Student Groups Search for Space on a Crowded Campus. A Recently Open Brownstone is the Answer for One.
Just through the front door of the brownstone at 542 West 114th Street, strings of lights run along the walls of the room on the right, casting a warm glow through the windows and onto the sidewalk below. A print of a Gustav Klimt painting is tacked up above the fireplace, and the room is full of a hodge-podge of furniture. In this front room and throughout the brownstone, residents host club meetings and Friendsgivings, cook alongside each other in the kitchen, and chat over homework. Here, Columbia’s transfer student community has found a home. The residents trade in corridor-style living for a living room shared with neighbors who can relate to their path at Columbia. On a campus where almost every inch of space is claimed before they arrive, here is a house that has been set aside for them—but only for this year....
It’s a rainy Thursday evening at the beginning of October, and a group of students is hard at work in Hamilton 516, solving climate change. At the front of the classroom, long sheets of bright yellow paper are spread out on the floor as students sketch out an outline of Manhattan with chalk. Soon, that outline will be filled in with black and blue paint, representing the areas of New York City that will be severely flooded if sea levels continue to rise. But 516 and its inhabitants—the Columbia/Barnard Sunrise Movement hub—are far from grim. As Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” (a protest song from the 1960s, the one that goes: “... stop, children, what’s that sound? Everybody look what’s going down ...”) threads through the speakers, what you get instead is a sense of hope....