By Paul Glader
Intelligent, ambitious and sometimes goofy college kids are part of the continual creative renaissance in New York City whether us older people like it or not. They also help us learn to be better citizens and neighbors by living among people of all ages.
The Post reported that the 29th-floor roof terrace that boasts views of the State of Liberty is a common place of tension for the residents. “There were girls sunbathing topless up there,” said a tenant with a young child, according to the Post. “My wife was like, ‘WTF?!’ There are a lot of families [here].”
The story hit the urban zeitgeist, getting republished at Fox News, The Gothamist, and The Real Deal because it had all the right elements: town / gown tension, real estate squabbles and, best of all, boobs. Cue up the soundtracks to Hollywood films like American Pie, Neighbors and Old School.
“I didn’t know you all had so much fun over there,” said the subject line in an email to me from Buzzfeed editor Ben Smith. He suggested the image of raucous party girls from a Christian college might have been so appealing it’s “too good to check as they say in the tabs.”
My first response to the Post story is that King’s students are being unfairly targeted by a small group of angry residents at the building and by a piece of thinly sourced journalism at Post. Let’s take the allegation by the anonymous source that it must be college students (and an intimation it was King’s students) sunning themselves topless on the roof deck. I am told students from other colleges also live in the building. Did someone ask the sunbathing people if they are in college? If so, were they asked which college they attended? Did the students bear a tattoo of their respective college? Any student ID check?
The Post story didn’t include some other key elements of the back story: The small group of Azure residents have had an ongoing campaign to media and the Internet to complain about their college student neighbors. They sued the building for $5,000 and the lawsuit was thrown out by a judge, according to school and building sources. School and building sources say the students generally behave well, are good neighbors and are not a problem. In the past, King’s students have been falsely accused for random property damage in the building.
We could critique the quality of reporting and attribution throughout the piece ad infinitum. But I’m more interested in the implications of town and gown tensions in New York City.
College students are good for NYC
Cities, New York included, need continual replenishing of talent and creativity. So it’s a positive sign that more colleges are opening beachheads in NYC.
With New York serving as a hub for internships and jobs for young people in sectors such as media, finance, fashion, tech and publishing, we can’t blame young people from around the U.S. for wanting to study in New York City. And we can’t blame NYC colleges for growing tremendously in recent years or for opening outposts in New York City. It’s good for their students to land jobs. And it’s good for New York City to have new talent, particularly talent from different parts of the U.S.
Lessons in neighborliness
Everyone who moves to New York City joins an incredible, robust machine. Many of us arrive in our 20s and experience the energy of the city as we make our way in our professions. As we get older and have children and become managers, we should not forget that we were once young. Neither the world nor New York City centers on my own needs. And it never will.
College students need to learn to be polite, empathetic and considerate of neighbors and fellow New Yorkers. That is one of our goals at King’s as we educate our students. Perhaps the situation offers a lesson to all New Yorkers, including 20-somethings, 30-somethings, 40-somethings and 50-somethings. When you contract to rent shared space in a luxury building and a big city, you are choosing to live among other people. If you don’t like your neighbors, perhaps you should move to another, more affordable city or suburb and look for a single-family house.
It seems the boobs most exposed at the Azure in Brooklyn are those who are making petty complaints based on questionable information or ill-formed judgements about their neighbors. Those neighbors might make a great intern, a wonderful babysitter, a dog walker for you. That younger neighbor might also create a new company and be your boss one day.
If New York City will remain a competitive economic metropolis, its residents need to say YIMBY – Yes in my backyard – to colleges, tech startups and students. Maybe they even need to say YOMBY – yes on my rooftop balcony.