New dorm upsets Queens residents

It seems time does not heal all wounds.
The community living near the latest St. John’s off-campus residence building, located on 172-14 Henley Road, said they still are unhappy over their incoming college neighbors, nearly two years after the University’s first announcement of the dorm’s construction.

“This is a residential area of mainly single family homes, a dorm room has no place here,” said Beverly Medina, a Henley Road resident for over 20 years. “That building will have about 500 students. Do you imagine the traffic, the water, the electricity, the noise, the partying?”

The Henley Road project has been riddled with controversy and community dissatisfaction since construction broke
ground in 2007. Local newspapers like The Queens Chronicle and The Queens Gazette, along with city-wide newspapers like The Daily News, covered the neighborhood’s repeated frustrations on the height of the building and the potential strains on the area’s standard of living.

St. John’s leased the land the new dormitory is built on from a private developer for a period of 10 years. A university statement by the Office of Media Relations, released soon after the debate on the property began, concluded that St. John’s built on the land fairly and legally.

The Henley Road Residence, just a few minutes away from the Queens campus, is scheduled to open in time for the Fall 2009 semester, according to university officials.

The new 7-story building is one of three off-campus choices available for resident upperclassmen during this week’s room selection process.

According to Dominic Petruzzelli, director of Residence Life, the building houses over 500 beds, with each suite containing a full kitchen, lounge area and two bathrooms.

Lord Chester So, a resident who lives directly across the street from the new dorm said he has several concerns about the building.

“I have two young kids who play outside; I worry about cars hitting them and the excessive noise that will be in the neighborhood now that people will be coming in at all hours,” he said. “I don’t see the University really doing anything significant to help with future parking problems or noise concerns.”

Tom Lawrence, vice president of Public Safety said there will be plenty of security measures put into place to accommodate the influx of students.

“Security will be a mirror image of what we already have in place in dorm rooms on campus now,” he said. “There will be a security desk in front with a Public Safety officer, 24-hours surveillance cameras, and an additional public safety officer patrolling outside the facility from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. everyday.”

He said the new dorm will also feature a courtyard that will be enclosed by a high fence intended to provide privacy and muffle any excessive noise student’s create for the community.

Petruzzelli said the University has already addressed some of the concerns of Henley Road residents, citing that the contractor rectified sewer problems by expanding and replacing certain pipes.

He also said the University plans to use a shuttle system to bring students back and forth from the Queens campus in hopes of reducing the traffic flow.

There is also a possibility of parking spots being allocated to students to park in the building’s basement; however, nothing has been confirmed.

Petruzzelli, though, said he feels concerns over potential rowdiness and rude behavior from students may be somewhat embellished.
“Our students are not deviants,” he said. “Our students are mature, well behaved, community members who are interested in going to school.

“They are interested in getting a college education and experiencing college life.”
Medina said she is still upset over the way she discovered the University’s plan to build the off-campus dorms and felt there was something wrong with “how they went about constructing something so significant in our neighborhood and never consulted with us about it.

“The way they treated us is just not right,” she said. “In my opinion, the whole idea was very poorly thought out.”

Some students said they felt the Henley Road residents had valid complaints.

“If they built a dorm room next to my house I would be mad too,” said freshman Fred Duran. “But, I think they worry too much.

We are college kids and we will probably party and come in late but it’s not like we throw wild parties and become crazy all the time.”

John Kissinger, a junior who visited the dorm rooms last week, said he probably would not live at the new Henley dormitory because of parking availability and distance from campus but agrees that something must be done to appease community members.

“I think that the neighbors bring up a valid argument and maybe St. John’s needs to do something to improve their image in the neighborhood.”

Other St. John’s students said that although they sympathize with the Henley Road residents, they also believe additional St. John’s housing is necessary.

“I think St. John’s needed to build another campus dorm because St. John’s doesn’t have enough campus housing,” said freshmen Erica Neibuhr.

“I think the residents should give us a chance and then voice their concerns if things happen later.”

Cassandra Richardson, another freshman, said she’s confident public safety will be effective in keeping the peace on Henley Road.

“Maybe if the local residents knew how strict the school is on resident students then maybe they wouldn’t be so concerned with partying and noise issues,” she said.

“I think they should publicize the rules and restrictions so residents can feel more
at ease.”