The 2008 Housing Lottery: Getting the Hell out of Dodge

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From Wien to Woodbridge to Ruggles, we’ve explored many on-campus housing options this week. Now, it’s time to go off-campus with Brooklynite Bwog editors Zach van Schouwen and Mariela Quintana where they will debate the pros and cons of shacking up in New York’s better borough.

PRO: Hipsters and $2 Beer

Brooklyn! Behind every tenement door a hipster, and behind every hipster a wonderful electronic music ensemble. As one strolls down the storied streets and avenues of the fairest borough, occasionally one’s mind is drawn back to the memory of living in Columbia housing. “Oh, yes,” one thinks, “how strange a time that was. To think that I agreed to live in a 94-square-foot room with a complete stranger, wore shoes in the shower and woke every morning to the smell of garbage wafting up from One Hundred Fourteenth Street.” Still, the memory is so distant that it may have only been a dream, an awful dream: you open a bar’s door at random and find a beautiful girl singing clever progressive folk songs under soft lighting, and $2 beer. It is worth mentioning to visitors that there is, of course, no cover.

Living off campus, in all seriousness, is pretty fantastic. The key facts: you’re often saving money (What? Yes.) by not living at Columbia. There’s more space. Bars don’t have bouncers — well, not any bar you’d allow yourself to be seen in. You get a healthy dose of perspective; at long last, you can be surrounded by people who aren’t talking about Hegel.

Certainly, there are downsides. You’ll have to make friends worldly enough to travel outside Manhattan on noblesse oblige. And after stumbling down 16 flights in EC, there’s nothing like realizing you have a 52-minute ride on a deserted subway back home. Still, once you climb the stairs and walk into your apartment — which, by the way, has multiple rooms and a stove — you’ll wonder how you could really have put up with the indignities of Housing.


CON: The Chronicles of a Commuter

Sure, living in Brooklyn may give me a certain mystique and an aloof disinterest in all CCSC gossip.  But the guarantee of arriving to every social event fashionably late is not worth it.  And really whom am I kidding? Living in Brooklyn has earned me the title “That off-campus chick” far more than it has any mystique.  As you I’m sure have already ascertained, dear reader, I am here to offer you a list – a very condensed list, be sure – of the disadvantages of living off campus.

  • Occasionally forgetting your wallet at home becomes a perpetually anxiety. Try getting through a day without your CUID–you will never will hate campus security so much.
  • Relying on Cubmail as a substitute for telecommunication when your cell phone battery unexpectedly dies. 
  • Chronic back pain due to your oversized backpack, overstuffed with your laptop, notebooks, econ textbook, art history reader, gym clothes, a spare umbrella and whatever else you dorm-dwellers might conveniently store in your rooms.
  • Deigning to use the lockers in Butler to store your stuff overnight.  Think of it as your very own 3×1 apartment – and hey, who wants Scoliosis? 
  • Discovering that overnight use of lockers is granted on a semester long basis only after you arrive Wednesday morning to find your lock clipped and your locker empty.  Your books, your camera, your laptop and your favorite sweatshirt gone.
  • Arriving to every lecture five minutes late.
  • Realizing the excuse “But, I live in Brooklyn,” doesn’t suffice since all your professors and TAs probably live in Brooklyn too.
  • Taking a $40 cab back to Brooklyn after one too many Long Island Iced Teas at 1020 on a Saturday night.
  • Taking the subway back to Brooklyn after one too many Long Island Iced Teas at 1020 on a Saturday night.  Then waking up in a deserted subway car on Avenue S somewhere in Brooklyn.  Then taking a $40 cab from Avenue S home. 
  • Living your life in two different places.

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  1. Marty Markowitz

    Good post, Zach. Seth Low would be proud.

  2. I have a question  

    Something tells me people who live off campus would choose some place much closer than Bkln. I'd bet 95% of the students living in Bkln probably have family there. Not sure how much this post adds to their knowledge.

  3. >.  

    because living in Brooklyn doesn't complicate the gentrification problem it already has. Trust me, I'm from Brooklyn....The next generation of immigrant families depends on having that housing columbia kids are snatching up in order to be able to give their kids the lives we got.

    • Agreed  

      I think a mass migration of CU students to Brooklyn (or any other place that was once affordable to working families) is simply extending the problem of Manhattanville so much farther than it needs to go. If you want the "apartment" feel, why not live in Claremont, Woodbridge, EC, Watt or Barnard Housing like Cathedral Gardens? I hate Housing just as much as the next person, but there is a reason it's there... so we don't continue to displace real New Yorkers.

      • Well  

        I agree that it's stupid to live in Williamsburg, but we don't have guaranteed housing so that we "don't...displace real New Yorkers," whatever a real New Yorker is. We have guaranteed housing simply so that students aren't forced to navigate the inhospitable NYC housing market.

      • hrm  

        Eh, define real New Yorker. It seems like a lot of CU students, the ones I've met, anyway, view their arrival to NYC in freshman year as a permanent relocation. Me and most of my friends plan on staying here long after graduation, and we'll need to get real apartments soon enough. There's no real harm in getting that apartment during junior or senior year, rather than waiting until graduation. Gives you one less thing to worry about amidst graduating and jobhunting.
        Besides, your argument is illogical..if someone is a real New Yorker, then they already live here, and our renting an empty apartment isn't displacing them. It's simply making it harder for someone else to move to NYC from Kansas or wherever, and that's not really my problem.

      • ibr  

        "because living in Brooklyn doesn't complicate the gentrification problem it already has. Trust me, I'm from Brooklyn....The next generation of immigrant families depends on having that housing columbia kids are snatching up in order to be able to give their kids the lives we got."

        Wow, thanks for your fascinating insight, fuckhead. Let's not do anything in case it "displaces" other people.

        I promise not to move to Brooklyn in case I move into an apartment some other family was going to move into.

        And next time I'm in Westside Market, I'll avoid taking the last bunch of bananas so I don't displace them away from the person behind me.

        Shit, I just realized that by borrowing books from the library, I may be displacing them from even poorer students.

    • !!!  

      And that housing isn't going to be cheaper because you're so kind as to opt out of it -- believe me, one of NY's other four million renters will take it. Don't blame economic actors for causing economic trends. People don't move to Brooklyn because they want to price out immigrant families, last time I checked. It's because they need homes too.

  4. I'm a Crooklyn  

    native and I still live on campus, because commuting is so inconvenient, especially when you have 9AM/9PM classes. This is definitely not the way to go, unless you already live there.

  5. I came here  

    to be surrounded by people talking about Hegel. I have a lot of time after college to have no campus community, and I'm in no rush for that.

  6. what borough  

    is home to the most lit majors and journalists?


  7. cyang  

    How come no one has disputed "hipsters" as a pro?

  8. real Brooklynite  

    I live on campus to get away from hipsters like you ruining the neighborhood I grew up in!

  9. what  

    does dodge have to do with anything? im confused

  10. >.  

    sure, economic forces are economic forces, but there's a reason that there are units of housing set aside for low-income earners. like..all of stuy town... students, after all, are in that low-income bracket. sometimes the invisible hand needs some color, or else new york could simply be a city of white millionaires. it pretty much is already, and columbia students could help mitigate the problem by living somewhere only they can live....i.e. dorms. When they've graduated and have a job that moves them out of the under 10,000 a year income range, live wherever. Just don't compete for the limited amount of affordable public nyc housing out of a need for status, when you can easily live in the dorms.

    • Sprinkles

      Uh...Stuyvestant Town was bought by a developer a couple years ago and is now on the open market...there is nothing low income about it, except the architectural style makes it look like the projects.

  11. huh  

    Stuy town is supposedly for the MIDDLE CLASS...not low income earners.

    • seriously  

      I have a friend of the family who lives in Stuyvestant Town, and believe me, she ain't low income. She's not even middle class. Most of the people living there now are on the rich end of the spectrum.
      Anyway, again your argument isn't that logical. You don't know what every Columbia student's financial needs are. Believe it or not, there are quite a few of us here who can't afford a membership to a yacht club and don't have a trust fund to rely on. If we can save ourselves a few grand a year by living off-campus, why shouldn't we? Columbia is expensive enough, anywhere we can cut corners helps.
      And again, when we take off-campus apartments, we're not displacing a poor family. We may be preventing said poor family from moving to a different apartment, or we may be coming in after a family who lost the apartment after they could no longer make payments, but stop making it sound like we're a bunch of entitled rich kids who are literally evicting poor, hard-working families from their homes, because that isn't the case. The more likely scenario is that we're preventing a wannabe hipster or two from relocating to NYC from the midwest, and I suspect the poor, low-income bracket folks would thank us for that.

  12. Stuy town?  

    I can think of a few people here who should find homes in Bed-Stuy. See how you like THEM apples.

    • jared Frank

      living in bed-stuy right now. its very nice here. it looks more or less like any other brownstone neighborhood. its just that the rent is cheaper because its majority black. its a very smart place for a recently married couple or college grad to move to. manhattan's stuy town is nice too. got a few friends there. it does look like middle income projects, it also looks like sesame street. go there on a summer day and it looks like le corbusier might have had a good idea for a split second before robert moses turned the rest of the manhattan waterfront into crap. oh yeah, and yes im a hipster or whatever it is we are now calling working artists.

  13. v.w.

    took an apartment in washington heights?

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