More than 20 residents of Jamaica Estates protested the construction of St. John’s new six-story dorm being built on Henley Road on Saturday, October 20 outside of Gate 1.
Two additional protests are scheduled for Saturday Oct. 27 at 9:30 a.m., and Sunday, November 11 at 8:00 a.m., according to a flyer handed out at the protest.
Sean Fleming, who lives on Highland Avenue next to the proposed dorms, is in charge of setting up the protests.
Fleming said he chose Oct. 20 as the day for the first protest because it coincided with the St. John’s Open House.
“St. John’s is paying no attention to us, so what choice did we have but to bring the attention to us?” he asked.
Fleming said he was e-mailed an official statement issued by the University, telling him to not contact the University with any further concerns, but he also asserted that those in the neighborhood “can’t give up,” because “what else do you have besides your home? We have to fight for it.”
In a flyer that protesters handed out on Saturday, residents cited several reasons for their protests.
They claim the new dorm will be a burden on their community resources because more than 400 students would be living there.
They also cited overcrowded parking, noise, crime, water pressure, and problems with sewer drainage in the area as other potential problems.
“The reality of 18 and 20 year olds is that life starts at midnight,” said Kevin Forrestral, a Jamaica, Queens resident.
“Senior citizens and those with young children are not on that schedule.”
New York State Senator Frank Padavan and City Councilman David Weprin attended the protest. Padavan, who said that he is in constant contact with the community, also said that the “behavior of students in college isn’t exactly peaceful on a residential block.”
He added, “It will not be a fun time for them [students] because they will have a lot of angry neighbors.”
A St. John’s Dialogue Group was established in 1998, with the purpose of keeping communication open between the University and residents of the area.
But according to a letter that Sen. Padavan sent to Father Harrington on Oct. 9, “The reality is that St. John’s University initially denied anything to do with the Henley Road project. The University only admitted to its involvement with the project when sufficient evidence came forth to render St. John’s denial completely incredible.”
Weprin added that the building of the new dorms “is really poking the neighborhood in the eye,” and the protesters agreed.
“This institution is behaving unethically,” said Romaine Johnson, who lives half a block away from the new dorm. This [the construction of the dorm] is primarily being done to boost the reputation and revenues of the University.”
Protesters hope that St. John’s administrators will change their minds about the dorms after the protests.
“Our hope is, and it’s a stretch, that the University will have some enlightenment and reconsider its actions,” said Forrestal.Dominic Scianna, Head of Media Relations, said that St. John’s University declined to comment.