Bancroft Hall, a Teachers College residence hall that houses 108 students and their families, will close in July for two years of major renovations—and residents say they are having trouble finding new housing.
The $30 million project will replace all heating, plumbing, and electrical systems, and install new kitchens and bathrooms in every apartment. All current residents must move out by the start of construction and can either relocate to other Teachers College dormitories or find off-campus housing.
But available on-campus options do not suit families of four or more, said Catherine Box, an Ed.D. candidate who lives in Bancroft, on 121st Street between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue, with her husband Jean-Baptiste and their children, Océane, 8, and Samuel, 3.
“Those of us with two children or more are finding that the process will be disproportionately challenging,” Catherine Box said. “Rents for a two-bedroom apartment are going to require an income of 40 times your monthly rent, so you’re looking at having to make $80 to $90 thousand a year, and as a full-time student, I don’t come close to that.”
Jim Mitchell, TC’s vice president of campus and auxiliary services, said that the administration had not anticipated students’ difficulties finding off-campus housing.
“The requirement of landlords for such a large guarantor amount, and also, in some cases, for up to a year’s rent payment in advance,” was surprising, he said.
The Box family lives in a two-story, three-bedroom apartment in Bancroft. The upstairs is converted into a shared bedroom for the two children, with a bunk bed and floor covered with toys. They moved to their current apartment three years ago, and have lived for a total of seven years in the dorm.
Catherine expects to pay at least an extra $1,000 per month on rent for off-campus housing. But the biggest difficulty, she said, is the requirement for a guarantor with an even higher salary, which she can’t meet.
“So now the option is for me to stop taking care of Catherine and the kids ... and find a job, which would not be enough anyway to pay that much,” Jean-Baptiste Box, who currently stays at home, said. “It would be enough to pay the rent,” he said, but not enough to get a lease.
Teachers College may be able to sign leases as guarantor to placate the landlords.
“That’s pretty feasible for us to do,” Mitchell said. “I don’t see a reason why they wouldn’t accept that.”
Another option, Mitchell said, is for Teachers College to acquire apartment buildings in the area and sublet spaces to displaced families. Those apartments would be offered in addition to the other four TC dorms, Grant, Sarasota, Whittier, and 517 W. 121st St.
Box said that she is also afraid her children, who attend The Speyer Legacy School on the Upper West Side and Corpus Christi in Morningside Heights, will have to switch schools and forfeit deposits due to the move.
“If we live outside of Manhattan, we can’t have the school bus, so we would have to drop her off, which is a main concern,” Jean-Baptiste said.
Ruaridh MacLeod, a fifth-year Ph.D. candidate, moved out Tuesday from Bancroft Hall with his girlfriend Anna Roberts, TC ’11. MacLeod lived as a Resident Adviser in Bancroft since summer of last year.
“Basically, no one’s happy,” MacLeod said, referring to the renovations. “They haven’t organized it very well at all.”
MacLeod and Roberts relocated off-campus to New Jersey, from where MacLeod will make a one-hour commute once a week to campus. MacLeod said he thought the renovations were necessary, but expressed concern about how they were announced.
“Even for those of us who worked there, we got next to no information,” he said. “They kept changing the date for when it was going to be closed down, and they haven’t made any effort to help any residents find anything.”
Teachers College administrators said they’re trying to help students find appropriate housing.
“We’re being as flexible as we possibly can to make certain everyone is accommodated,” Dewayne White, director of campus services, said. “We’ve encouraged people to start looking now, before August or September, when a lot of other college students are trying to find housing.”
Wherever they end up next, the Boxes say they’ll have fond memories of their time in Bancroft. Océane, who has lived there most of her life, said she enjoyed trick-or-treating floor-to-floor for Halloween and attending parties in the basement playroom with her friends.
“In the hallways, sometimes the kids will run around with other kids, and the parents come out with a glass of wine and talk to each other,” Catherine said. “That part I’ll miss the most.”