Inside Columbia’s Human-Scale Trash Can
Written by Bwog Staff
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