Amid protests from students, the CUNY Board of Trustees voted Monday afternoon to approve the contract by which Starbucks will rent space in Hunter College’s West building.
Under the contract, Starbucks will not pay rent during the 8-month construction period. Once construction ends, Hunter College will spare Starbucks up to a year’s worth of rent to offset costs incurred by the coffee chain during construction. After that, Starbucks will pay $411,390 per year for the first five years and $452,529 per year for the next five years to rent out the 2,959 square foot space.
The space consists of 1,959 square feet on the ground floor and 1,000 square feet on the lower level. It is currently rented out to Grishko, a dancewear company, and was previously rented out to The Canvas, an art gallery that showcased work by Hunter students.
The Starbucks will be accessible from the street and from the West building. It will be able to seat between 50 and 60 people.
In total, the contract with Starbucks will bring in about $3.7 million in revenue over ten years and another $2.5 milion if the lease is renewed for another five years. Hunter College President Jennifer Raab has said the rent money will be used to help support students.
Yet some students are skeptical.
Shortly before the meeting, a petition against a Starbucks at Hunter College hit 600 signatures. “We don’t need another Starbucks,” wrote one signer. “CUNY students deserve better,” wrote another.
Hunter senior Briana Calderón-Navarro and other student activists traveled together from Hunter to the board meeting at Baruch College to tell the Board of Trustees to vote against the contract.
Students held up signs saying “Kick corporations off campus” and “People over profit, students over Starbucks” and shouted during the meeting, unintimidated by the heavy police presence.
Afterward, members of Free CUNY, an activist group advocating for free tuition at CUNY, briefly discussed next steps. “Our only hope now is for Starbucks to back out of the deal,” said Calderón-Navarro.
They intend to make that happen. “We’re going to make it impossible for Starbucks to occupy that space in a profitable way,” said Hunter student Robin Marshall. “We’re not done.”
In a letter addressed to the Board of Trustees, Hunter USG President Kamalpreet Kaur wrote, “We are not opposed to Starbucks moving into the space.” She went on to list benefits of having a Starbucks on campus, such as seating, employment opportunities and revenue.