Opinion: EHS Is Not The Only Option

EHS is not the only housing option for students, Shea Stevenson writes./Alamy Stock Photo

By Shea Stevenson 

 

   Googling “Brooklyn College housing,” the first thing that comes up is the Latin/Greek Institute housing page on the BC website. That page is weird on its own, but if you turn your eyes one result further down, you find the “Living in Brooklyn” section of the “Campus Life” part of our shared website, our banner, our heraldry facing the world. 

   Here’s a brief walk through this web page:

   We start by speaking on the bountiful history of Brooklyn and its diversity; a common talking point of the college and one I find endearing. So far so good. Next, it rapid-fire lists a bunch of places one might like to visit in Brooklyn like the Brooklyn Museum, Prospect Park, the Navy Yard, and other spots. It talks some more about the cultural diversity, and ends it with calling Brooklyn a “mass transit hub, so you’ll be able to enjoy all the borough has to offer.” Brooklyn College is the end of the 2 and 5 train lines. It’s never more clear that Brooklyn mass transit is a secondary consideration to Manhattan than when, to get to northern Brooklyn (or, God help you, Queens) from southern Brooklyn, you first need to go to Manhattan. But still, these are not bad points on their part. Okay, Brooklyn College, what next?

   “Finding an apartment in New York can be extremely challenging. Brooklyn College provides the following information as a resource for students seeking housing options in New York,” the website reads. There is a link embedded in the “Finding an apartment” line to a New York Times article about how hard it is to find places to live in the city.

   It lists one option: EHS, a student and intern housing system, complete with a legal disclaimer that EHS is an unaffiliated private company.

   This is the page that I came upon as an incoming freshman. I got a double room at St. George’s Tower, EHS, for my freshman semester. It’s not that the building is terrible, that things are falling apart, or that it’s not worth the price. I love that it’s in Brooklyn Heights, which is otherwise far and away out of my price range, and I love that it’s in the same building as a subway stop on the red line. But good Lord, is it a strange option, and not the only one.

   EHS represents the quintessential New York paradox of luxury not because of what it is, but where it is. At EHS, you pay more than you could pay for a studio apartment with a roommate (assuming you split the cost), but you have a roommate anyways. Both of you are paying full price. The room is barely 10 feet across, and you can’t bring your own furniture. 

   There is one large kitchen for everyone to use, no dishwasher. These are not crazy living conditions if you didn’t grow up well off, but they are totally average living conditions for an apartment in the city. A studio has its own kitchen, some with dishwashers. You can have a chair with wheels. So what are you paying for at EHS?

   The convenience of purchase. You can go to the EHS website, fill out a form, give them your credit card, and you’re done. It’s a one-time massive payment, so there is no “rent” in the usual sense. You don’t have to deal with brokers, landlords, or anything. On the one hand, that rules. But on the other hand, it’s rather nefarious. New students who are intimidated by the rhetoric surrounding apartment-hunting are snared into a vastly more expensive alternative because of its comparative simplicity. Though not a particularly bad one, EHS is a strange option with lots of necessary context to consider.

   Often I meet people who stayed at EHS for a semester, realized it’s ridiculous, and then left. That’s its target demographic. People who don’t know their options. It’s not just weird that Brooklyn College only lists EHS in its section on options for housing, it’s irresponsible and lazy. Pay someone to write up some advice for looking for roommates and apartments in Brooklyn. Which neighborhoods are close, what they’re like, things like that. You are Brooklyn College! It is so hard to live in the city, so why are we leaving prospective students out in the rain? Why not give some well-considered help?

   Enrollment is down recently, and you know what might convince more people to move here and enroll? Knowing how to move here! That would be a resource that wouldn’t need major updating year by year, and if it did, it would pay for itself with the students who are now able to enroll, having found cheaper housing. I know we’re a CUNY but come on, guys. Get it together.

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