Gramercy Ain’t No Thang
Originally published in the Washington Square News, Sep. 10, 2008:
Gramercy Green is a waste of luxury building, NYU money
by Damon Beres
Everybody’s talking about Gramercy Green. Whispers about our floor-to-ceiling windows, granite counters, touch-screen microwaves (oh, the convenience!) and brand new dishwashers pulse through dining halls with ripe immediacy, as gaggles of NYU kids gossip about the new palace on Third Avenue as if it were, you know, actually a big deal.
It isn’t, though. Really.
At least, not to those of us privileged enough to wake up each morning with two feet upon its slick wooden floors, those of us that live in luxury but still leave Kraft-encrusted kitchen supplies piled in the sink and blackened steaks festering in our freezers, milk splotches curdling three shelves up. Or better yet, piles of moist towels mildewing in a corner, a pungent aroma garnished delicately with the complimentary scent of a bowl of dried pasta marinara from three days ago.
That’s right, I live in Gramercy Green, and I’m still a filthy college student. Truthfully, I kind of miss my small pad at Hayden Hall, with the spongy, blue carpet that could drink a forty of Olde English and look no worse for the wear. But maybe I’m just picky.
Gramercy represents NYU’s latest exercise in gratuitous land-grabbing, a $275 million splurge to transfer a luxury apartment building from the people of Manhattan to the far needier students of this poverty-ridden institution. Until now, our only options for plush living were Water Street, 13th Street and Greenwich Hotel. How we lasted this long without another facility to hurl fresh produce out of (yes, this is actually why Gramercy dwellers can’t access our courtyard right now) is beyond me.
Some to-do has been made about NYU taking over New York City with its voracious expansionism. Truthfully, it’s something of a moot point in regards to Gramercy. Local businesses like Pick a Bagel and our friendly neighborhood Duane Reade, built right into the building, probably appreciate the consistent patronage of 900 college students. Chances are the wealthy old folk that would’ve otherwise lived in this building might have been less apt to crave overpriced bread products slathered in watery cream cheese at 11 p.m. There is nothing inherently worse about Gramercy as a residence hall as opposed to an upscale apartment building, unless the citizens of New York really can’t handle one more purple flag hanging off of Third Avenue.
Perhaps NYU could’ve done something better with its hundreds of millions of dollars, something other than establishing a beautiful castle for college kids to dump in. The ever-present but seemingly ignored situation regarding NYU’s notoriously dismal financial aid springs directly to mind, but may be short-sighted. NYU needed to expand its housing options, and who’s to say how many people would have been significantly impacted by the reallocation of the Gramercy money?
The point, then, is that young students like us don’t need this quality of living or, at the very least, we don’t need it provided by our college. Gramercy is a gorgeous building, but if we’re already getting talks about students smoking in the stairways and throwing frozen mochi out of their windows, its future seems uncertain. With its considerable size, premium features, numerous lounge spaces, courtyard and proposed computer lab, Gramercy Green is going to be costly to maintain. It doesn’t even have acceptable cell phone service yet, a problem that’s being worked on presently, and its fire alarms go off constantly. The amount of resources Gramercy devours must be staggering. (Let’s not even consider the strain it puts on the city each time the fire department needs to dispatch a unit whenever someone burns their instant Ramen.)
The money is spent already, but maybe there’s a lesson here for the administration’s future. NYU is a premiere university, but not because of the lavish lifestyles its students can buy into, nor because of all the money being spent on expanding our territory elsewhere. Funds should be appropriated to avoid incidents like Saturday’s Tisch ceiling collapse or to better our existing facilities; Meyer Hall’s lecture room is pretty ghetto fabulous, and my Chicago public high school had nicer science labs.
NYU’s thinking big, that much is certain. But the veneer can only be polished so much before the foundation rots.
Damon Beres is deputy opinion editor. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.