Inside Columbia’s Human-Scale Trash Can

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The other day, late on the way to diving class, Bwog decided to take a shortcut underneath campus. Having never before been in The Grove—what WikiCU asserts once was a park, and what is now most definitely a big garbage bin—Bwog had to share what it unearthed.

“The Grove,” the weird courtyard/tunnel/access road which runs from 118th and Amsterdam to Dodge Fitness Center, feels like somewhere you’re not supposed to be. However, that’s not the case; it’s a completely legitimate, if somewhat eerie, route to several points on campus.

According to WikiCU, the Grove was once a park on the north end of campus, until the construction of Mudd and Uris and all those buildings encroached on it. Now it’s a little postage stamp of concrete packed with concrete between Schermerhorn, Uris, and Mudd, as well as a long tunnel that runs from that postage stamp to the Dodge Fitness Center.

It’s a lonely place, even if you’re with somebody else. The huge compactors, steady thrum of machinery, and claustrophobic environment make one feel small, and not very talkative. Dumpsters aside, it is a dirty place. There is just a layer of road-filth or soot on the pavement and on walls. Shafts of sunlight poke into the tunnel at odd intervals, but for the most part it is pretty dark. Seems like a place first-years would go to smoke weed.

Cages filled with recyclables and dusty construction materials line the tunnel. There’s also the computer graveyard, a few cardboard boxes filled with VCRs, old TVs and PCs, keyboards, and gutted laptops.

And it smells, primarily of two things. First, diesel exhaust: one sign orders drivers to TURN ENGINES OFF, rather than idle. Second, smoke from Facilities personnel’s cigarette breaks, against which there is no injunction.

Besides Facilities workers, who are either taking a smoke break or working, there are athletes, on their way to and from the gym, taking shortcuts from the basement of Schermerhorn. There also some scientists and engineers near the 118th entrance, popping in and out of Mudd.

So I guess the Grove contains the metaphorical vital organs of Columbia. Utilities and shipments are stored and processed; trash gets taken out. Trashed computers get stripped of their useful components and left to rot. People travel. It’s a dirty underside to Columbia, and one worth seeing, since its dirty existence provides for the lush lawns and shining Steps.

Photos by Kellie Solowski

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  1. Anonymous  

    It smells like hamsters right when you walk underneath the overhang as you're going out

  2. GROVEr Cleveland (HA!)  

    I remember my first time on campus

  3. Anonymous  

    Why were there fire trucks there this morning?

  4. Anonymous  

    "stripped of useful components" == melted down for gold (not kidding)

  5. GS '14

    Even though it smells like ass down there "The Grove" is one of my favorite shortcuts to get to Dodge and campus in general.

  6. That Guy  

    This post is garbage.

  7. engineer

    I think this proves there are no SEAS kids in bwog... I take the grove as a shortcut to my Mudd classes whenever necessary.

  8. Courage the Cowardly Dog


  9. ...  

    it is not "the grove." it is the anus of columbia.

  10. Marx  

    Just like observing the inner bowels of the capitalist mode of production, if you will... Taking a view of the root of the matter, the very act of the reproduction of capital!

  11. Anonymous

    Columbia is building a new computer science building addition down there. Construction has just started.

  12. True story

    One time, when the guard wasn't looking, I wandered into this area. It turns out that even relatively late at night, you can get into several buildings from down there, so I ended up wandering into some weird area roughly under the Uris cafe. From there, I hopped into what appeared to be a rarely used elevator, with lots of -- you guessed it -- trash in front of it.

    Always the adventurous explorer, I hopped into the elevator and ended up in a long hallway. Suddenly, I heard footsteps and a very surprised and stern guard looked right at me. His eyes glided down to my waist, where I was holding a copy of the bible (before my little jaunt, I had been reading it for lit hum over in the Starr East Asian Library, but got bored, which led me on my little journey).

    "Ooooh!" his face lit up, "I see you are reading the good book! Are you lost, do you need any help"

    "I think I took a wrong turn somewhere," I offered.

    "Well, just head down that way." He gestures down the hallway. Then he told me to read some weird obscure passage that had to do with the end of days and left me alone.

    So anyways, moral of the story: if you're doing some urban exploration, and know that you might run into religious guards, just carry a bible.

  13. Anonymous

    All of Columbia's buildings are connected by underground tunnels.

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