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The Founding of Kingsborough Community College


Slide 1: The Founding of Kingsborough Community College

Image: Students walking outside one of the early buildings of the college, 1960s.

Slide 2: 1880-1916: The Oriental Hotel

Image: View of the Oriental Hotel in the late 19th century, from the west looking eastward. 

Text:   Built in 1880 by notorious railroad magnate Austin Corbin (1827-1896), the Oriental Hotel--like the Manhattan Beach Hotel next door, also owned by Corbin--was a popular seaside destination for wealthy New Yorkers until its destruction in 1916.  Today the only remnant is the name of the street, Oriental Boulevard.  Decades later, Kingsborough Community College would be built just east of where this once thriving hotel stood.

Slide 3: 1916-1941

Images: Advertisement for Joseph P. Day’s “Manhattan Beach Estates,” a detail from that advertisement showing an aerial view of Manhattan Beach, and a postcard showing people swimming at Manhattan Beach.

Text: After the Oriental Hotel was demolished, the land was developed by real estate broker Joseph P. Day (1874-1944) into a popular residential and recreation area, with swimming pools, tennis courts, and other amenities. 

Slide 4: 1942-1945

Images: Aerial view of the Maritime Training Station at Manhattan Beach, with a smaller photograph of sailors training at the facility. 

Text: During World War II, the site presently occupied by KCC was a Maritime Training Station for Merchant Marines. Many noted Americans trained here, including poet Allen Ginsberg, author Ralph Ellison, and photographer Richard Avedon. After WWII, the base was used for as a training facility for the US Air Force, the Coast Guard, and Civil Defense.  There were those, however, who foresaw the potential of the area for other purposes. 

Slide 5: 1945-1962: The Battle Begins

Image: Two figures, a sailor on the left and a naval officer pointing towards the sea, stand on the southern side of the Maritime Training Station at Manhattan Beach. 

Text: The story of Kingsborough Community College's founding is one marked by determination, perseverence, and a seriousness of purpose that turned a highly-prized and hard-won tract of Brooklyn land into one of the nation's leading community colleges.  While it is generally known that the New York Board of Higher Education established a committee in fall 1962 to explore the creation of a second community college in Brooklyn, much less known is the valiant community struggle to secure this land that took place prior to the city's involvement. 

Slide 6: Parks Commissioner and Urban Planner Robert Moses

Image: Photograph of Robert Moses; behind him are maps of the 1964-65 NY World’s Fair. 

New York's infamous city planner ROBERT MOSES (1888-1981, left) had his eye on the Merchant Marine Base since at least 1945.  His plan was to raze the buildings and turn the entire eastern end of the island into a public beach.  Local residents, in particular the Manhattan Beach Community Group (MBCG), felt that more beaches were the wrong solution for their neighborhood.  Instead, they fought for what they believed was a much wiser use of the land and facilities: a community college to serve the burgeoning student population that arose following the post-war baby boom.  The Moses plan would have cost the city millions of dollars to purchase and renovate the site.  However, if used for educational purposes, the former base could be sold to the city as surplus for a nominal fee.

Slides 7 and 8: Image: Map of Manhattan Beach, with the current location of Kingsborough outlined.

Text: THE ROBERT MOSES PLAN:  This map shows Robert Moses's plan for Manhattan Beach; most of KCC's current campus (outlined) would be a parking lot, with a bathhouse on the southern side.

Slide 9: Image: Front page of the Manhattan Beach Bulletin, January 1942, published by the Manhattan Beach Community Group. 

Text: The Manhattan Beach Community Group (MBCG) was founded in 1941.  Like many civic groups, the MBCG was interested in crime prevention and issues of local development and construction.  In the 1940s and 1950s, Manhattan Beach was largely comprised of bungelow-style houses and some larger, more elaborate residences, as the area was once populated by wealthy businessmen and political figures, like Henry Modell and Morris J. Stein. Fortunately, there were members of the group who were passionate about the importance of higher education and the need for a college at the southern end of Brooklyn.

Slide 10: Kingsborough’s “Founding Five”

Image: a vertical montage of five members of the Manhattan Beach Community Group, labeled with their names, Bonom, Leader, Stein, Field, and Modell.

Text: Although there were numerous members of the MBCG who were advocates for the college, five members stand out as having played key roles in fighting for the community college idea: Samuel Bonom, Dr. William Leader, Morris J. Stein, Herman Field, and Henry Modell.  United by their love of the Manhattan Beach neighborhood, these "founding five" shared not only geographical proximity but also a courageous spirt that stood up to--and triumphed over--the persuasive and powerful Robert Moses.

Slide 11: KCC Founders: Samuel Bonom

Image: Photograph of Samuel Bonom

Text: Assemblyman SAMUEL BONOM (1912-1962) was an attorney and a leading member of the Manhattan Beach Community Group.  He lived right outside the college gate at 1521 Oriental Boulevard, and was very concerned about the future of the Maritime Training Station across the street.  As early as 1960, Bonom was writing in his regular newspaper column, At Your Service, that the student population was rising and Brooklyn needed to meet that challenge. "The responsibility of providing adequate facilities for qualified students," he wrote,  "cannot be evaded or ignored (December 17, 1960)."  With fellow MBCG member Dr. William Leader, Bonom created a plan to turn the existing base into a community college for little public funding. Tragically, Samuel Bonom died unexpectedly in December 1962, never seeing his Kingsborough dream come to fruition.

Slide 12: KCC Founders: Samuel Bonom

Text: At Bonom's memorial service on December 16, 1962, Michael Scott, the president of the Sheepshead bay Civic and Community Council, stated:

"His own accomplishments are his best monument.  But if we are to build a memorial of stone and mortar, let it be the Community College for which he labored so earnestly and effectively during the last year of his life.  Let us work to water the seed he planted, and the dream he nurtured, by building the Community College in Sam Bonom's memory."

Slide 13: KCC Founders: Dr. William Leader

Image: Photograph of Dr. William Leader

Text: DR. WILLIAM LEADER (1918-1999) was a Professor of Science at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) and a key member of the Manhattan Beach Community Group.  In addition to devising the community college plan with Samuel Bonom, Dr. Leader was the person who suggested the name Kingsborough Community College (CUNY had recently created Queensborough Community College, so this must have seemed a logical choice for Brooklyn). In a visit to the abandoned Manhattan Beach base in June 1962, Dr. Leader called the site "a sort of sleeping beauty needing only a touch of official approval for it to be turned into a bustling academic community (New York Times, June 14, 1962)."

Slide 14: KCC Founders: Morris J. Stein

Image: Photograph of Morris J. Stein

Text: Brooklyn City Councilman and MBCG member MORRIS J. STEIN (1906-1988) was instrumental in launching KCC.As a response to Robert Moses and current Parks Commissioner Newbold Morris's request to Mayor Robert F. Wagner to turn over the land to the city for public beaches, Morris J. Stein wrote an extensive letter (May 1, 1962) to the Mayor asking that instead the land be used for "a desperately needed medical school or  community college."

Slide 15: KCC Founders: Herman Field

Image: Photograph of Herman Field

Text: MBCG president HERMAN FIELD (1907-1994) was chairman of the group's KCC College Committee following the death of Samuel Bonom in December 1962.  A  formidable community presence, Field would also serve as President of the Brooklyn Civic Council and the Brighton-Manhattan Beach Board of Trade.  Following Field's three successful terms as MBCG President, Henry Modell would take over the role in early 1963.

Slide 16: KCC Founders: Henry Modell

Image: Photograph of Henry Modell

Text: MBCG member (and later President) HENRY MODELL (1892-1984) played a pivotal role in the founding of Kingsborough. The head of Modell's Sporting Goods, a company founded by his father in 1889, he vigorously fought for the community college plan, working with city officials to see the project materialized.

Slide 17: Helpful Allies: Abe Stark and Abraham J. Multer

Images: Photograph of Abe Stark, Photograph of Abraham J. Multer

Text: Kingsborough's founding would have been impossible without the stalwart support of political allies who thoroughly believed in the cause. Top among these were Brooklyn Borough President Abe Stark and Congressman Abraham J. Multer. 

Slide 18: An Emergency Meeting

Image: Copy of typed letter from Morris J. Stein to Mayor Robert F. Wagner, May 1, 1962.

Text: On Sunday, May 7, 1962, an emergency meeting of the MBCG was held to address the recent  request from Robert Moses to Mayor Wagner to turn the Merchant Marine Base site into public beaches.  It was then decided that Bonom and Leader's Kingsborough Community College plan--as suggested to the Mayor by Morris J. Stein--should be a main priority of the MBCG.  An “Educational Committee for the Establishment of Kingsborough Community College" was appointed and subsequent meetings and communications were made between group members and leading political figures, including Brooklyn Borough President Abe Stark, Congressman Abraham J.  Multer, and NYC Mayor Robert F. Wagner.

Slide 19: Image of a NY Times story from June 14, 1962.  Story is titled, “Education vs. Recreation: Former Manhattan Beach Air Force Base is Subject of Community Controversy.”

Text: Dr. William Leader and Herman Field explore the Manhattan Beach Site (top right photo) in this June 14, 1962 New York Times article discussing the political "tug of war" between the creation of a community college and a public recreation area.

Slide 20: Western Union telegram from Henry Modell to Abraham J. Multer, October 10, 1962, announcing the meeting between the MBCG and Mayor Wagner.

Text: An October 10, 1962 telegram from Henry Modell to Congressman Abraham J. Multer announces a meeting between the MBCG and Mayor Wagner, to be held at Gracie Mansion on October 15 "for the purpose of discussing our program for a community college at Manhattan Beach."  Invitees to this meeting included Herman Field, Henry Modell, Abraham Multer, Samuel Bonom, Morris J. Stein, Dr. William Leader, and Earl Foreman (a PR person hired by the MBCG to promote the plan).

Slide 21: Photograph of Mayor Robert F. Wagner


(1910-1991, left) was favorable to the MBCG community college plan, and suggested they meet with Gustave G. Rosenberg, Chair of the New York Board of Higher Education.  The Robert Moses proposal for the extension of Manhattan Beach was thus rejected.

The MBCG group met with Gustave G. Rosenberg ten days later on October 25, 1962, with Samuel Bonom, William Leader, Henry Modell, and Herman Field attending.

Slide 22: October 30, 1962: The NY Board of Higher Education Creates the KCC Committee

Image: Photograph of Gustave G. Rosenberg

Text: GUSTAVE G. ROSENBERG (1900-1988), Chair of the NY Board of Higher Education, approves of the MBCG idea and appoints the Kingsborough Community College Committee, naming Gladys M. Dorman as the chair.  This is where CUNY enters the Kingsborough story.  Among the other members of this second KCC Committee were Mary S. Ingraham (1887-1981, founder of the USO), Edward D. Re (1916-2006), Arthur Rosencrans (1895-1969), and Arleigh B. Williamson (1888-1986, who had assisted in the founding of Staten Island Community College, later CSI). 

Slide 23: Gladys M. Dorman

Image: Photo of Gladys M. Dorman

Text: The Chair of the Board of Higher Education's  Kingsborough Community College Committee, GLADYS M. DORMAN(1911-1995) had long made a name for herself as a prominent Brooklyn attorney.  She received degrees from Cornell and Columbia, and in 1940 was one of the first women elected to the Brooklyn Bar Association, where she would later serve as the first woman Trustee.  A member of the Board of Higher Education since 1949, she tackled the role of KCC Committee chair with great enthusiasm and experience. 

Slide 24: September 12, 1963: Kingsborough Community College is Established

Image: Newspaper photograph of Abe Stark, Gladys M. Dorman, Gustave G. Rosenberg, all standing, with Mayor Robert F. Wagner sitting and holding the deed to the Manhattan Beach site.

Text: Gladys M. Dorman and her fellow KCC Committee members worked tirelessly to see Kingsborough established through the proper channels, and on September 12, 1963, the college was formally accepted and established by the State University of New York and the Board of Estimate. While the college idea was secure, less sure was the location--the Manhattan Beach site was preferred by the city and certainly by the MBCG, but there remained questions about taking over the land, which was still being occupied as a Civil Defense tranining station.  As a result, the first classes would begin the following September at two annex locations in Sheepshead Bay and Mid-Brooklyn.

 Slide 25: January 1964: Jacob I. Hartstein is Named Kingsborough’s First President

Image: Photograph of Jacob I. Hartstein

Text: At the recommendation of Gladys M. Dorman, the Board of Higher Education nominates Jacob I. Hartstein as the first president of Kingsborough Community College. Most recently the Dean of Long Island University's School of Education, Hartstein previously served as Dean of Graduate Studies at Yeshiva College.  The mission of KCC was one for which he felt a close affinity.  "A chance for an education, " he stated after the announcement, "is something that should be denied to no one."

Slide 26: April 20, 1964: The Site Selection Board Approves Manhattan Beach Site

Image: Aerial photograph of Manhattan Beach, circa 1950s.

Text: After considering alternate locations suggested by the City Planning Commission in January, the Site Selection Board finally approves the establishment of Kingsborough Community College at the Manhattan Beach site on April 20, 1964.

 Slide 27: September 23, 1964: Kingsborough Opens Its Doors

Images: Street view of the former PS 98 in Sheepshead Bay, and the Masonic Temple in Mid-Brooklyn.

Text: Kingsborough Community College--with an inaugural class of 468 students--would finally open its doors on September 23, 1964, a staggering achievement after more than two years of discussion, debate, and determination.  As the Manhattan Beach site was all but certain but not yet legally cleared, classes began not there but in two annex sites: P.S. 98, at 26th Street and Avenue Z in Sheepshead Bay, and at the Masonic Temple at Clermont and Lafayette Avenues.  The Manhattan Beach site would be officially transferred to the city and ready for students in September 1965.

 Slide 28: Credit Page

Image: 60th Anniversary Logo






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