With 12,500 residents, New York University has the 7th largest university housing system in the United States, the largest among private schools. New York University residence halls are unique in that many are converted apartment complexes or old hotels. Most freshman residence halls are in the Washington Square area. Nearly all the upperclassmen halls are in the Union Square area. Until the Spring 2005 semester, NYU used a lottery system to determine eligibility for residence hall preference. Under this system, a student received one point for every semester they had lived in campus housing. Freshmen are freed from the lottery system and are by tradition placed in the halls closest to the main campus area. Therefore, historically, most of the students who lived in halls found far from Washington Square were sophomores. However, beginning in the fall 2006 semester, sophomores received priority housing, giving them first choice of residence halls. The purpose of this initiative was to keep the sophomore class together in the Union Square area. As a result, that year's junior class (class of 2008) and senior class (class of 2007) never benefited from having first choice, either as seniors under the old system or sophomores under the new system. The university operates its own transit system to transport its students, by bus or trolley, to campus. Undergraduate students were guaranteed housing during their enrollment at NYU if they declared a need on their admissions applications.
Twenty-one buildings comprise NYU's undergraduate housing system. In general, NYU residence halls receive favorable ratings, and some are opulent. Many rooms are spacious and contain amenities considered rare for individual college residence hall rooms, such as kitchens and living rooms/common areas. All residence halls are staffed by 24-hour security staff, contain multiple resident assistants (RAs), and several halls contain faculty in residence. Unlike many other universities, NYU rooms all have their own bathrooms and thus no common bathrooms exist. Many residence halls have their own dining hall, and the university has meal choices to suit various diets. Almost all the residence halls have a laundry room that is open to resident students 24 hours a day. The price of using these facilities varies from hall to hall; as some halls are leased, NYU is unable to control the laundry prices. All the residence halls are governed by the Inter-Residence Hall Council (IRHC), an umbrella student council organization. Each hall elects student representatives to the IRHC, and those representatives meet with one another to form committees and vote on an executive board. The goal of this group is to create programs for university students and to act as a link to university administration.
In November 2005, NYU announced plans to build a 26-floor, 190,000-square-foot (18,000 m2) residence hall on 12th Street. The residence hall is expected to accommodate about 700 undergraduates and contain a host of other student facilities. It is to be the tallest building in the East Village. The plans caused anger among East Village and other New York City residents, as the new building would be built over the old St. Ann's Church. 12th street dorm is currently in use as a freshman dorm as of August 2009. It is located between 3rd and 4th avenues, close to the Coral, Alumni, and 3rd North dorms. A small piece of the church's facade remains standing.
NYU announced in February 2008 that it had purchased a high-end apartment building to use as a residence hall. The building was already under construction for some time, originally intended for overseas investors. This building, Gramercy Green—located at 23rd Street and 3rd Avenue—is in the heart of Gramercy and near to Madison Square Park. The rooms inside the building were partitioned to maximize the number of students. The building housed over 900 in its first year. In Spring 2009, Gramercy Green opened up a massive sub-cellar, which includes a fully functioning gym, a bike room, multiple television lounges, multiple study lounges, and a game room.
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