NYU students already know that their school is the second largest landholder in New York City, but they rarely experience the reality of this fact. Only when I travel in the city outside of the school year do I realize how my university does permeate the city.
On assignment from the World Journalism Institute last Thursday I walked west to the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway by the Hudson River. Blocking my way from Herald Square was the Jacob Javitts center, which was lost under scaffolding. A digital sign flashed the familiar purple and steel grey colors of NYU Stern.
In the flurry of my journalism program, I had forgotten about the graduation. Graduates in purple gowns and younger siblings in grey NYU T-shirts hovered around the arena. A professor walked by, sweating under his thick red robe. I was in a new place, alone, and looking for the Hudson River. But knowing that within the building were some of my graduating friends gave me a fondness for my school. I saw the university then from the outside, but I knew what NYU was like inside after one year of school there. This feeling of being an outsider was different from that of freshman orientation, when I had not yet fallen into university life.
The next day, on another assignment from WJI, I saw a familiar figure walk ahead of me into the 72nd St. subway station. It was the dean of the scholar’s program. Saying hello, off-campus and out of session, may have startled him a bit as he admitted that he was flustered at misplacing his metrocard. Besides, I was just one of about a hundred students he was responsible for. But it was good to see a familiar face in a crowd of strangers.
Then Saturday evening, after submitting our first projects, the WJI class went up to the roof of The Vogue, a 24-story building between 37th St. and 6th Ave. There I inevitably saw two girls who, based on their purple NYU towel, seemed connected to the institution. But after eating their lettuce-filled sandwiches, they left before I dared to greet them. Perhaps our boisterous crowd of 15 students, cracking jokes about the failed rapture prediction and taking pictures, did not make the girls feel very comfortable. As she was leaving, one girl did say, “This [situation] is kind of freaking me out.”
Aside from meeting faculty and students, anyone can see advertisements for NYU Stern and SCPS in subway cars and buses, as well as on magazines and websites. The NYU Langone Medical Center looms up impressively on visits to the Bellevue Hospital, and various administrative buildings throughout the city. Finally, the thousands of graduates one meets in the community, workplace, and even other countries remind any NYU student that they have some bond with the world.
That’s the impact of a university.