Hall will began immediately thereafter and is expected to take six months, according to BMCC.

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