FULTON & MONTGOMERY COUNTIES – William Petrosino, an Amsterdam-area landlord, made an offer on Thursday to buy the Fulmont College Association’s three dormitory halls at Fulton Montgomery Community College. He said his offer is “substantially higher” than the $1.1 million purchase agreement between the association and Dan Vann Properties. Either arrangement must receive court approval.
Petrosino said he’s been interested in buying the dormitory buildings at 588 County Highway 142 since before 2010, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture loaned the Fulmont College Association $11.3 million to buy and upgrade the 1980s-vintage Fulton Hall and Montgomery Hall for $4 million from the Massachusetts-based private company that owned them and building from scratch the $7.1 million, 144-bed, co-ed Raider Hall dorm which opened in 2012.
Petrosino said he would have placed a bid on the properties before now, but he never knew they were for sale.
“I’ve submitted a bid much closer to the appraised value [of $1.8 million], with less contingencies for the college, and I look forward to working with the college in a collaborative effort, and I hope to hear from them soon, but I haven’t heard from them,” Petrosino said. “I’d be closer to $1.8 million. Until I read about this in the [Daily] Gazette, I would have never known the college was selling their campus buildings, and before they even built the second set of buildings I had looked at those campus [dorm halls]. That was about 15 years ago, and I was interested in them then.”
Petrosino said he submitted his offer to buy the buildings to the FCA, the New York State Attorney General’s office and the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.
FMCC President Gregory Truckenmiller, who is also the chairman of the FCA’s board of directors, on Monday declined to comment on Petrosino’s claim regarding an offer to buy the buildings.
“It’s all a part of the subject of an ongoing legal situation,” Truckenmiller said. “We withdrew so that we had time to address issues that came up through conversations with the [New York state Attorney General’s] Office and the USDA. We have every intention of filing again, as soon as we’re able to. We’re having conversations with the USDA [to enable us to file for court permission to sell the properties] … so, they’re in the driver’s seat.”
Petrosino and Fulton Montgomery Community College nursing student Bianca Alicea of Amsterdam filed a motion in Fulton County Supreme Court on April 23 asking the court to reject the FCA’s petition to sell the dormitory halls.
The FCA is the nonprofit auxiliary corporation of the community college and is tasked with performing operations for the college that the school is prohibited by state law from performing on its own — such as owning and operating dorm buildings and the college’s cafeteria service.
As a nonprofit, the FCA needs court approval to sell the buildings. The FCA had already received USDA approval to allow for the sale, and a complete write-off of the approximately $10 million the association still owes from the 2010 federal loan, in exchange for the FCA turning over the $1.1 million to the federal government, minus a 7 percent brokerage fee to Pyramid Brokerage Company of Albany. Truckenmiller has said the FCA owes approximately $800,000 in debt service payments on the loan due to the dorms being empty since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
Even before the pandemic, the FCA had seen a steep decline in occupancy among the 288-bed dorm complex in part because of a reduction in foreign student visas granted by under the Trump administration. FMCC’s foreign students, who paid double tuition, dropped from a high of 160 down to 47, costing the college millions of dollars in tuition revenue and hundreds of thousands of dollars in housing fees.
“Since the 2015-16 school year, the College has seen a total decline in student housing occupancy of 53.5%,” reads the FCA court filing. “During this same period of time, the College has seen a corresponding decline in enrollment of 35%. Given the declining demand for student housing at the College, the Corporation decided to pursue the sale of the Property due to the Corporation’s increasing inability to manage the carrying costs of the Property, including the debt service of the USDA Mortgage. Without the sale of the Property and the forgiveness of the USDA Mortgage, which forgiveness is further discussed in Section 30 herein, the solvency of the Corporation is at risk.”
But on April 28 the FCA withdrew its court petition, after Petrosino’s attorney Teresa Monroe alleged the association and its real estate broker Pyramid Brokerage Company of Albany had failed to do its due diligence in marketing the property. The withdrawal also came on the heels of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York filing a notice with Fulton County Supreme Court on April 26 indicating it would be sending Assistant U.S. Attorney John D. Hoggan Jr. to a court conference on the matter that had been scheduled for Friday. The court conference was then canceled due after FCA withdrew its petition.
Monroe’s motion to block the court approval of the sale told the court system that the undisclosed sole real estate broker for the deal to sell to Dan is past FMCC Board chairman Michael Sampone, and the Fulton County Multiple Listing service the association claimed to have used to market the property “does not appear to actually exist.”
Monroe also objected to the FCA not having had a proper quorum of its board of directors when it approved the sale to Dan Vann Properties, owned by former Amsterdam common council member Dan Roth.
Truckenmiller said the FCA denies any conflict of interest with respect to Sampone, who is also a current member of the board of directors of the Foundation of FMCC, but said he can’t speak to whether information regarding the marketing of the dorm halls — provided in the FCA’s court filing by a sworn affidavit from Pyramid Brokerage Company broker Peter Struzzi — is actually true.
“It’s not my statement, so the FCA does not take ownership of that statement,” Truckenmiller said. “Certainly, we hope that any statement that is made is accurate, but it’s not the FCA’s prerogative to take ownership of Pyramid’s statement.”
Monroe’s motion to block the sale also blasted the FCA’s sales contract with Pyramid, which indicates the broker will be paid a $77,000 fee by Dan Vann Properties, irrespective of whether the court approves the sale to Dan Vann Properties — which Monroe said raises, “grave concerns about Fulmont’s due diligence in dealing with the broker.”
The FCA’s contract with Pyramid was included in its court petition as “Exhibit J” which includes this language:
“The Owner shall pay the Commission to Pyramid Brokerage Company at the closing of the sale of the Property, or if subsequent to the signing of a contract of sale with a buyer, the closing of the Property sale does not occur due to no fault of such buyer, then within ten days after demand by Pyramid Brokerage Company for such payment.”
Previously, Truckenmiller had said the assertion by Monroe regarding the $77,000 fee to Pyramid was incorrect, but on Monday he said it was up to Dan Vann Properties to comment on that issue.
“I believe the FCA has ironed that out, and I stand by my statement,” he said. “That’s a question for Dan Vann [Properties].”
Dan Vann Properties and its owner Dan Roth did not return a phone call seeking comment for this story.