For the second time in a matter of months, Manhattan students found their future unclear after the University announced last Thursday that it would put its Manhattan campus up for sale.
Executive Vice President, Chief Operating Officer and Treasurer Martha Hirst told the Torch the anticipated revenue from the sale would be used to “enhance financial aid, support endowment, put money back into student programs and put money back into the school of risk management.”
The campus was closed for the latter part of last semester after sustaining damage from Superstorm Sandy. Many students at the time expressed dissatisfaction to the Torch at how the University handled the temporary relocation of students to the Queens campus.
Now they’re being told to prepare for another move.
“The students at the Manhattan campus have had a rough year already,” senior Vashti Little said. “Beginning with the way that the school handled the Hurricane Sandy situation for us in the worst way possible.”
Although she says she’s okay with the campus being put up for sale, Little feels betrayed in the way the information was distributed to the University community before giving the Manhattan residents a heads-up. The news was delivered in a University-wide email.
“I just would have preferred that the residents be given information about it before the rest of the student body,” she said. “They owe that much to us.”
“That probably would’ve been a good idea,” Hirst responded. “If I thought of it, I would’ve done that.”
John Kenny, president of the economics and finance society, said he feels the potential sale diminishes the reputation the University had in having a campus in the city that never sleeps.
“I was disappointed when I first found out,” he said. “I think that having a building in Manhattan carries a lot of prestige with it, especially having such a prime location in the Financial District a block from the World Trade Center.”
The University’s announcement that its putting its Manhattan campus on the market comes on the heels of the Torch reporting that Robert Wile, chief of staff to the president, had been given $350,000 in interest-free loans from the same fund where students’ tuition dollars are deposited.
Hirst said students who were outraged by the University’s use of their tuition dollars should not make any connection between that and moving to sell the building that houses its Manhattan campus.
“There’s no basis for that suspicion,” she said. “This is a matter we’ve been looking at, on and off, for a long time.”
Kenny, however, maintains that suspicion.
“The timing of the announcement of the sale is very curious, in light of all the other things going on with the administration, financially and otherwise,” he said.
The sale will be handled by the real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield to help identify a buyer, according to Hirst.
Hirst cited historic highs for the commercial real estate market in downtown
Manhattan as the reason for putting the campus up for sale.
“The experts tell us this is a great time to put this property on the market,” she said.
“I think we’re going to be able to generate lots of revenue…it’s going to be substantial.”
A corporate realty sign had been spotted in the window of the campus shortly after the repairs following Hurricane Sandy were completed, sparking rumors that the campus was for sale.
At the time, and reaffirmed in a recent interview, Hirst said the sign was there only to market rental space in the building.
St. John’s opened the building in June of 2001, after merging with the College of Insurance. Hirst told the Torch the University would still maintain a Manhattan campus, but that it was too early to tell where it might be located.
Hirst expects all current operations to continue at the 101 Murray Street location “through most of, if not all of 2014.”