The Merchant Marine Academy's Kings Point campus needs more than $341 million in federal funds to shore up decades-old dilapidated buildings and infrastructure, according to the school's 2022 capital improvement plan.
The 59-page report details myriad short and long-term projects, including construction of new academic buildings, a refurbished stormwater management system and projects to protect the waterfront basin and remove a pair of rickety piers.
"Many USMMA facilities have been poorly maintained over many decades," the report states. "Numerous reports have warned about the dire condition of the USMMA’s campus and the impact that its continued deterioration could have on the Academy’s ability to effectively train U.S. Merchant Marine officers."
A November 2021 report by the National Academy of Public Administration warned that the “poor physical conditions on campus interfere with learning and the student experience" and that the USMMA has lacked the ability to effectively manage its facilities investments. The report also criticized Department of Transportation and the Maritime Administration for a lack of oversight of the school's capital program.
In response, the Maritime Administration created and filled a new Facilities Executive position at the USMMA and signed a campus maintenance contract to better care for the school's aging infrastructure.
The USMMA, one of five federal service academies, opened its doors in 1943 and many of the buildings on campus date back the founding of the institution when they were quickly constructed during World War II and meant to be temporary. The Academy trains men and women to be midshipmen working on deep sea vessels and in the military. The college is administered by the Maritime Administration and funded by the DOT.
“The 2022 [Capital Improvement Program] prioritizes projects that will address the Academy’s most urgent needs to provide a safer and more secure campus, support midshipmen well-being, and advance USMMA’s academic mission,” said U.S. Maritime Administrator Rear Adm. Ann Phillips in a statement. “[Maritime Administration] has also prioritized the implementation of new measures to improve the effective management of capital investments at USMMA and ensure that they yield urgently needed infrastructure in a timely manner.”
The capital improvements already underway or planned in the coming years, officials said, were re-prioritized based on buildings or projects that are in most need of immediate repair and those that have available funding. Many projects, originally planned to begin in recent years, have grown in price because of changes in design and scope and increases in material costs.
The top priority among the long-term projects is the $50 million replacement of the campus' stormwater management system designed to prevent runoff and flooding.
"Most of the buildings on campus have water intrusion, and the roads regularly flood when it rains because the drains are clogged and broken," the report said.
The most expensive single project outlined in the report is the $100 million replacement of 1943 Fulton/Gibbs Complex — the first new academic building at the academy since 1980.
The five-year project, the report said, calls for state-of-the-art classrooms, laboratories and an academic research center. In the interim, USMMA is spending $21 million to replace the building's heating and air conditioning system, piping and duct work to allow the building to remain operable for the next decade.
Other potential USMMA projects:
- $72.5 million for the demolition and replacement of Crowninshield Pier, portions of which drift into Long Island Sound during serious weather events, and Cressy Pier.
- $42 million to rehabilitate the Samuels Hall academic building, which will be converted into a dedicated simulation center.
- $20 million to replace the Sea Wall protecting the Academy's waterfront.
- $10.5 million for the renovation of Fitch Hall.
- $8.8 million to improve the baseball and soccer facilities on Lower Roosevelt Field.
- $5.8 million to replace the existing guard booths outside the school, install new gates, security measures and pedestrian access controls.
- $3.2 million for a new midshipmen activities center and the demolition of existing buildings.
- $2 million for campuswide fiber optic network upgrades.
- $1.9 million for an improved wave fence breakwater along the face of Mallory Pier.