New Residents at CSI Find Poor Planning and Rushed Delivery Problematic
by Daeyung Lee
CSI welcomed new residents and their families into the Dolphin Cove for the first time on August 25 with an elaborate move-in day; chaperoned by Resident Advisors, volunteer students, and members of the Student Housing Department.
The celebration was well received by the college campus, all of which had been reminded of the opening with jeering signs and advertisements reminding the community that, “if you lived here, you’d already be home,” or that “you could have slept in.”
The signs failed to mention that holes in the ceiling, a lack of hot water, and no internet connection could make the extra time sleeping or being home more of a hassle than anything.
While luggage and amenities were carried and set up in rooms, the joyous event was marred with the realization that the dormitories were not yet completed. While many of these students were responsible for paying for a seat in the Dolphin Cove months before, most found that the Student Housing Department were quick to take checks and even quicker to announce the dorms “complete”.
The move-in day became even more of a disaster as several residents were instead checked into hotels, accommodated with shuttle bus service to and from the college and hotel.
“The shower is missing, one of the cabinets is half off, there’s a hole in the ceiling, there is paint missing, what else is there?” joked Mayra Pesantez, trying to make light of a serious situation. “No hot water, there’s only cold water.”
The North and South Building along with the newly constructed handball and basketball courts make up the Dolphin Cove, CSI’s new residential committee. 442 residents of which two are professional staff members and eight are Resident Assistants call the Dolphin Cove home.
A look at the Dolphin Cove’s website reveals a virtual tour of the different kinds of living situations offered. The video highlights the beautiful landscape and the fully furnished dorm rooms. It fails to mention that as of the first week of September, the Dolphin Cove barely resembles anything in that video.
The problem is that the virtual rooms are lively with beautiful lighting, wonderful furniture, and exude a feeling of home. The dorms that the residents showed off were empty and bare, pock-marked with lack of paint in some areas or small and invasive holes within the walls and ceiling.
The website and the FAQ page also fail to mention that the Dolphin Cove is still a work in progress, a fact that the residents are not quick to forget. A look outside of one of the rooms reveals a large dirt mound, unplanted trees, and debris from the summer long construction. Construction workers are also a presence at the Cove, often intermingling with the residents as they hurry to finish their job.
This was apparently established to all residents on the move-in day.
“An email went out to residents advising them that some construction would continue after they moved in,” said General Manager of the Dolphin Cove, Nicole Weston. “We understand that the construction items are an inconvenience to residents and we are feverishly working to complete all outstanding construction items.”
However, there were a handful of students who were more than happy with their dorms and their roommates, ecstatic to finally live the college experience.
“I love living here, it’s amazing,” gushed freshman and resident Nyah Smith. “The dorm experience depends on your roommates.”
But the excitement of living on a college campus is not without the recognition that there are problems.
“Except there’s no WiFi or hot water,” interjected Smith’s roommate Irina Heimerlen, class of 2017.
For the first week at the Dolphin Cove, residents in the South Building were informed of the lack of hot running water in the dorms. The residents were then encourages to venture to the Gym, or The Recreation Center 1R to take warm showers there.
“Students were also advised that hot water would not be available for a couple of days,” responded Weston. “But they could use the Sports and Rec Center to shower.”
The problem was later corrected that week, but during a follow-up, the residents acknowledged improvements but noted on how the water still was not hot but lukewarm and that it took about five minutes to get that way.
Now that these students have officially paid for their seat in the Dolphin Cove, many feel trapped and taken advantage of. In addition to the exorbitant fee, complaints from these residents have been filed to supervisors such as Weston and countless RAs. While these complaints are filed, few are followed up on. Resident Kiana Williams of class 2017 admits to meeting Weston around three times.
One of these rare moments with Weston occurred during move-in where Weston was described to be, “really caring and helpful,” by Williams.
After that Weston disappeared from Williams and her roommates until a larger problem arose revolving around legal action.
Samantha Wong, a freshman and “little person”, sought CSI as her first choice for college because of its status as the most handicapped accessible campus out of all the CUNYs. Wong and her family also agreed to give the Dolphin Cove a chance, seeing as she would otherwise face a long and expensive commute via cab service.
In June, two months before the projected completion of the Dolphin Cove, Wong took the time out to place an order for a fully accessible and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accommodated 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom dorm. When she showed up on August 25, she was not given anything close to what she and her family were promised.
The doors to the South Building are not automated, so Wong has a hard time even getting into her dorm lobby.
The family quickly consulted Director Christopher Cruz of the Student Disabilities Office who promised to remedy the situation. Yet Wong remained in a non-ADA room, North Building 103, until they switched her with Williams, to 105 later on that day.
When the family realized that the room was still not along the lines of the specifications requested in June, they reached out to Cruz, only to find that he was no longer working at CSI.
The switch not only failed to remedy the situation, it also proved to make things uncomfortable for Williams who had already met and bonded with her roommates from the move-in date.
“They allowed us to get connected with our roommates when they notified us who we’d be living with,” said Williams. “After I had gotten close with them, they switched me and Samantha. My room isn’t very handicapped accessible either.”
Investigation of North Building rooms 103 and 105 reveal small differences, nothing along the lines of the drastic changes Wong and her family had ordered.
While inside of the buildings, the smell of fresh paint was recognized as were the countless pieces of equipment lying around as construction workers entered rooms to fix problems. With the lack of privacy noted, it was also mentioned that some of the windows throughout the South Building lacked blinds and people were able to see straight into bedrooms.
After the switch, Wong unofficially left the South Building, opting to live at home.
“We spoke to all the office managers we could but the ADA room is not ready,” said Wong’s sister Vivian. “The family is spending a lot of money to get Samantha to school every day. Because of her disability, Samantha has to take a cab service which is really expensive.”
Vivian also discussed the emotional stress that Wong has suffered because of the dorm situation because of the moving and inability to stay with her friends in the dorms.
Due to private issues and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act or FERPA, the managers of the Dolphin Cove and the Office of Student Housing declined to comment on Wong’s situation, instead insisting that the Dolphin Cove, “meets ADA compliance.”
With these problems at hand, could it be possible that the dorms on campus were rushed thereby forcing CSI residents into problematic and uncomfortable living conditions?
When questioned on the idea Weston repeated, “Outstanding construction items are in the process of being completed.”