The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy is moving to evict the alumni foundation it has housed on its Kings Point campus for 56 years, citing space and budget constraints.

But the foundation's president, Jim Tobin, called the move a punitive measure designed to punish the foundation for being an independent voice on campus and has begun asking alumni to lobby the academy on the group's behalf.

In a letter written Wednesday to alumni, the Alumni Association and Foundation announced that the academy's new superintendent, James Helis, is requiring that the foundation leave the roughly 5,000 square feet it occupies in Babson Center by Tuesday.

"Admiral Helis wants to close this office down. And he is not offering alternate space," the letter reads. "He wants the AAF off the campus. Why?"

In a statement, the Academy said it valued its alumni, but "in light of space constraints caused by ongoing campus renovations and the current budget environment, the Academy asked the Alumni Association and Foundation to find an alternative to its current rent-free use of campus space."

Tobin said while the foundation doesn't pay rent, it raises millions of dollars for the Academy, which cannot solicit donations for itself.

"We believe this is their way of minimizing or eliminating a true independent voice regarding issues at the Academy," Tobin said.

The office of Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) issued a statement Wednesday, saying officials were "aware of the dispute and are working with both sides to try to come to a sensible solution."

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