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Playing with Fire — Act of Mismanagment #5

Dear Alumni and Friends,

The Board of Trustees is putting the unique tax exemption that sustains Cooper Union at risk by imposing tuition. They are playing with fire. While they claim the tax exemption is not at risk, we believe they are wrong, just as they have been proven wrong before.

In 2006 President George Campbell Jr. made an impassioned case for moving ahead with the massive real estate scheme known as the “Master Plan,” including taking on $175 million dollars in debt and construction of the new academic building and new buildings at 26 and 51 Astor Place.

As part of their argument for this real estate scheme, Campbell and the Board claimed that losing the school’s unique tax exemption for the new properties at 26 and 51 Astor was extremely remote, “about the same probability as losing it at the Chrysler Building.” (See Master Plan document, p.8) But New York City challenged that assertion and in the end, Cooper Union settled by losing 1/2 the tax exemption on those properties. We repeat, Cooper Union’s unique and critical tax status was successfully challenged in a manner not expected by the Board of Trustees.

Now, with the imposition of tuition, the core tax exemption for the Chrysler Building, an exemption worth over $20 million / year that sustains Cooper Union, is at risk. Do not accept the assurances of the Administration and Board of Trustees that it is assured. Doug Turetsky, Chief of Staff at the Independent Budget Office has already questioned whether Cooper’s deal should continue once it charges tuition, saying, “The other universities don’t get to do these kinds of commercial deals.” State Senator Hoylman commented: “What’s at stake here is if the free tuition is scrapped, then we in the legislature have to reconsider, I think, our position in affording a property tax break to Cooper Union. Let’s be clear, no other private institution in New York currently receives such a tax break…”

The legal action taken by The Committee to Save Cooper Union is an essential step in undoing the damage being done to the school. We need your help. Please donate as much as you can to our legal effort to save Cooper Union.

The Committee to Save Cooper Union
Founding Directors:
Adrian Jovanovic, CU BSE ’89
Mike Essl, Associate Professor of Art, CU ART ’96, M.F.A.
Toby Cumberbatch, Professor of Electrical Engineering, Ph.D.