Year of Connection: 18 Events Where Columbia and Our Neighbors Came Together in 2023

A look back at a few community-driven events that took place on campus and throughout the neighborhood in 2023.

By
Janrey Serapio
December 20, 2023

Throughout 2023, Columbia University and our neighbors gathered to celebrate milestones, announce new partnerships, discuss community issues and celebrate cultural diversity Uptown. 

Columbia Neighbors is taking a look back at a few of the community-driven events that happened on campus and throughout the neighborhood over the past year—from Taste of Harlem to opportunities to break bread together. 

January 2023 – April 2023

2023 kicked off with milestone events on the Manhattanville campus. On Jan. 20, then-incoming President Minouche Shafik was warmly welcomed by local elected officials and community leaders at a Community Breakfast in Manhattanville Market. U.S. Representative Adriano Espaillat, held his State of the District at The Forum on Jan. 29 to highlight legislative priorities in his district. Also in January, a “Rat Academy” virtual training seminar—hosted by Columbia Neighbors and Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell—outlined rat prevention methods for building staff, homeowners, and tenants. 

Later in February, then-President Lee C. Bollinger was recognized at Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce’s (GHCC) 125th Anniversary Gala on Feb. 26 at City College’s Shepard Hall alongside esteemed honorees. On April 18, local organizations and elected officials, medical experts, and Community Board 9 (CB9) gathered to share information about the legalization of cannabis and its effects on the community.

March 2023 – June 2023

Set against the backdrop of West Harlem’s arches, CB9 started to host its General Board meetings in The Forum’s West Atrium. CB9’s General Board meetings continue at The Forum, and this month’s session is scheduled on Dec. 21 from 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm. 

Uptown culinary stars had a showcase on June 1 at The Forum for “Taste of Harlem.” Local leaders and food fanatics enjoyed sampling cuisine from Harlem-based restaurants, vendors, and culinary entrepreneurs. Also at The Forum, The Community Initiatives of New York (TCIONY) hosted a panel discussion on fatherhood on June 10, featuring NYC Chancellor David Banks. 

With the arrival of sunny summer days, the community gathered at St. Nicholas Park for “Good Vibes in the Park,” an outdoor event centering Black joy and relaxation, sponsored by Columbia's Office of Government and Community Affairs. 

July 2023 – September 2023

On July 15, President Shafik joined NYC Parks and Friends of Morningside Park to announce a research partnership charged with researching solutions to toxic summer algae in the park’s pond. To mark the first month of her presidency, GHCC held a welcome reception for President Shafik on July 26 with local elected officials and community leaders. President Shafik also met with local students and leaders in education on July 27 to reaffirm the University’s commitment to the Double Discovery Center. Later, on Sept. 20, President Shafik helped welcome volunteers to the “Great Broadway Sweep” a Climate Week NYC partnership between the NYC Sanitation Foundation and We Love NYC to collect litter along the entire length of Broadway.

For Senator Cordell Cleare’s Senior Day on Aug. 18, Columbia’s InTOuCH program and the Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease participated in a day of activities, food, entertainment and resource dissemination for seniors of the local community.

October 2023 – December 2023

In early October, President Shafik welcomed local groups from West Harlem and Morningside Heights to Columbia’s Faculty House for a community breakfast, marking a new chapter in the University’s relationship with the neighborhood. Next month, hundreds of NYC public school students attended “Conversations with the Commissioners,” an event at The Forum hosted by TCIONY on Nov. 13. The event was the first of its kind to facilitate an open discussion between local students and NYC commissioners working across fields like healthcare, education, and transportation. 

To kick off the holiday season, Columbia and our neighbors celebrated in full holiday flair on Nov. 14, starting with the “Lights on the Plaza” tree-lighting celebration on Columbia’s Manhattanville campus. Also on Nov. 14, the 125th Street BID Holiday Lights reception—co-hosted by Columbia and the Manhattan Borough President’s office—took place at The Forum, welcoming community leaders and local elected officials to celebrate the 30th annual 125th Street BID “Caravan of Lights” parade, before it made its way through the neighborhood to spread holiday cheer.

Continuing the holiday spirit, Columbia partnered with local organizations Pa’lante, West Harlem Group Assistance, and Councilman Shaun Abreu to give out free turkeys to local residents on Thanksgiving. Later this month, Columbia’s Office of Government and Community Affairs is celebrating Kwanzaa at the A. Philip Randolph Senior Center, partnering with the Riverside Hawks to distribute toys and books to neighbors in need, and working with Charles Pan-Fried Chicken to provide 300 meals to Harlem residents.

The Forum is open all year round to the public, especially to our neighbors in Harlem and Washington Heights. The space serves as a place for all to work, study, and gather—and often holds important community events in partnership with local organizations. Learn more about The Forum on their website and make sure to stop by in 2024!

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