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BY JOSH ROGERS | (Originally posted March 31, 2014) The “shantytown” temporary trailers which educated displaced B.M.C.C. students after 9/11 and assisted in Lower Manhattan’s recovery after Hurricane Sandy, are finally gone from West St. after more than a dozen years Downtown.
“It’s finally, finally over,” a happy and relieved Barry Rosen, spokesperson for the Borough of Manhattan Community College, said March 31, when the process was well underway.
“Oh my God, that’s such excellent news,” Catherine McVay Hughes, Community Board 1’s chairperson, told Downtown Express, also said on Monday.
She and the board had been pushing to have the trailers removed, but hadn’t gotten advance word as to when it would happen.
She said the makeshift classrooms were definitely needed after the school’s Fiterman Hall was severely damaged on 9/11 (by a collapsing 7 World Trade Center), but they turned into a blight in the neighborhood.
She was also happy that the sidewalks on the east side of West St./Route 9A would be restored.
Rosen said so far, it does not look like the sidewalks have been damaged too much, which means their restoration should not be complicated. He said the college wants to put plantings there as well, but he said it was too early to determined when either would be done.
The trailers near the highway and across from Hudson River Park provided classroom space to students, after what was then a newly-refurbished Fiterman Hall was destroyed on 9/11 by the collapse of 7 World Trade Center.
The new Fiterman reopened to students the summer of 2012, at which time the school stopped using the temporary spaces, but Rosen said it was a long process to get the last six trailers on West St. removed.
“The big problem has been getting the New York City agencies to approve it,” he said.
On Friday, March 28, school contractors began cutting the last of the six trailers in half for removal, and Rosen said they were all gone by April 3. Contractors are continuing to clean up the area.
A few months after Fiterman reopened, the trailers were used to aid the recovery from another Downtown emergency — Hurricane Sandy. Rosen said the Federal Emergency Management Agency, better known as FEMA, set up an assistance area in the trailers, and office workers with District Council 37, which includes most of the city’s municipal unions, also used the trailers after phone and other service to its Lower Manhattan headquarters was damaged by the storm.
B.M.C.C. donated the trailers’ furniture to other CUNY colleges, Rosen added.
It took many years to get the remnants of Fiterman demolished safely, and to secure the money to rebuild it. In 2008, when the city was holding up the money to rebuild it, a school professor called the trailers a “shantytown.”