Saturday, Aug 23, 2014 03:16 pm est

Weekend Roam: Morningside Heights

Posted on March 14, 2013 | by Helen Holmes

Helen Holmes for WSN


When I was around six or seven, my mom and dad decided to get me and my sister a puppy. He was, and still is, an adorable ball of white fur that catapults around the house from the moment you set him down. He would careen into the trash bins and knock over all of the recycling. My sister and I loved him so much our mom had to schedule designated holding times so we wouldn’t squabble. A few weeks into our puppy bliss, my mom explained that the little ball of fluff had been neutered. When she told us what that meant, we shuddered and squealed and eventually noticed that Buzz was much calmer from then on. While still lively, much of the unpredictable puppy spunk was now lost, which brings me to the difference between the East Village and Morningside Heights.

Plunked down in the Starbucks on Broadway, the steady stream of caffeine-starved undergraduates are not wholly unlike the ravenous swarm of Washington Square Park students eager for their daily boost. The street outside was peppered with Sunday afternoon wanderers, eager to peruse the selection of a no doubt painfully organic combination of mustard shoots, maple syrup and warm challah bread. Smiles were available, too, in huge supply at the very temporary-looking street market set up flush against the gates of the Columbia University campus. I sat and observed for a while, nursing my no-whip caramel apple spice, before I chose my victim and pounced. Everyone was in midterm mode and looked just about ready to attack anyone who dared to speak to them. The friendliest person I asked for an interview still inquired ardently if it’d take long because he had a lot of work to do.

“I think it’s a very, very cultural experience because it’s not very upscale New York. And that’s what I love about New York — it’s such a mix of different cultures and different social groups,” said Columbia freshman Christopher Lin. “It’s also really fun to be here because there are so many different options for food and entertainment … it’s a cultural amalgamation.”

After subtly Googling what “amalgamation” meant after Christopher left, I realized that this statement had some truth to it. But Morningside Heights goes to great pains to make sure that its residents and students are aware of both their academic and residential otherness from the underbelly of Upper Manhattan. This attitude is almost certainly unconscious for the most part, but when my friends and I stepped off the subway in Harlem, we realized that we’d need to walk several blocks and scale the side of a huge hill before even getting close to campus. Thus, the west cliff of Morningside Heights allowed us to look across the gorgeous Harlem vista from a not-so-subtle elevated viewpoint.

“[Morningside Heights] is essentially a buffer zone between the Upper West Side and Harlem,” said Columbia freshman Hari Nef.

This makes for a campus that is, no question, positively pristine. The two libraries opposite one another on the quad are stately and proud, the grass is thoughtfully fenced off so as to not be spoiled by the pounding feet of thousands of undergrads, and an impressive dance practice is visible through the glass walls of an amazing theater complex. In stocking feet and leggings, a man and a woman are dancing a vivid tango. A few people pause to watch, but most don’t.

Compared to the verve and frenetic energy of the Lower East Side, Morningside Heights was a calming departure from the mess and clamor that defines the rest of the city.

Yet something I overheard in the Broadway Starbucks reminded me of the universality of what we’re all facing as students in the loneliest and most interesting city in the world. As two girls chatted about boys while in line for their chai teas, one of them said, “I don’t want a boyfriend. I just want a friend. That’s all.”

Amen, girl. Amen.

Helen Holmes is deputy features editor. Email her at


  • Yesterdays Wine

    If you think Morningside is a buffer zone, it means you don’t understand, or have never spent much time in, west Harlem. So young, so naive.

    • anon

      wow you are so enlightened and cultural and diverse. please purge my racism and privilege.

  • CU student

    Why wouldn’t you just take the 1 to 116th? It’s even labeled Columbia University because it stops off right in front of campus…. And that “theater complex” is actually the student center

  • Chelly

    Why are you walking to CU from Harlem? Take the 1 to 116th, idiot.

    You are obviously either a freshman yourself or a NYC noob interviewing CU noobs/freshman for the school newspaper.

    De plus, go to Gallatin, casually talk to any random person and make a vocabulary list for yourself to use in your next article about a part of the city that everyone has been to before.

profile portrait
Felipe De La Hoz

Multimedia Editor | Felipe De La Hoz is a Colombian national studying journalism at the College of Arts and Sciences. Having been born in Colombia and raised in the United States, Mexico and Brazil, Felipe is a trilingual travel aficionado and enjoys working in varied and difficult environments. Apart from his photography, Felipe enjoys investigative reporting and interviews, interviewing the likes of Colombian ex-M-19 guerrilla fighters and controversial politician Jimmy McMillan. He has covered everything from governmental conferences to full-blown riots, as well as portraiture shoots and dining photography. Having worked under Brazilian photojournalists for Reuters and AFP, Felipe hopes to one day work on demanding journalistic projects and contribute to the global news cycle.

Ann Schmidt

News Editor | Ann is a liberal studies sophomore who lived in Florence during her freshman year. She plans on double-majoring in journalism and political science and is always busy. She is constantly making lists and she loves to laugh.


Daniel Yeom

Daniel started at the Features desk of WSN last Spring, writing restaurant reviews whilst indulging on free food and consequently getting fat. Last Fall, he was the dining editor, and he this semester he is senior editor. Daniel is in Gallatin (living the dream) studying Food & Travel Narratives, incorporating aspects of Food Studies, Journalism, and Media, Culture, and Communication. He loves food more than life itself.

Hannah Luu

Deputy Multimedia Editor | Hannah Luu is a ridiculously great Deputy Multimedia Editor. She is a sophomore from Northern California. If you think Northern California means San Francisco you might need to closely examine a map. She is passionate about NPR and being half Asian.

  • How to join:

    The Washington Square News holds open weekly budget meetings at its office located at 838 Broadway every Sunday. All are welcome to attend, no matter your background in journalism, writing, or reporting. Specific times for meetings by desk are listed below. If you wish to talk to an editor before you attend, feel free to check out the Staff page.

    5 P.M. 6 P.M. 6 P.M. 6:30 P.M. 6:30 P.M. 7 P.M.

    Applying for an editor position: Applications for editor positions during the fall or spring semesters are available twice each academic year and can be found here when posted. Applications for the Fall 2012 semester are closed, but check back for Spring 2013. Those who wish to apply are urged to publish pieces in the newspaper and contact current editors for shadowing.

    History of the Washington Square News:

    The Washington Square News is the official daily student newspaper of New York University and serves the NYU, Greenwich Village, and East Village communities. Founded as an independent newspaper in 1973, the WSN allows its undergraduate writers and photographers to cover campus and city news and continues to grow its strong body of award-winning journalists and photographers.

  • The WSN has a circulation of about 60,000 and can be found in over a hundred purple bins distributed throughout campus. It is published Monday through Thursday during the fall and spring semesters and online on Friday, with additional special issues published in the summer. The newspaper recently revamped its website during the Fall 2012 semester.

    Like few campus newspapers in the country, the paper is editorially and financially independent from the university and is solely responsible for selling advertisements to fund its production. The WSN, including its senior staff, is run solely by current undergraduate students and the business-division is largely student-operated as well.

    A Board of Directors comprised of alumni, NYU professors and working news media professionals serves as advisors to the paper. Board members have no control in the WSN's editorial policy or newsroom operations. Alumni of the newspaper are established and leading journalists in such news organizations as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, NBC news, ABC news, Fox News, and USA Today.