Meeks woos Flake to be York head

By Michael Morton

Barring that, they want someone similar.”The guy's a whiz,” former Borough President Claire Shulman said of Flake in a telephone interview Tuesday. “He is extraordinary.”The most recent York president, Robert Hampton, took a permanent, paid leave from the college at the end of the year after only 18 months on the job. That led another area leader, U.S. Rep Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans), to make a call.”The first person I called was Floyd Flake,” said Meeks, who took over the former congressman's seat.Shulman said the southeast Queens leader, who now heads the 18,000-member Greater Allen Cathedral in Jamaica, had a proven track record. He was instrumental in bringing the Federal Drug Administration lab to York and the Federal Aviation Administration office to Jamaica, she said, and through his church has revitalized the community and built affordable housing. He also currently serves as the president of Wilberforce University in Ohio. It could not be determined, however, if Flake has the time or is interested, in the job, since he could not be reached for comment. Shulman said “he has not said no,” but Meeks said he did not think Flake wanted the post.When Hampton's leave was announced, CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein said at the time he would respect Hampton's privacy and not divulge the reasons for his departure. He said, however, it was not related to job performance or any improprieties. Goldstein said he still respected the administrator, whom he recruited from the University of Maryland.But a source familiar with the circumstances said Hampton failed to connect with the community and did not move fast enough in making changes sought by those with influence. Another source with knowledge of the situation said the former president also fell asleep at meetings and came under fire for not hiring enough minority faculty and staff members.Hampton, who has been temporarily replaced by CUNY Vice Chancellor Otis Hill, was York's third president since 1995, not counting other acting presidents during that time.”The college has had less than visionary leadership for a long time,” Shulman said. She criticized past administrations for not training students for roles in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's York campus lab and a Federal Aviation Administration office on Rockaway Boulevard near Kennedy Airport.”They have not taken advantage of the resources,” the former borough president said.Meeks said any new York president must increase enrollment and define the college's identity.”It's one of the vital organs of this community,” he said of the school. He declined to comment on other possible candidates.During Mayor Michael Bloomberg's State of the City address Jan. 11, Shulman said she mentioned Flake's name to Chancellor Goldstein. The chancellor, who was not available for comment, was expected to meet with CUNY's board of trustees Monday to discuss York's presidency.”This is a critical point in the history of York College,” Shulman said. “The right person has to be appointed.”Reach reporter Michael Morton by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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