Archive for new york city

The Housing Hustle

If finding a place to live in NYC has you feeling like the focus of an Edvard Munch painting, do not panic because I’ve got you covered!

As a SIPA student who didn’t get university housing, renting in NYC was the only option for me. I currently live at 113th and Frederick Douglass Blvd., in a tiny two-bedroom apartment with a roommate. While it is small, the rent is affordable, the neighborhood is great, and I love it!

This post is designed to go over some tips and tricks to navigating the off-campus housing hunt in NYC. Finding an off-campus apartment in NYC truly brings new meaning to the phrase playing it fast and loose, so here are a couple of things to keep in mind when searching:

  1. Timing: In New York is it completely normal to obtain an apartment five days before you need to move in. This sounds stressful, but it is very common for apartments and sublets to be advertised a month or less in advance of the move-in date. If you’re on the hunt for an apartment for the fall I recommend checking out Facebook groups like New York Sublets & Apartments and Gypsy Housing, as well as Columbia’s Off-Campus Housing Assistance (OCHA) website (also check out their video here). You can also try hunting on Craigslist, but be wary of scams. Furthermore, you can do it the old-fashioned way by going through a real estate broker to find you a place. I myself used Bohemian Realty because they specialize in the upper west side, but note there are brokers fees associated with it. When you find an apartment you like, I recommend putting your application is as soon as possible because the market moves fast and you don’t want to lose it!
  2. Location: When looking for off-campus housing it’s important to know what neighborhoods you want to live int. Most SIPA students live in Morningside Heights, Harlem and the Upper West Side because they are within walking distance or just a short commute away (the 1, B and C subway lines are close to campus). However, there are plenty of students who live in other NYC neighborhoods like Brooklyn, the Lower East Side, and Queens. I encourage you to explore them if you’re interested because hey, this is NYC, and you can always commute to school.
  3. Roomies: Deciding on if you want to live with roommates is a big decision, however, most SIPA students live with roommates. Having a roommate is a great way to cut costs, and is really common in NYC. So, how do you find roommates then? If you’re searching for a roommate I recommend filing out a profile on the OCHA Find a Roommate. After creating a profile you will be able to search for potential roommates within Columbia, although you will need a UNI to access it. Additionally, most students find their roommates through the incoming class Facebook and Craigslist.
  4. Be Vigilant: Always beware of scams! I recommend reading this article about how to avoid scams. Never give out sensitive information over email unless you can verify the listing. This should go without saying, but always read and review the lease agreement, you want to make sure you are getting a fair deal, and that there is nothing wonky included somewhere in the text. Never pay in cash as most legitimate landlords and brokers will accept a certified check to hold your security deposit and first month’s rent.
  5. Rent: Rents vary here in NYC, and greatly depend on location and the number of roommates you are living with. I recommend a rent range of $900-$1600 a month depending on your financial flexibility. If you want to live close to Midtown the rents will be significantly higher, however, the farther uptown or into Brooklyn you go, the cheaper it tends to get. In New York most landlords require you to demonstrate that you have around 40x the rent before you sign. If you cannot meet these requirements, then the landlord will ask for a guarantor to co-sign the lease with you. If you are an international student I recommend taking a look at the International Students & Scholars Office website (ISSO), which will give you more information on the housing process.
  6. Other Expected Costs: If you use a broker, there will usually be a broker fee attached. This can get pretty pricey, so I recommend being conscious of the broker fees when searching for your apartment. Furthermore, many apartments have an application fee. This varies from place to place, but I’ve seen them anywhere from $25 to $200, so be prepared to cut a check on the spot when you are applying for an apartment.

Okay, I know that may have been information overload, but these are things I wish I had known before doing my first apartment hunt two years ago. While the search can be stressful, do not worry — I promise you will find something! I hope you find this helpful. (Incoming students, keep an eye out for information about SIPA Admission’s Housing Webinar taking place in early July 2019.)

Corporate Pride: The Monetizing of the Queer Experience

Walking down the streets of SoHo shopping district during the month of June, you’ll see several dozen storefronts plastered in rainbow colors. As part of the LGBTQ community, my immediate reaction is, for lack of a better word, pride. I feel represented, wanted, and supported.

As acceptance of queer identities (very) slowly but surely becomes commonplace in the overall American perspective, corporations undoubtedly move with their consumer base toward their political beliefs. This can be a natural phenomena under a capitalist system but upon deeper reflection, it feels exploitative. On the other end of the corporate pride month marketing rainbow is not unequivocal support for queer identities. It is capitalistic exploitation via the monetizing of queer culture and experience.

As a policy student and during this Pride month, I want to inform people how corporation’ support for queer identities can be thinly-veiled, and under the veil is corporate profit and greed.

First, we must explore what Pride is about. Pride commemorates the Stonewall Riots, a rebellion against police attempting to arrest queer people under the archaic sodomy laws in which men (and women) could be arrested if they did not abide by heterosexual, cisgendered norms. At its core, Pride is not about rainbow colors placed on a sock. Pride is about fighting back against a discriminatory system — a system in which corporations have long acted in support — that limits queer expression and rights. Pride is also time to reflect and celebrate the accomplishments the queer community has achieved despite a thriving system against us. Pride is about recentering acceptance as core to our community despite all the pain the queer community faces. Pride has never been about profits.

Corporations do not contribute to the core of the Pride commemoration when they only paint their storefronts, merchandise, and services in rainbow colors. The limited-time offerings of low-quality rainbow T-shirts at higher prices is not an in-depth reflection on the queer experience. It’s a move to use queer symbols as profit. Furthermore, when corporations gain these profits, they seldom put it back into the community that is likely buying their Pride-centric goods and services. Even the corporations that do such a thing, likely by partnering with nonprofits for their Pride campaigns, seldom donate more than 15% of their profits to their partner. This is why Pride and corporations is a largely parasitic relationship – corporations profit off queer culture and its burgeoning mainstream acceptance to then give no true benefit to the queer community.

I recognize that some may say this critique is too harsh. I can acknowledge that the awareness of queer identities and acceptance as social progress is something that corporations actively play a role in. This is simply not enough though. Queer acceptance in all spaces should be a basic human right, and praising corporations for providing an open expression of that acceptance one month out of the year is a diluted accomplishment.

When it comes to Pride campaigns, corporations can take the extra step to acknowledge queer struggle, pain, and history by donating ALL the profits gained from Pride month campaigns back into the queer community through scholarships, non-profit contributions, leftist political campaign donations, and other avenues of economic, social, and political empowerment for the LGBTQ community. Only then can the negative qualities of capitalism be somewhat mitigated to ultimately not exploit the queer experience for corporate profit.

Next time I’m in SoHo, I want to know the places I’m shopping at support my community more than just a rainbow clothing campaign. I want them to support our collective struggle to navigate a heteronormative, homophobic, and transphobic system. I want to know that the money I spend at their stores, on their Pride campaign, is used for my community. If they are going to use queer culture as a design, they must understand queer history and be actively fighting to end the queer struggle.

Pride Month at Columbia University, at SIPA, and in NYC

Pride Month is still going strong as we head into mid-June, and New York City has a strong connection to Pride. June was chosen for LGBTQ Pride Month to commemorate the Stonewall riots in June 1969, where black, brown and trans members of the LGBTQ community protested against a police raid at the Stonewall Inn. Today, the Stonewall Inn is a National Historic Landmark; back in 1969, it was the target of an anti-gay legal system and rampant homophobia.

Being a policy and international affairs graduate school in the center of New York, LGBTQ rights in law and policy is a course that Adjunct Professor Jessica Stern teaches here. She describes the course as “life-changing,” not just for LGBTQ students, but also for straight allies.

This is something that is a beautiful part of a large school of critical thinkers (and do-ers) in the diverse and dense city of New York: you have every opportunity to learn about the intersection of LGBTQ rights, race, policy, and law – as well as the history of the LGBTQ movement.

That being said, I am writing this post from my own perspective as a straight person and generally average New Yorker.* I used to live in Hell’s Kitchen, an extremely gay-friendly neighborhood. I worked closely with many Broadway workers, and every single one had lost close friends and loved ones during the AIDS crisis. I’ve gotten out of the subway countless times at the Christopher St. stop, right in Greenwich Village where the Stonewall Inn is located. Even if you’re not in New York City, being on the internet exposes us to countless words and phrases that were invented and coined by the gay community, with users enthusiastically commenting “yas queen!” without knowing where it came from.

Being at SIPA will cause you to think about your place in the world, and what your work in policy and international affairs will mean for others. What does it mean to have inclusive policy? What work needs to be done to shift rhetoric and policies in my country? What do I need to learn to be more effective in creating sustainable change?

Pride Month is a celebration: of the LGBTQ community, of dignity and equality – and honestly, the marches and parties in NYC are really fun.

This month, I’m also thinking about what it means to be a straight ally. I was once told by a friend that he didn’t want an ally in this movement; he wanted an accomplice. He wanted someone to conspire with him, to protest with him, to actively change the status quo with him.

Professor Stern says that it’s essential to incorporate LGBTQ studies into curriculum. Perhaps this is something you’re intimately familiar with, and perhaps this is something that you’ve never thought about because of your environment and upbringing.

At Columbia SIPA, you have the opportunity to learn things, that you didn’t even know you didn’t know. Tomorrow we’ll share a post from a SIPA student about his perspective on Pride Month in New York City as a policy student. Until then, some resources:

*I ran a first draft of this blog post past a SIPA student who pointed out that I was missing the intersection of race within the LGBTQ movement. I include this as an anecdote of the SIPA community being a supportive environment in the collective quest to do better!

Why SIPA? New York City is where the world comes together.

Decisions came out earlier this week, and we’re excited to welcome our admitted students to Columbia SIPA. Admitted students will have a multitude of global events and webinars to get more information about what it’s like to be at SIPA. (To our Fall 2019 applicants, regardless of your decision, check back with the blog next week for next steps to consider.)

Congratulations again to all of the admitted students. We leave you with this video featuring Kier Joy MIA ’19.

Happy weekend, everyone.

If you’re missing NYC during Winter Break: Favorite Places to Study outside of Columbia University

Although Lehman Library is the default, and perhaps easiest, place to study for SIPA students, there are plenty of other spaces to explore throughout the City. Sometimes it’s great to get out of Morningside Heights and make the trip to other neighborhoods. Below is a list of some of my favorite places to study off campus. 

  1. Rose Main Reading Room – The Rose Main Reading Room is located in The New York Public Library in midtown Manhattan, and the trip is well worth it! Generally speaking, the NYPL is a must see for anyone visiting New York for the first time. However, one of the best things about the library is the Rose Main Reading Room, after years of renovations, it has finally been reopened to the public. High ceilings and plenty of light make it the ideal place to study for midterms and finals (plus you feel like you’re at Hogwarts – an added bonus!). The library is divided into two sections: an area where tourists can walk around and take photos, and an area designated for quiet studying.
  1. Coffee Shops in the West Village – The West Village is easily accessible via the 1 train from Columbia University and in addition to it being a great area to explore, there are a lot of coffee shops where you can sit and do some work. A few personal favorites include Rebel Coffee on 8th Avenue and Stumptown Coffee Roasters on 8th Street.  Both of these locations have plenty of seating and are great to catch up on notes. However, they tend to get very crowded in the midafternoon on weekends, so getting there early is essential.
  1. The New York Society Library – The New York Society library is one of New York City’s oldest cultural landmarks, and though only members are able to check out books and have full access to the building, the first-floor reading room is open to the public. This is a great, quiet place to study, though it’s located on the east side, the cross town bus makes it easily accessible from Columbia University.
  1. Sheep Meadow – Sheep Meadow Is located on the west side of Central Park, from 66th to 69th Street, it is a great place to study during the warmer months. During the summer, residents flock to Sheep Meadow to sunbathe, have picnics, and enjoy the New York City skyline. The area is open from April to Mid-October and is a great place to catch up on reading and do some studying. Don’t forget to bring a blanket!

Feel free to share your own favorite locations below!

"The most global public policy school, where an international community of students and faculty address world challenges."

—Merit E. Janow, Dean, SIPA, Professor of Practice, International and Economic Law and International Affairs

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