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Evicted alumni foundation vacates Merchant Marine Academy campus

Seven people have been appointed to an advisory

Seven people have been appointed to an advisory board that will be examining instruction and management at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point. (Feb. 22, 2012) Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy's alumni foundation moved off the academy's Kings Point campus Monday, ending a bitter months-long eviction dispute between the school and the foundation.

A federal judge last week denied the USMMA Alumni Association and Foundation's request to block its eviction from campus. The foundation has operated on the campus rent-free since 1957, but was asked to leave last year by superintendent James Helis.

The court finalized the decision Monday, and the foundation -- which spent the weekend moving into storage -- is out, said Jim Tobin, the foundation's president.

Tobin called the move "very bitter" and said the foundation is looking for new commercial space in Great Neck.

"It's a sad day," Tobin said. "We'll do what we have to do, but the midshipmen are the ones who will be hurt the most because they will no longer have access to us."

Tobin has said the eviction was intended to punish the foundation for being an independent voice on campus. Helis and academy officials have cited several reasons for the eviction, including a need for space because of renovations and concerns about the appearance of preferential treatment.

An April statement on the academy website also says the foundation "declined to pay rent or work with us in good faith to find an acceptable alternative."

The academy released a statement Monday through spokeswoman Marcie Katcher that said it "values its relationship with all alumni and continues to seek opportunities to work with alumni who are committed to building a strong future for the Academy."

A spokeswoman for the federal Department of Transportation, which funds the academy, declined to comment on the eviction.

The foundation had occupied about 5,000 square feet in Babson Center.

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