PURCHASE, N.Y. – Manhattanville College and the New York City Football Club (NYCFC) have decided to end their proposed partnership due to pending legal action and the subsequent delays that would entail, it was announced on Thursday night.
On April 22, the Town of Harrison Planning Board, following a series of three monthly hearings, approved a proposal to make certain physical improvements to a portion of the existing athletic facilities on the Manhattanville College campus. These improved athletic facilities were to be funded and subsequently leased by the NYCFC as a training facility (with shared use by NYCFC and Manhattanville teams of the new artificial turf field), and then revert to exclusive use by the students and the Athletic Department of the College at the conclusion of the Lease. The Lease involved five years use as a training facility with two one-year optional extensions.
The Manchester City Football Club of the English Premier League and the New York Yankees jointly own NYCFC, an expansion club set to join Major League Soccer in 2015. Manhattanville College, a coeducational, nonsectarian liberal arts college founded originally by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart in 1841, moved to the former Reid Estate in Purchase, NY in 1952. With emphases on ethics, community service, and social action, Manhattanville prides itself on being a productive and contributing neighbor to the Purchase, Harrison, and Greater Westchester communities.
Based on evidence presented by the College and NYCFC and reviewed by the Planning Board in the public hearings, and despite the vocal opposition by a small group of neighboring property owners, it was concluded that this proposal would not have any significant environmental impacts and would satisfy the Town's zoning regulations. The Planning Board approved the project by a 4-2 vote with numerous conditions and restrictions on NYCFC's temporary use of the upgraded athletic facilities.
Subsequently, the Purchase Environmental Protective Association (PEPA) and three local Purchase residents filed suit in New York State Supreme Court against the Planning Board, the College, and NYCFC. In addition to seeking reversal of the approvals of the Planning Board, the suit sought a temporary restraining order (TRO) to prohibit construction of the project from proceeding. Acting on May 7, the Judge assigned to the case refused to grant the TRO and established a schedule for the submission of legal briefs, with a decision on the case scheduled for on or after June 25. However, given the need to have the training facility available for use by the late winter of 2015, and the possibility of litigation dragging on for a year or more, the NYCFC concluded reluctantly that they could not await the outcome of the litigation and therefore were terminating their business relationship with the College.
"It is unfortunate that a small group of very well resourced citizens chose to pursue this action against the College," says Manhattanville College President Jon C. Strauss. "Had this partnership come to fruition, it would have provided $10 million in much needed capital improvements, important academic and internship opportunities, and invaluable publicity to the College. Moreover, the planned NYCFC Academy teams and summer soccer camps would have been of great benefit to the youth of Purchase and Westchester County. Our student body and local youth have lost a tremendous opportunity here."
In these trying times of increasing competition for a declining pool of potential students, the planned facility improvements, the temporary presence of a first quality professional soccer team on campus, the attendant publicity, and increased academic and internship opportunities for students would have been a great boon to the College, its students, and the community.