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Historic City College Bldg Sits as Empty Shell with No Sign of Life

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It’s one thing to learn from history books and documentaries, but nothing compares to the experiences and excitement of hands-on education. This education can be even more amazing when it involves bringing history to life, or at least that’s supposed to be the idea.

A historic City College building once slated to house a center dedicated to a US congressman and then a secretary of state is an empty shell with no sign of life.

The school has $7 million to renovate its former Alumni House, a limestone mansion on Convent Avenue in Hamilton Heights that still hasn’t been renovated after paying nearly $300,000 to Ennead Architects, a Manhattan firm, for design services and announced in a Dec. 5, 2013, press release that renovations were to start in early 2014.

“Alumni House has been vacant since it was damaged by fire in the late 1970s but has the potential to be a gorgeous part of an historic Harlem block,” said Vincent Boudreau, then the director of City College’s Colin L. Powell Center for Service and Leadership, now the school’s president. “We embrace the opportunity to rehabilitate this beautiful structure and put it back into use.” It never came to fruition.

The building was to be the home of the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service, which opened in 2008 and was named after the long-serving Democratic congressman from Harlem. The plan was scuttled after Rangel’s censure for ethics violations, including using government resources to solicit donations for his eponymous center. The Rangel program now operates elsewhere on the City College campus.

College officials then planned to use the mansion as part of a school named for Powell, the former secretary of State and a CCNY alum.

The project was put on hold over costs, not controversy, said CCNY spokeswoman Dee Dee Mozeleski.

The original cost rose from $6.5 million in 2012 to $9.5 million in 2014 and could have topped $16 million, CCNY spokeswoman Dee Dee Mozeleski said.

“A decision was made to keep the $7 million the ­Colin Powell School had and place it back into its endowment to manage the needs of the school.”

City College was founded in 1847 as the first free public institution of higher education in the United States. City College was the first free public institution of higher education in the United States. It is the oldest of CUNY’s 24 institutions of higher learning and is considered its flagship college.

By: Randy Alexander

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