Morningside Heights Without Columbia Students

On Friday, Columbia University President Lee Bollinger posted a statement with the update that all undergraduate courses for the upcoming fall semester will be held online. This was a change from the earlier plan to have freshman move into the residence halls for in-person classes. He notes that while NYC has come a long way, and they thought they could house 60% of resident hall occupants, they do not believe it is safe to do so at this point.

“Though six weeks ago we thought that we could safely house 60 percent of Columbia College and Engineering undergraduates in our residence halls, today we have concluded that we must drastically scale back the number of students we can accommodate in residence on campus, thereby limiting residential-style living only to Columbia College and SEAS undergraduates who must be present on campus due to personal or academic circumstances.”

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The Morningside Heights business community looks forward to the influx of students returning to campus each year as it boosts their local economy. This was especially so this year. The area surrounding the campus has many bars and student friendly establishments which university members have always patronized.

The website BISNOW interviewed local business owners who must adjust to this recent change of plans. The Hungarian Pastry Shop, located at 1030 Amsterdam Ave, said that the news “shook the morale of the business community,” which was relying on the students to help make up for the losses incurred from COVID-19.

Hungarian Pastry Shop

Like many other parts of the city, the community fears that some businesses will shut down forever, or run out of runway to make it until things pick back up. In areas like Morningside Heights, stores depend on students coming back, which is another blow to an already difficult situation.

Even students who will be doing online classes from “home” will not likely be staying in the Morningside area, which is concerning for real estate owners in the area. Because classes are online, students may opt to live elsewhere in the city.

Some shop owners are more optimistic than others. In BISNOW’s interview, the pastry shop owner said “in a family-owned business, the old-timers always say, ‘Whatever you go through, just ask me because we’ve been through it, we’ve been through it all’.”

But even he admitted that this pandemic is nothing like what he’s seen in the past, and not everyone is so optimistic things will turn around so quickly. In his statement, President Bollinger wrote that “even if one is, as I am inclined to be, optimistic about getting all this behind us, we must assume we will be living with a significant degree of uncertainty for quite some time.”

One can rest assured that an institution like Columbia will be back in action eventually with students eager to visit and patronize the local community. In the meantime, it would be great to remember to shop local to help businesses make it to the other side until all students are able to return.

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