Fare Thee Well, York College/CUNY

I made my final visit to York College (as a faculty member) on Thursday. After handing in my keys and ID, and before meeting with the dean and my chair one last time, I took a walk around the Jamaica neighborhood in which York sits.  It was fitting that I strolled up Archer Ave by the Jamaica bus stop. It was a gorgeous day for a walk, though the city was under a heat advisory. When I hit the entrance to York that runs under the LIRR, I couldn’t help but reminisce about my first days there.  The picture I took of the entrance captures so much about the continuity and change in Jamaica, and at York.

Archer Avenue Entrance to York College (2010)
Archer Avenue Entrance to York College (2010)

This image has all the elements to it, save the heavy crunch of traffic normally running down Archer and the mass of residents waiting to catch the buses that line up at the stop.  (The absence of these core elements of Archer make the photo seem a little creepy.) When I started at York, a grafitti artist was painting the “Project Pick Me Up” mural on the wall.  I watched as each of the faces, and the background emerged over a week or two. For most of my time at York this entrance to the college was but a plan on the architect’s desk. There was no branding, and no opening to the fence.

Some years later, soon after the Sean Bell shooting occurred around the corner, someone painted the mural with Mr. Bell sitting on a cloud wearing a sweatshirt with the words “50 Shots” on it. An image of Mr. Bell and his fiancee, dressed for their wedding, look up at the cloud.

Sometime after that, York College actually branded the entrance to the school with a very nice, stainless sign above the underpass and the York College and CUNY logos as bookends. The semi-open stainless steel fence  captures much of the college’s relationship with the neighborhood – open, but not quite. Even with this awkward fence/gate, this entrance is so much more inviting than it was even 4 years ago.

And, in keeping with its tagline, York College remains On the Move.