Blue Notes, April 2015
Updated: Jul 17, 2021
They say there’s no smoke without fire. At Columbia, there’s no snow without a brush to sweep it aside, or salt to melt it—no matter the time.
The logistics behind this miracle are extraordinary. A team of 15, part of Columbia Facilities’ Grounds, Waste Management, and Recycling division, alongside a small corps of volunteers, carry out all the snow removal around the Morningside campus and the Studebacher complex on 133rd Street. These staffers work through every snowstorm, regardless of its duration. They work 16-hour staggered shifts and are on 24-hour call; some have over 15 years of experience in the field. Frank Molina, their manager of nine years, is the brains behind the brawn.
Before the first snowflake has time to leave its incubatory cloud, the team is in position, machine-equipped, and prepared with de-icing apparatuses. There are 21 snow-clearing machines in total, all Columbia owned. Each is assigned to a certain portion of campus, and all are stored under Columbia’s campus in a garage, underneath Fairchild, nicknamed “The Grove” for a long-gone stretch of campus greenery. They are used mainly to clear paths for students to walk to class without the mortification of an unsightly slip.
However, the machines can’t reach everywhere. Some parts of Columbia’s campus are inaccessible—the overpass between main campus and EC, for example. Here, the teams must resort to mere shovels, or haul 800 kilograms of equipment up the stairs.
Last winter alone, 13,400 hours of labor went into ensuring clear pathways through 14 storms that collectively dropped 58 inches of snow. Over 200,000 pounds of de-icing kept walkways slip-free. For their resistance against the relentless Manhattan winters, the team were awarded a Grand Award by the Professional Grounds Management Society in 2007, and an Honor Award in 2010.
Yet snow clearing is but a small part of the Grounds, Waste Management, and Recycling department’s duties: they are responsible for laying and uplifting all the tarps on campus, preparing the grounds for Commencement and Convocation, and managing Columbia’s waste and recycling all year round. They are not some ephemeral host that expires with retreating wintry winds.
— Alex Swanson
After the January 7th attack on French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo resounded around the world, the magazine upped its print run from 60,000 to seven million. Book Culture, on 112th, was among the first three shops in the city to sell the magazine, along with Albertine at the French embassy, and McNally Jackson in SoHo.
The first shipment of Charlie Hebdo issues arrived at Book Culture through a distributor of French magazine subscriptions in the United States. Air France offered free transport of the publication. In France, the government assisted Charlie Hebdo produce its first issue after the attack, since the offices of the magazine were in “tumult” and, according to Book Culture’s independent owner, Chris Doeblin, “the quantity of the print run was so huge they just needed extra support, and the various ministers of the arts and so forth in France decided to supplement it.”
The huge demand in France extended to New York. According to Doeblin, “anybody and everybody” wanted to buy the magazine at the store. They sold out in two and a half hours and subsequently restocked with a second and third shipment. Doeblin framed on of the copies from the initial shipment. The owners of the frame shop he took it to were Muslim. “They were glad to frame it,” Doeblin said, “and stand in support of freedom of expression.”
Although the overwhelming response to Charlie Hebdo’s arrival at Book Culture was positive, and numerous people commended Doeblin on his choice to stock the magazine, Doeblin recounts that he also “got several emails from people, including people on [his] staff who were very disconcerted by [the] decision to sell it…because there [was] sensitivity to the people who could potentially be offended. ”
Doeblin doesn’t think Charlie Hebdo has a big enough regular readership to warrant the sale of future issues. Not that he is a particular fan himself: he personally finds the magazine “almost pornographic in its idiocy.” But, he stressed, stocking the edition was about “a profound issue of standing up for freedom of [speech]…anybody in the publishing world, that’s our center of gravity.”
— Wallace Kalkin
Beneath Philosophy Hall, a detour in Columbia’s tunnel system leads to an abandoned firing range. It’s extremely narrow: had two people stood abreast to shoot, the entire rifle club would have lived up to the ironic kname “Deadeye Dicks.”
Although small, the range served the Dicks and members of Columbia’s chapter of ROTC from 1910 to 1960. Today, the wear on the old range shows. Were it not for the peeling plaster, pockmarked with bullet holes, one might think that the range was just another vaguely creepy passageway leading to a boiler room.
The firing range closed in 1960 because a bigger and better one was built in the newly built Ferris Booth Hall (the student center that preceded Lerner) in the same year. The new range was shuttered when the administration gave the space to Barnes & Noble. By then, there were few marksmen on campus, but plenty of naïve first-years willing to shell out for overpriced books. From guns to Guns, Germs, and Steel. So it goes.
The firing range went out with a bang and, incidentally, a cloud of smoke. In 1983, after the administration banished the club, there were two mysterious fires in the basement of Ferris Booth Hall within the span of a week. Although fire fighters were unsure of the cause, they did not rule out arson.
As the Spectator reported, “Tom Chalecki, a member of the Rifle Team, said there was ‘no relation at all between the fire and the team’s eviction.’” Another article stated that “Jim Martin, the fire marshal, labelled the fire ‘suspicious’ because ‘nobody was around when it was found.’” To further the conspiracy, all of the club’s live ammunition had been removed just the day prior. Now there are books instead of bullets, and Lerner’s basement Barnes & Noble may be preferable to an outlet for a group of trigger-happy arsonists.