BY MICHELLE DEPINHO AND DANIEL MOLINA
News/Managing Editor and Staff Writer
The recently opened Raymond Kelly ’63 Student Commons was officially dedicated to the alumnus and former NYPD police commissioner in a ceremony held on campus last Wednesday.
“The services that Commissioner Kelly has performed for city and for country makes him a shining example of the best of our tradition,” college President Brennan O’Donnell said to a crowd of students, benefactors and community members.
The nearly $45 million building opened this semester and features a new fitness center, extensive club and student meeting space, dining facilities, the campus bookstore and a ballroom. Fundraising for the commons is ongoing but nearly complete, with approximately $43 million raised as of the beginning of October. Repeat benefactor and namesake of the college library, Thomas O’Malley ’63, contributed $10 million for the building and requested that it be named after Raymond Kelly.
“This building is a great building because of what it does. It really joins the campus together,” Kelly said. “This is also open to the community. I think they were very wise in involving the community both in the planning and in giving them total accessibility.”
Kelly’s involvement was limited in the planning process for the commons because of laws surrounding how public servants can fundraise for private causes.
“I did go to certain events but I was careful not to ask for resources,” he said.
The building will serve as a link between the upper and lower parts of campus as well as a place for students to gather and mingle with the larger community.
“The Kelly commons is the jewel in the crown of twenty plus years of strategic planning,” O’Donnell said.” The college has been carefully laying the groundwork for this building and for what it represents. That is, our successful transformation from a majority commuter college to a majority residential college.”
“It’s exciting to consider the fact that our next generation of leaders….will meet and exchange ideas in this grand place,” Kelly said.
“Manhattan is a great school, very good to me. I never expected this. And really Tom O’Malley, major benefactor of this school, is the primary reason for it. I very much appreciate it,” Kelly said in a statement after the close of the ceremony.
The dedication ceremony featured a number of speakers, notably New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo who attended in support of Kelly.
Cuomo spoke of the Lasallian tradition of the college and highlighted Kelly’s career and personal achievements.
“Ray’s life shows that he heard the message and in many ways, internalized it,” Cuomo said. “Ray moved up through the ranks…where he achieved in his role probably the single greatest level of accomplishment: the year that had the fewest murders and shootings since the NYPD has been keeping numbers. Can you imagine how many lives have been saved?”
“Manhattan College could not have chosen a better name than Raymond Kelly,” Cuomo said.
Kelly served as the NYPD police commissioner from 1992 to 1994 and again from 2002 to 2013. He spent 47 years within the NYPD and also worked in a number of federal capacities throughout his career, such as Vice President of the Americas for Interpol and as the Under Secretary for Enforcement at the U.S. Department of Treasury.
While working as police commissioner during Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration, Kelly’s stop-and-frisk policy drew controversy from various civil rights groups who claimed it was unconstitutional and institutionalized racial profiling policing techniques.
A small group of Manhattan College students publicly protested the naming of the building in December of 2012 because of the controversy associated with that policy.
“Everybody has a right to their opinion. I think if you look at the totality of the circumstances you’ll find that everything NYPD did on my watch was pursuant to the law,” Kelly said. “I am very comfortable with what happened on my watch.”
Kelly said his work has made the city safer from threats such as terrorism.
“Sixteen plots against the city. None have come to fruition,” Kelly said. “The harder you work, the luckier you get.”
Kelly also took the opportunity to remember the NYPD officers who have worked with him during the dedication.
“Very, very few are memorialized with a building named in their honor. It is for their sacrifices….that I humbly accept this recognition,” he said.
“I’m extremely proud to be associated with it,” Kelly said.