posted 2012-02-16 04:49:00

North Cafeteria Reopens After Extensive Renovation

Students fill the cafeteria's tables and outdoor terrace

Kimberly Devi Milner

Associate News Editor

Tae Hee Koo

There may be more green than meets the eye in Hunter’s renovated north dining hall. The college and its food vendor, AVI, have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars refurbishing the dining area in time for the spring semester.

The renovations feature a glass wall separating the room from the hallway, a bar height counter equipped with electric and internet outlets, two flat-screen televisions and two Apple computers. Other extensive work includes new flooring and upgraded lighting, ventilation and sprinklers.

Revamping the north dining hall became an extension of Hunter and AVI's renovation plans for the third floor cafeteria, said Chief Operating Officer Len Zinnanti.  The renovated cafeteria opened last Fall, and was outfitted with turnstiles, new service stations, and a glass entrance.

“AVI paid for a majority of the servery renovation and some work on both dining areas,” said Zinnanti in an email. Hunter’s Auxiliary Enterprise Corporation, which is part of Undergraduate Student Government and approves contracts for campus businesses like the bookstore and cafeteria, paid the remaining expenses. According to Zinnanti, the budget for the dining hall’s renovations was $350,000.

Construction in the north dining hall became apparent last semester when blue plywood sheets encroached the third floor hallway connecting the West and North buildings, increasing congestion. “I guess because the hallways are already so crowded I didn’t notice it very much,” said sophomore Jennifer De Jesus. Although the Women and Gender Studies and Sociology double major knew “they were fixing something in there,” she said, “It would have been nice if they had posted a 3D sketch or something of the plan.”

Student response to the renovated dining hall has been largely positive, as 83 students in a recent poll of 100 believed the renovations significantly improved their dining experience. “The atmosphere is brighter – it’s more functional,” said senior Media Studies major Maggie. “They have flat-screen TVs in there,” said sophomore and Adolescent Education in Physics major, Helena Mapoy. “They usually show news, but at least it’s something to look at.”

Some students were surprised by the room’s color scheme. “Why green?” asked sophomore Axinia Gamez. “I thought our school colors were yellow and purple.”  Renovators seemingly gave some thought to school spirit, however, as a glass display case was installed outside the dining area, presenting school supplies and clothing items with the Hunter College logo that can be bought from the bookstore.

Not everyone was impressed with the upgrade. “So basically our tuition went up so they could take out computers and put in glass walls,” said Biology major Navjeet Kaur.  Before the renovations, approximately ten computers were accessible to students in the north dining area.

“If they charged 20,000 kids $200 for this place,” said Political Science major Jamal Chawdhry, referring to the student activity fees, “I think they ripped us off.”

According to Zinnanti the room is intended to be multi-purpose and can be reserved for presentations and events. It is equipped with an audio and visual control center and several flat screen monitors. The Center for Puerto Rican Studies already hosted a digital book reading in the renovated space last week. “It wasn’t my first choice,” said the center’s events coordinator, Evelyn Collazo, in regards to the venue. “I was bumped from the Faculty Dining Room, but it’s a very nice space. We used the cafeteria last year, but it’s fresher now.”

The north dining room’s outdoor terrace will be landscaped later this semester, and the Hunter administration is currently considering keeping the space open beyond normal cafeteria hours.

AVI committed to renovate the cafeteria when they took over Hunter’s food service in 2008, said Zinnanti. The cafeteria’s budget for renovations was approximately $1 million (and included the Starbuck’s kiosk and third and eighth floor cooking equipment).

AVI's contract with Hunter lasts until the summer of 2018, with two one-year options for renewal.