York College honors late President Bassin with building

By Juan Soto

York College, one of 11 senior colleges of the City University of New York, is honoring its longest-serving president in an eternal way.

On Oct. 22, the Performing Arts Center building will be renamed after the school’s longest-serving president.

The structure of the Jamaica campus that opened in 1990 will be called the Milton G. Bassin Building, according to sources.

Dolores Swirin-Yao, vice president for institutional advancement, is coordinating the ceremony of the renaming event, but there were no more details available.

“Without Milt Bassin, the York College campus in Jamaica would never have been built,” she said at the time of the former president’s death two years ago.

Bassin, who served as president from 1971 until his retirement in 1991, was instrumental in securing the college’s move from Bayside to its current location in downtown Jamaica.

York opened its doors in 1967 and, while waiting for the move to Jamaica, it relocated on the campus of Queensborough Community College, in Bayside. The old Montgomery Ward department store in Jamaica also housed temporary classrooms.

But three years after he became president, plans for the permanent campus in Jamaica were drafted.

Gov. Nelson Rockefeller vetoed the plan because of a statewide fiscal crisis.

“If it was not for him [Bassin], who rallied the community, students, politicians and the faculty to get on board, York would not have been a senior college,” sources at York College said. “He was a terrific president.”

During his tenure, $200 million was spent on construction of the actual campus. It now has six buildings.

But before that, the York College Music Club Combo will perform at the Curry Fest, which will take place Sept. 20 at Roy Wilkins Park, in South Jamaica.

“This is the next big event for us,” said York College professor Tom Zlabinger, referring to the culture and cuisine celebration at Roy Wilkins.

Zlabinger, who teaches jazz and ethnomusicology, is also preparing the concerts series that will be held at the Chapel of the Sisters this semester.

The small Romanesque Revival temple was renamed the Illinois Jacquet Performance Space, in memory of the jazz saxophonist who lived in southeast Queens after the New York Landmarks Conservancy, the Greater Jamaica Development Corp. and the Prospect Cemetery Association headed the efforts to revitalize the chapel.

Reach reporter Juan Soto by e-mail at jsoto‌@cngl‌ocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

More from Around New York