2007-12-26 / Editorials

Op- ed

St. John's Off-Campus Dorm Is A Threat To Our Community

If you live in Jamaica Estates, you are probably well aware of plans by St. John's University to build a six-story, 485-bed, off-campus dorm in the middle of a quiet residential neighborhood on Henley Road. This off-campus dorm is a serious threat to our community, quality of life and property values.

Recently, I hosted an important community meeting with the Concerned Residents of Jamaica Estates in order to send a strong and unified message that our community is against the building of this dorm in the heart of our neighborhood. Sadly, St. John's failed to send a representative to listen to the concerns of the residents that would be adversely impacted by the university's decision to build an offcampus dorm on Henley Road.

This is not the first time St. John's has failed to listen to the Jamaica Estates community on this important issue. The university has abandoned commitments made to the community to keep us informed about major decisions and activities they undertake. Residents of Jamaica Estates found out about the off-campus dorm when builders began to break ground on the project.

No public meetings took place. No discussions with local civic leaders and elected officials. The university went so far as to conceal their intentions by making absolutely no mention of the building of the dorm at their regular community dialogue meetings.

Once the plan was discovered by local residents, then and only then and with great reluctance did St. John's discuss the Henley Road dorm by revealing the fact that they entered into a 10-year lease with the builders of the facility. When asked about the lack of disclosure to the community, St. John's President Father Donald Harrington, by his own admission, wrote in a letter to my office that, "any earlier dialogue would have been premature, speculative and fiscally irresponsible".

Faced with this complete lack of transparency and disclosure and in violation of their own self-proclaimed declaration of being a good neighbor, I have called upon Father Harrington and the St. John's Board of Trustees on numerous occasions to immediately stop building this dorm in the middle of our neighborhood. Countless community members and I have protested three times in front of St. John's to make our opposition to the Henley Road dorm loud and clear.

Still, St. John's moves forward, much to the outrage, dismay and serious concerns voiced by the Jamaica Estates community. This dorm will adversely and negatively impact the quality of life for the permanent residents who live and raise their families on Henley Road and throughout Jamaica Estates. Some of these consequences include:

• Population density on Henley Road with the influx of transient students with no community interest;

• Increase in traffic congestion on local streets;

• Safety and security of the community as well as St. John's students;

• Utility over utilization and deterioration of the infrastructure; and

• Noise pollution generated by nearly 500 students coming and going at all hours of the day and night.

Beyond questioning the secrecy and motives surrounding St. John's decisions to build this off-campus dorm, I have also questioned St. John's ability to maintain order at this facility. According to St. John's own public records on reported incidences on campus, over the past three years there have been 735 liquor law violations, 106 drug law violations, 84 burglaries, four forcible sex offenses and one arson.

It is my hope that, as we enter into a new year, St. John's will finally listen to the Jamaica Estates community and resolve to work in good faith and stop the building of the off-campus dorm on Henley Road. Until then, I will continue to stand side by side with the community and send our strong and unified message loud and clear: No dormitories in Jamaica Estates.

Jamaica Estates is part of the 11th senate district represented by state Senator Frank Padavan.

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