University continues expansion

Two and a half years ago, St. John’s unveiled a master plan to transform the Queens campus into a university for the future. The plan has been altered a couple of times, but is generally on track as originally planned. It has already led to the construction of five residence halls and a new dining facility. Other buildings to be constructed in the future include a free standing church and new university center.

“We developed this plan to build for the future of St. John’s,” said Joseph Sciame, vice president for Government and Community Relations.
The university is constructing a new softball field behind the residence halls and is planning to break ground during the summer for a sixth residence hall.

“It has been difficult to stay on schedule in terms of construction so far this year because of the bad weather we have experienced in the recent weeks,” Sciame said.

A major problem that the university has faced as it works through the master plan is the lack of parking space available on campus. St. John’s took the first step in solving the parking problem last year by building a new parking garage located behind DaSilva Memorial Field.

Recently the university has began discussions concerning other ways to satisfy the need for more parking on the Queens campus. One option is to add additional spaces on either side of Alumni Hall. Another alternative is to construct a parking garage near the service road on the corner of Grand Central Parkway and 168th Street. There are already plans to use this area as a substation to provide energy for the university, and there will be additional land on that site so it is feasible to build a parking garage on that property.

“We knew going in that parking would present a problem for us, but we feel that we have enough resources to solve the problem,” Sciame said. “This is just one of those growing pains.”

St. John’s routinely conducts community dialogue meetings to keep university neighbors of the fully informed about what is happening on campus. Members of the borough president’s office are frequently in attendance, as well as Union Turnpike merchants and the local community board and police department. St. John’s wants the community to feel that it is part of the university.

“We want to be helpful to the community, not a detriment,” Sciame said. “We feel we have a lot to offer the community.”

According to Sciame the only concern raised by the community at the most recent meeting was for more security on campus in the wake of the shooting that occurred three weeks ago. St. John’s has assured the community that it is doing everything in its power to address this problem.

“As a result of this master plan we have been transformed into a 24 hour, seven days a week university,” Sciame said. “We have ensured the community that we are willing to fully accept that responsibility.”