Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Questions Surround Closing of Center for the Urban Environment

Though the 30-year-old Center for the Urban Environment (CUE) has been shut down for a week, information on why it closed has been scarce. With the exception of a press release sent out by the staff detailing their reaction, no one is saying much about the abrupt closure. Calls to executive director Patricia Synan and former executive director Sandi Franklin have not been returned.

A source close to the center, however, indicated that lawyers have instructed the staff not to publicly discuss the issue, and that the future plan is to file for bankruptcy. The source explained that since CUE didn’t own its building — it had a 35 year lease on the recently refurbished Gowanus location — the biggest element of value is most likely intellectual property, i.e. the school programs.

Reached by phone, Founder John Muir told the Eagle that he was “dismayed and surprised that the organization has closed,” but added (in Latin), “of the dead, speak nothing but good.

“At the time I retired, CUE was a not-for-profit of astonishingly good health. We were on budget with $3.5 million with a half a million in reserve,” Muir said. “Since that time I have had minimal contact with the organization, but had the impression that they were doing very well. My wife and I attended the 30th anniversary celebration [in November] and everything spoke of prosperity.”

Sources have said that one possible reason CUE went under was the debt generated from renovating the building.

Speculation has also arisen that the current economic climate may have played a factor in CUE’s decline, causing funding to dwindle and fundraising to be difficult. Representatives at the center were either unavailable or unable to comment.

Other sources, however, indicated that funding was not the problem, but would not elaborate.

— With additional reporting by Dennis Holt

No comments: