Posted by: Angela Dunne | 14th Jul, 2015

Best Study Spots Around the GC

As a student of the Graduate Center, you will have to figure out how to use the city as your campus. Discovering a great study spot is the most challenging in this regard. In this post, I will give you a rundown of some of the best study spot options broken down into the following four categories: Within the GC, outdoor public spaces, indoor public spaces, and study-friendly cafes.
Within the GC:
Sometimes when you’re in the GC it’s hard to leave, or you’re pressed for time, or the sky is precipitating. In that case, there are some options for studying inside the building. We have the lovely Mina Rees Library, with several types of accommodations for your studying needs. There are computer stations, cubicles, tables and comfy chairs. You are guaranteed to find a comfortable and quiet space to study in the library. Also, your department’s lounge is there for your use, however, most of them are used for socializing with fellow grad students and are most definitely procrastination traps. If you don’t mind some noise, the Dining Commons on the 8th floor is available to use. There is ample seating space, and unlike most places in the GC, it has natural sunlight, and a lot of it. If you are looking for somewhere more quiet and maybe want to meet with a study buddy, there is also the seating area in the Foundation Lounge (room 1102) that can be accessed through 365 Express right off the lobby on the first floor.
Outdoor Public Spaces:
There are small windows of time during the academic year when the weather makes it comfortable enough to study outside. However, if the weather is good, you should take the opportunity to experience it. The closest outdoor space is Bryant Park on 41st street behind the New York Public Library. It is a beautiful space with a lot of seating. The second closest is Madison Square Park on 26th Street, right off Fifth Avenue.
Indoor Public Spaces:
You are welcome to study inside any of the branches of the New York Public Library. I encourage you to go and explore the main branch and discover your favorite spot within that beautiful NYC landmark. As for other indoor public spaces, the NYC Gov. actually created a zoning initiative program in 1961 that allotted additional building area to private developers in exchange for indoor public spaces. Luckily for us, there are a few of them around midtown. The most beautiful of these is maintained by The Ford Foundation and is located at 320 E 43rd St, although, unlike some of the others, this one doesn’t have many seating options.
Here is a link for more information:
Study-Friendly Cafés:
As for where to find the best coffee, I suggest you take a look at Gerry Martini’s post about caffeine. It is important to note that many of the places with the best coffee have very little space and would be better for grabbing your caffeine and heading to one of the indoor/outdoor public spaces to do your studying. Therefore my recommendations are more focused on whether or not a café is suitable as a study spot.
Here is a list of study-friendly cafés, roughly in the order of distance from the GC:
Pret a Manger– 389 Fifth Ave (on 36th street)
Panera Bread– 330 Fifth Ave (b/t 32nd and 33rd)
Gregory’s Coffee– 48 E 33rd St (b/t Park and Madison)
Caffebene– 39W 32nd St (off Fifth Ave)
Grace Street – 17 W 32nd St (b/t Fifth & Broadway)
Come Buy (Bubble Tea) – 251 Fifth Ave (b/t 28 &29th)
Argo Tea– 949 Broadway (at 23rd St)

Please comment below if you discover more study spot options around the GC!

Posted by: Gerry Martini | 10th Jul, 2015

Loving the Libraries!

As a grad student, you will not only conduct research, but you will frantically search for your sources, whether those sources are books on 19th century Talmudic commentaries, articles on Puerto Rican feminist punk music, or photographs of Minoan wall paintings. The good news is that you can find everything in New York. The bad news is that you won’t necessarily find it as quickly as you want.

If you’ve already visited the Graduate Center, you probably noticed that Mina Rees Library seems pretty small for a university library. It is. However, through the Mina Rees Library you have access to all of the materials at all CUNY libraries and a large number of libraries across the United States. Through CLICS, you can request books from all other CUNY libraries and have them delivered to you at the GC. And if that isn’t enough, you can request articles, chapters, and books from other university libraries through the Interlibrary Loan program.

Another important research tool is the New York Public Library. The NYPL includes the Stephan A. Schwarzman research center (conveniently only eight blocks from the GC), the Science, Industry and Business Library (conveniently right behind the GC), and all of the local branches (convenience levels vary). To access the NYPL, you’ll need an NYPL card. If you live in New York, all you’ll need to do is present proof of residency (bank statement, photo identification, etc.). If you have the misfortune to live outside of New York, you’ll still be able to get a card through your affiliation with CUNY.

There are also lots of private libraries in New York, which thankfully have their collections linked to WorldCat. These include museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Morgan Library and Museum, as well as organizations such as the American Numismatic Society. Access varies, but your search might be well rewarded if you look off the beaten track.

Posted by: Christina Katopodis | 1st Jul, 2015

Ten Things to See Your First Week Exploring the City

When you come to visit New York as a tourist, it’s important to see the big historical sites like the Statue of Liberty and the September 11 Memorial, or you might want to eat at famous restaurants like Ess-a-Bagel and Carnegie Deli. When you come to live in New York, however, you’re probably looking for local favorites that are less crowded than Times Square. Here’s a list of ten things to do that you might consider your first week getting acquainted with the city.

  1. Walk around the Reservoir in Central Park and visit the Metropolitan Museum then walk uptown on 5th Ave to see the Museum of the City of New York. You might stop for lunch at Earl’s Beer and Cheese.
  2. Walk through Fort Tryon Park and visit the Cloisters.
  3. After an orientation event at the Graduate Center, walk downtown on 5th Avenue to get a burger or a milkshake at Shake Shack in Madison Square Park, then walk across the street to the Eataly market. If you’re in the mood for dumplings, walk down 5th Ave from the Graduate Center to 32nd Street and take a right into Korea Town to go to Mandoo Bar. If you like craft beers go to Rattle N Hum on 33rd Street between 5th Ave and Madison for delicious sliders and 30+ taps. If you like wine, go to The Archive. If you’re vegan, try Franchia. It’s amazing.
  4. Cross the Brooklyn Bridge and get dumplings in Chinatown on the Manhattan side or a slice at Grimaldi’s on the Brooklyn side, then hop on the subway to get to Prospect Park and walk around Park Slope.
  5. Visit Chelsea, go to the Chelsea Market and walk along the High Line. If you’re interested in Chelsea’s night life try the Gotham Comedy Club and Trailer Park Lounge.
  6. Go to the New York Public Library on 5th Avenue, get your library card and have a look around. Maybe eat lunch on the grass in Bryant Park.
  7. Get off at the Spring Street or Astor Place stop on the 6 train, walk above ground and take in the East Village and Lower Manhattan. Go to S’Mac for macaroni and cheese, Cafetasia for Thai food, 10 Degrees for wine and cheese, McSorley’s for beer, or Swift for your local pub fare with a literary twist. Then see a show at the Public Theatre.
  8. Go to Union Square and see people playing chess, playing music, or a dance group performance. Familiarize yourself with Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, and hop into a bar or restaurant you’ve never been to before.
  9. Walk around Hell’s Kitchen and pop into the Amish Market or grab some Ethiopian food at 47th Street and 10th Ave or a delicious brunch at 44 ½.
  10. Walk uptown from the Graduate Center to take in Grand Central station on 42nd Street and Park Avenue. Enjoy the breath-taking ceiling and atmosphere and then walk through the market to get fresh vegetables, artisan cheeses and baked goods.

Make sure you bring cash with you everywhere because you’ll find that many places do not accept credit cards and only take cash. Also, bring a subway map with you—not only to navigate the subway but also to help you navigate neighborhoods. You can use Google Maps or HopStop on your phone for help with directions, but most people on the street are kind and helpful if you ask them for directions. Find another pedestrian like yourself who isn’t in a hurry on the sidewalk or perhaps stopped and waiting for the light to change at a crosswalk. Whether you’re interested in walking or biking outside in a park or doing something indoors on a rainy day, there’s always something to do in New York City. Part of the fun is getting lost and finding a hole-in-the-wall with great food and good people.

Christina Katopodis
Second Year English PhD Student
Posted by: Marisa Panzani | 23rd Jun, 2015

Blogging with CUNY Commons

We’d like to take the time to encourage you to join the CUNY Commons (the site that is hosting this blog.)  As soon as you have registered for classes in August, you will be assigned an email address which will allow you to join the Commons and either become a contributor to an existing blog or group or begin your own blog or student group.

Interested in why you should blog?  Take a look at From Tweet to Blog Post to Peer-Reviewed Article: How to be a Scholar Now by GC’s own Jessie Daniels or take a look at The Virtues of Blogging as a Scholarly Activity at The Chronicle.

Some active blogs on the Commons (that you can read now even though you aren’t yet a Commons member) are:

GC Students of Anthropology –

GC English Students blog –

Le Hub (French students’ blog) –

GC Marxist Reading group –

Collaborative Seeing Studio –

Zines at the Brooklyn College Library –


Posted by: Bethany D. Holmstrom | 6th Jun, 2015

Seeing theatre in NYC on a budget…

Here’s some advice on seeing affordable theatre in New York: find out a show’s rush/discount policies before going, and always carry your student ID when going to the box office.

Student rush tickets demand both some flexibility (because there are no guarantees) and pre-planning. Many Broadway and off-Broadway shows will sell student rush tickets for $20-40 on the day of performance, typically limited to 1 or 2 tickets per student id. Be sure to carefully review the policies before you go: some box offices demand cash only, others let you use a debit/credit card. Rush tickets might be available when the box office opens in the morning, or might not be available until a few hours before the show ( see the Broadway theatre policies here:, and the off-Broadway offerings, here: Typically you have better luck scoring rush tickets on week-night shows (particularly for Broadway theatre) during the school year.

A few theatres provide discounted tickets throughout the season: Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) and the Signature Theatre have $25 tickets for many shows with limited availability, so you are encouraged to book early. Other theatres ask that you join a mailing list/club online for student ticket prices, like Roundabout’s HipTix ( Unfortunately, many of the online/list programs have age restrictions (usually 30 or 35). Keep your eye on the Village Voice, Time Out, and discount mailing programs for upcoming shows and ticket deals.

Even the “hottest tickets” on Broadway, like The Book of Mormon, can be seen on a student budget (with a fair amount of luck, since Book of Mormon relies on a lottery system). You are in the best city for theatre in the entire country, and even on your paltry student budget that makes all your non-PhD-pursuing friends laugh (and then, if they are really good friends, buy you a pity drink—these good friends are the same ones that greatly appreciate it when you offer them the second discounted rush ticket you got, by the way), you can see a lot of amazing performances.

Posted by: Gerry Martini | 30th May, 2015

Caffeine Makes the World Brighter

Welcome to New York. Now that you have gotten into school and have started looking at apartments, it’s time to talk about the serious issues that face an incoming student: where to get caffeine. Preferably tasty caffeine, in the form of coffee.

We’ll assume that you are trying to avoid Starbucks. Because you are not the sort of person who is in favor of union busting. Or of corporations who use their clout to manipulate world coffee commodities markets to keep poor coffee farmers poor. Or of a place that exaggerates its commitment to Fair-Trade coffee. But if you are the sort of person who isn’t bothered by those things, stick your head out the Graduate Center’s front door, walk in any direction, and your satanic thirst will be sated within minutes.

For the rest of you, let me offer my humble coffee-loving advice.

If you are looking for beans to make your own coffee, try Dallis Bros. Coffee, a Queens coffee roaster (now merged with a New Jersey roaster) that first opened in 1913. I have tried more than a dozen of their roasts so far, and while I definitely have a few favorites (one of which is the Red Den Blend—while most of their selection rotates seasonally, this one is always available), I have never had any cause for complaint. They generally have a few espresso roast choices too, including the Alphabet City Blend which I had for the first time at Ninth Street Espresso, which are very tasty. And though they no longer deliver to your door by horse-drawn cart, you generally only need a few days to receive your order.

If you are at the GC and need a hit of caffeine, I would recommend Stumptown Coffee Roasters. Their Manhattan location is on 28th St between 5th and 6th Aves, adjacent to the Ace Hotel. This establishment—brought to us by those coffee zealots out in Portland, OR—serves a mean cup of coffee. Or cappuccino. Or iced coffee. Or really anything that I, or anyone I know who has been there, has had. Also your purchase of a beverage from Stumptown allows you to ask the concierge at the hotel for their wireless password, so you can hang out, do some work, people watch, or just drink your coffee, all in the Ace’s lobby (just FYI—there is also a bar in the lobby). It’s not a bad place to study—if you can find a spot to sit. One thing to remember: go to the ATM first because it’s cash only. Or “forget” that it’s cash only and go with someone who you know is loaded and let them pay.

Another great choice for coffee in the area is Culture Espresso, which you will find at the corner of 38th St and 6th Ave. The vibe is similar to Stumptown (bespectacled, tattooed, and vest-wearing baristas will serve you, many with suspenders) though there is no big lobby to hang out in. However you can pay with a credit card here, so you don’t have to have remembered to hit up a cash machine before getting your latte.

A relative new comer is Hole in the Wall. The name doesn’t lie; this is a great place to grab some tasty coffee, however it’s tiny so you won’t be there to sit and read. That’s because there are zero seats and space for only about four people in the shop. Located at 420 5th Ave, you actually have to enter the building on the 37th or 38th Street entrances to the building (it’s in a corner of the lobby). Run by an incredibly nice Aussie, they serve up very nice espressos, flat whites, and cortados, and carry an array of Dough Donuts.

Sometimes a walk doesn’t fit in the brief time between classes. In that case, just go to the café in the GC lobby. It’s relatively cheap and the coffee is a little better than average.

When you move into your new neighborhood, ask around as to where the best coffee is (or ask the New York Times, who has this nice good-coffee-finding map). You will likely be spending the next several years with too little sleep, cramming too much into too little time. So it’s good to know where locally you can find a nice cup of coffee to rely on for your coming ordeals.  Remember my motto: caffeinate early and caffeinate often.

Posted by: Gerry Martini | 21st May, 2015

Social Media at the GC + Facebook Page

Looking to find Graduate Center (GC) colleagues on social media? For those students who are just starting at the GC, there is a Facebook group where you can look for potential roommates (or just meet other new students).

While we are on this subject of social media, I should mention that the Office of Communications and Marketing has a few helpful pages for those of you who want to connect with your new community. First up, they have a list of Twitter and Facebook accounts for the departments, centers, and institutes at the GC. They have also put together a nice set of Social Media Guidelines as well as providing you with a list of Featured Social Media Accounts.

Finally, you should start taking a look at the CUNY Commons (the platform that you are viewing this article on). The Commons is a CUNY-only combination blogging/social media platform. Once you get your Graduate Center email address you can start signing up for groups, but for now you may want to browse; many of the groups are open for public viewing.

I hope to see you around the Twittersphere (you can find me at @TheGCGerry)!

Posted by: Christina Katopodis | 17th May, 2015

Urban Etiquette: The Unspoken Rules of Public Space in Manhattan

When friends ask me what New York is like, I tell them: “It’s tall.” The city has a dense population with businesses and apartment buildings stacked on top of each other, which can be a bit overwhelming at first. New Yorkers master the art of efficiency as a result. Packed subway car? Everyone take off your backpacks and hold them down by your legs to make more room. Crowded escalator? People stand on the right and walk on the left. Long line at the coffee shop and only 10 minutes before you’re late to work? Know what you’re going to order before you get to the register, or step aside and let someone else go while you decide what you want.

These are some unspoken rules that keep a busy, crowded city running smoothly. Some you would find in any city, but others are unique to New York—especially removing your backpack on the train. Having lived in Washington, DC prior to moving here, I’ve come to appreciate these habits as polite and thoughtful acts. Living in an urban space requires some awareness of what’s going on around you, even when you’re wearing headphones and not necessarily in a hurry to get somewhere. It’s nearly impossible to avoid touching strangers on a rocky subway ride or a crowded street corner, and getting used to that can be hard if you’re new to living in a city. The good news is that New Yorkers are experts at spacial awareness and if you’re polite to them, they’ll more often than not be polite back.

Some practical things to consider about your well-being and safety:
Wear closed-toed shoes. They’ll protect your feet in the off chance they get stepped on, and they’ll keep your feet clean when walking around a dusty part of the city. I’m a flip-flop fan myself but I stopped wearing them when I moved here. Also, look where you’re going. No one wants to sprain an ankle on a pothole or uneven sidewalk!

Keep your personal belongings close. Chances are you’ll have some kind of commute to the Graduate Center and need a bag to carry all your books and things. Choose a bag that sits comfortably under your arm or on your back and just be aware of your surroundings. Don’t put it down or leave it unattended, and make sure all your zippers are zipped.

Watch out for bikes. Cars and trucks are easy to hear and see coming, but many people commute to and from work on bikes—and fast. Keep an eye out, look for bike lanes, and look both ways for vehicles and bikes.

Don’t stop suddenly on the sidewalk. Many New Yorkers have someplace they’ve got to be and they walk FAST. If you stop suddenly in the middle of the sidewalk, someone might be walking at a quick pace behind you and may accidentally run into you. Instead, keep walking but slow down and stop on the side of the sidewalk to let others pass while you look at your phone or do whatever you need to do.

A series of images has been circulating recently that captures many of the above points and more, making light of New York City etiquette: It’s worth taking a look, even if you’re well-acquainted with urban life, just for laughs. These things will become second nature after a few months of living in the city. It’s all about being aware of your surroundings and being courteous to others. Now start exploring the city and enjoying all the things there are to do and see here!

Christina Katopodis
Second Year English PhD Student
Posted by: Angela Dunne | 13th May, 2015

Develop the Mind; Don’t Spurn the Body.

Although our beloved CUNY Graduate Center does not have a gym, the Wellness Center does offer *low cost fitness classes to registered graduate students. The courses consist of Yoga and Pilates for beginner and expert alike. The instructors that I’ve had are extremely friendly and accommodating to all levels. The courses do fill up fast, so be sure to visit the website and be aware of the registration dates.

In the case that you don’t get a spot or are looking for something a little more on the cardio side, there are other free fitness options in this city. The NYC Parks and Recreation Department has a program called Shape Up NYC that offers free fitness classes at various recreation centers in all five boroughs. The classes include Yoga, Zumba, Aerobics, African Dance, Kickboxing, Self-Defense and other body shaping activities. You don’t have to belong to a recreation center to attend these classes but in the case that you wanted a membership it costs only $25 a year for people 24 and under (unfortunately, a lot of us have missed the boat on that one).

As a CUNY Graduate Student there is also the possibility of membership to the Baruch Athletics and Recreation Complex and the John Jay College Cardiovascular Fitness Center. However, the annual fee for the ARC is $100 and for John Jay is $275, which are definitely not bad but I’d take advantage of the cheaper/ no cost options- at least until you’ve established how much time for fitness you will actually have as a grad student.

Another great option for free fitness is taking the stairs at the Graduate Center, instead of the elevators. I’m serious. Why not?



* For GC students, one registration period (6 classes) costs:

Yoga $15, Pilates $30


For more information visit:

Posted by: Christina Katopodis | 10th May, 2015

East Harlem: Culture and Community


Harlem is a great place to live. I live in the Graduate Housing building on 118th Street between Lexington & 3rd Avenue. My commute to the CUNY Graduate Center is easy, and I live within walking distance of several grocery stores, a Target, a community garden, a butcher that makes delicious chorizo, and some of the best Cuban food I’ve had in my life. Kids and young families walk around outside when the weather is nice, people wave to each other from across the street, and some elderly folks sit in the garden all day and talk. I’m a woman living in East Harlem and I’ve never felt unsafe. It’s wise to remain alert, but the fact of the matter is, there’s a lot of people around and as long as you don’t get involved in crime, it tends to stay away from you, too.

There’s a church across the street where they sing carols at Christmas and a fruit and vegetable vendor around the corner that sells the most amazing strawberries, lettuce, apples, you name it. Our building is brand new and rent is average for the neighborhood for a new building, the gym downstairs is well-equipped, and all the staff members are friendly and quick to attend to any questions or maintenance issues you might have. I’ve never lived in a better apartment community where you hear people talking philosophy over laundry or watching basketball downstairs. It’s a convenient location, the rooftop view is lovely, and it was a great introduction to living in New York City. I have friends who live nearby and they also love the area.
At 103rd and Lexington, you’ll find a great coffee shop called East Harlem Café  and a Mexican restaurant called El Paso. The Cuban restaurant that makes the best mojitos in the barrio is Amor Cubano on 110th & 3rd Avenue. There are also fantastic restaurants in Yorkville and the Upper East Side and plenty of coffee and sandwich shops to study in or meet friends. On the same block as the building is the Silberman School of Social Work with a cafe downstairs where you can get cheap coffee and breakfast, and two blocks away is the Family Health Center of Harlem (linked to Mount Sinai) where I go to the walk-in clinic and see my regular Primary Care Physician. The wait is short and the healthcare quality excellent.
If you like exercise, the jog to Central Park is quick and easy, and along 5th Avenue as you head downtown into the Upper East Side you’ll find the Metropolitan Museum and the Guggenheim. If you’re into race culture, definitely join the New York Road Runners (NYRR) and sign up for one of their half marathons! I go to the Super Runner’s Shop on Lexington & 89th Street. If you like biking, I often ride down to Central Park.

East Harlem is a great place to live, from 120th Street down to Yorkville and the Upper East Side. East Harlem is generally more affordable than other neighborhoods, from the rent to the groceries, and has been a great introduction, for me, to living in New York City. I would highly recommend it for anyone.

If you’ve applied for housing and are waiting on the wait list, it can sometimes be frustrating not hearing back or knowing exactly where you are on the wait list. I was on the wait list, and I got pulled up over the summer. I had a friend also on the wait list who they pulled up with me so we could be in a 2-bedroom together. The only way to contact GC Housing is through the webpage: You can call the Grad Center to ask about their housing, but they will direct you to this “Contact Us” page: It may seem surprising, but GC Housing will get back to you. My recommendation is to just be patient. Finding a place to live in NYC often happens at the last minute. What I did to find a roommate was I got an email list of new students from my program’s APO (assistant program officer) and emailed them personally to ask if anyone was moving to the city to start the program and looking for a roommate. My roommate and I are moving to Astoria or Brooklyn this July, so I know at least two spots will be opening!

Christina Katopodis
Second Year English PhD Student
Adjunct Lecturer at Hunter College

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