This post is brought to you by your fellow 2019-2020 contributors – George-Ann, Stuart, Steven and Nabila.
Start spreadin’ the news
I’m leavin’ today
I want to be a part of it
New York, New York
– Frank Sinatra
New York City can be overwhelming if you’ve never visited, and it can be especially terrifying if you’re trying to figure out where to live. Putting down roots is s.c.a.r.y. especially when there are so many factors! Where’s a cool area to live in? What’s the commute like? Should I live near SIPA? Will I even leave my house during winter? Is it that cold? (No, it’s really not that cold…)
We’ve got you covered! Take a trip with your fellow Seeples and explore New York City’s diverse neighborhoods. We asked the current SIPA community to share where they live, what their commute is like, what they love about their neighbourhood and also some tips and tricks for you to navigate and prepare for life at SIPA @ New York!
Want to experience the commute for yourself? Visit SIPA, see it for yourself and weigh in on the debate! Sit in on a class and/or join us for an on-campus information session. More information on how to do both can be found here.
Note: Commute time refers to commute time to SIPA
Neighborhood: Co-op City, THE Bronx
Commute time & method: 45 min – 1 hr (no traffic one way), 1.5 hr (traffic one way), BX12SBS Bus then 1 Train
What you love about your neighborhood: It’s lowkey highkey pretty much a retirement community so it is quiet and a nice change from the constant speed of the city. It’s chill and there’s green space so it operates as a getaway from the city. There’s also Pelham Bay Park close by which is a really nice park to hang out in. I also like getting out of the SIPA/Columbia campus bubble and seeing other parts of the city. Plus, I’m back where I grew up, so it’s cool to see how my neighborhood has changed.
What’s not so great about it: The obscene distance from Midtown. Living here has taught me the value of express buses and trains. Anyone who lives at the ends of the city knows this plight. The distance really impacts your decision on whether to be social or not, especially if you are going to a party in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn (you will be on the train for at least 2 hours). You also become a time manager, leaving for and the events hours early to get back home before dusk. After a late night at E’s or Amity Hall, I usually take an Uber all the way back. 🙁
Pro tip: Download a lot of Netflix, print out study material, get a lot of reading/Netflix done. Watch some videos on Lynda and learn a new skill. People become very adept at making that travel time productive. Or you can also get a nice nap in. Catch up on that sleep that you’ll definitely lose at SIPA.
Neighborhood: Fort George, Washington Heights
Commute time & method: 15-20 minutes on the downtown 1 trains
What you love about your neighborhood: Oh Washington Heights how I love thee. I can not count the ways. It’s near enough to campus to be an easy commute while not being so close to campus that I feel that I can’t disengage. I also love how walkable it is – I can get groceries, a haircut, and my eyebrows threaded on my block. It is also sooo much cheaper than living in Morningside Heights.
What’s not so great about it: I live pretty near to the GWB bridge to New Jersey so sometimes, when there is bad traffic, I can hear the honking of impatient drivers but it’s nothing that a record player and some good speakers can’t fix.
Pro tip: Washington Heights has plentiful co-ops. Because people own the units, your landlord can be an individual and not a huge real estate company so rent can be a bit cheaper with this kind of arrangement. Also, podcasts are your friend. I can get through half of my favourite podcasts each way during my commute and it makes the time fly by!
Neighborhood: Morningside Heights, Manhattan
Commute time & method: 12 minutes, walking
What you love about your neighborhood: The sleepy neighbourhood feel in a busy city and it’s pretty convenient.
What’s not so great about it: You’re always in that SIPA bubble – ALWAYS.
Neighborhood: Midtown East, Manhattan
Commute time & method: 50 mins on the subway but I take a LOT of Vias because they are cheaper than Uber/Lyft and they’re only 30-40 minutes
What you love about your neighborhood: I hate commuting, but I’ve been in my neighborhood for over 6 years! I’m a creature of habit and I don’t want to move.
What’s not so great about it: My commute is LONG and inconvenient, with a ton of walking.
Pro tip: Sometimes it’s worth it to take a ride-share to cross town and take the subway from there. Otherwise, you will waste your whole life switching trains. Check the train schedules on the weekends – just because Google maps says your train is running doesn’t mean it is.
Neighborhood: Chelsea, Manhattan
Commute time & method: 25 minutes, 1 train
What you love about your neighborhood: It’s a great, walkable neighborhood, and I love that I can escape the Columbia bubble. I can walk to the High Line, Chelsea Market, the West Village, and other great parts of the city.
What’s not so great about it: My commute is just long enough that it never makes sense to go home in between classes.
Pro tip: Take into account the subway locations when you’re choosing an apartment! I have multiple subway lines within a block of my apartment and it makes a huge difference.
Neighborhood: Stuyvesant Town, Manhattan
Commute time & method: 45 minutes to an hour on the subway / 45 minutes on Citi Bike
What you love about your neighborhood: I love that Stuyvesant Town is like a mini campus within the city. It’s quiet, very green, and has lots of amenities. It’s close to other cool places like the east village. It also has a real neighborhood feel unlike some other places in NYC
What’s not so great about it: It takes 10 minutes to walk to the nearest subway
Pro tip: Check L train times on the weekend before going through the turnstile or you’ll be waiting for the train for 20-30 minutes
Neighborhood: Flushing, Queens
Commute time & method: Roundtrip 3 hours, on average. I was taking the Q44 SBS to the 7 Express (pray for no delay) to the 2/3 Express to the 1 every day last year!
What you love about your commute: I love taking the train (nearly) end-to-end because I was able to generally get a seat on every ride. I usually nap on the train in the mornings and read in the evenings. While the commute was long, I feel grounded in my community when I’m on the 7 train– it reminds me of why I decided to study Urban Policy at SIPA!
What’s not so great about it: The train delays can be very rough… especially when you have 9 AMs. (Side note, check outthis great New York Times visualization on unpredictabilities of subway commutes)
Pro tip: Print out your readings (you’re allotted $$ to print from CUIT and SIPAIT) and read them on your commute! In addition, I recommend bringing snacks for your commute if it can skew on the unpredictable side. Last but not least, renting a locker from SIPASA alleviated the burden of carrying a bunch of belongings around with me every day.
Neighborhood: South Jamaica, Queens
Commute time & method: Long Island Rail Road to Penn Station (34th street) and then the 1 train uptown. This is usually ~1h 15minutes at max. I’m lucky because the Locust Manor Station is across the street from my building. If not I would have to take a bus to the E train at Jamaica Station, and then the E train to 50th street to the 1 train. That takes 2 hours!
What you love about your neighborhood: Tons of Caribbean food options! South Jamaica is known as a rough area, but it is residential and is filled with tons of great people. It’s also a multi- generational neighborhood and there are a lot of mutual connections. Tons of parks as well to play basketball or jog around. I have been here my whole life so its home and will always feel good.
What’s not so great about it: It’s far from everything!!!! The distance means I am always on an adventure. I tend to leave early from events because I know my commute takes longer than all my friends or coworkers.
Pro tip: Bring something to keep your mind off of the commute. I usually read in the mornings and I am able to get through over 20 pages a day in the morning. Check the weather as much as possible. In NYC the weather could be sunny when you leave your home, and then when you get out of the train at 116th or 110th the weather can be something completely different. I have been in situations when the weather would be beautiful at 7:40am, but when I get off of the 1 train it is pouring.
Neighborhood: Ozone Park, Queens
Commute time & method: 1 hour 40 minutes door-to-door, A Train
What you love about your commute: It’s nice to take just one subway and not have any transfers or connections. I can get a solid hour of reading (or napping) undisturbed.
What’s not so great about it: During midterms/finals, I tend to stay in the Lehman library as late as possible, and the late-night commute gets even longer.
Pro tip: Always have water and snacks. Either for yourself for when there are long train delays, or to pass along to someone who might be hungry and need it more than you.
Neighborhood: Bay Ridge, Brooklyn
Commute time & method: 1 hour, 1/2/3/N Trains
What you love about your commute: Mmm…I love how the NYC subway is this weird social experiment that literally brings people from all walks of life to the same, underground level. I like not paying rent thanks to my favorite roommate: my pops. Also Bay Ridge doesn’t feel like NYC. It’s nice to stay grounded but I hate commuting forever.
What’s not so great about it: The strange stank and occasional rat.
Pro tips: Google Maps’ algorithm is faulty at best in determining optimal subway routes. Trust a true New Yorker’s suggestion.
We’ve heard rumors that a few Seeples live here but sadly, we couldn’t find them…
Note from Emily at Admissions: I actually know this borough a bit, since I grew up here many years ago and my family lives in Staten Island!
Commute time & method: 90 minutes each way, approximately. You can take the MTA express buses, which you can find real-time updates at bustime.mta.info. You can also take the subway all the way down to the Staten Island Ferry, which is free and runs every hour of every day, and then you’ll be in the northern tip of Staten Island.
What you love about your neighborhood: Most young hip commuters live in the northern St. George neighborhood, I think. The rent is much more affordable here, though the commute to midtown is a lot more manageable than Columbia.
What’s not so great about it: Nobody will ever visit you, unless you are literally family.
And last but not least, a special feature…
Neighborhood: Fort Lee, NJ
Commute time & method: 40 minutes – 1 hour; carpool, Columbia shuttle, NJ Transit bus or jitney to cross the George Washington Bridge → A train to 125th → 10 minute walk to campus
What you love about your neighborhood: Fort Lee is a small yet vibrant town filled with NYC commuters. Also, with the large Korean community here, you can expect many clean and modern cafes and restaurants (I might be a bit biased). If you take the carpool, you get to jump into a stranger’s air-conditioned car for free and MAYBE strike an interesting conversation (if you are into that sort of thing). Most of the time though, all you will say is “good morning” and “thank you”. Also, you get to enjoy about 20 minutes of quiet time, which can’t be taken for granted in NYC
What’s not so great about it: Living in NJ usually means you will need a car to get to places. In my opinion, Fort Lee is logistically too far from NYC as a sleep-only place. Predicting the Bridge’s traffic conditions is like predicting the weather, do not be surprised if you get stuck for over 30 minutes on the Bridge. It will happen when you least expect it
Pro tip #1: Carpool – This is the best option to cross the Bridge since it is free and takes you directly to the subway station. If you take NJ Transit or Jitney, you will have to walk some distance in the underground tunnel to the subway station. But, carpool requires you to live near a pickup area (near the Bridge), be dropped off there by other means, or know someone who commutes by car and is willing to give you a ride
Pro tip #2: Columbia Shuttle – There is only one stop in NJ but it is free and clean. You can take the 1 train from 168th which will take you directly to campus. Regardless of where you choose to live, SIPA is definitely accessible and you will not only survive the commute but you’ll also bond with your fellow Seeples facing the same plight. Relationships can (maybe?) blossom on the subway. Either way, it’s a win-win!
– George-Ann, Stuart, Steven and Nabila
Interested to experience SIPA for yourself? Register to join our on-campus information sessions. You can also sit in on a class starting mid-October for the fall semester and late February for the spring semester. Click here for more details.