Community still coping with new off-campus dorm

Nearly a month after St. John’s students moved into the new Henley Road off-campus dormitories, residents in the area have mixed reactions about students living there.
Since construction on the Henley dorms began in 2007, residents in the area have been vocal against the building, saying the increase in students would diminish the community’s quality of life.
A few residents said they had unfavorable experiences in the past with St. John’s renters, which made them anxious and fretful about the new six-story college dormitory.
Students were greeted by protestors when they moved into the new building at the end of August.
“Several frat houses have had big parties around here,” said Steve Altenburg, who has lived on Henley Road for more than 30 years.
“One time, I had to chase someone from urinating in my bushes,” he said.
However, Altenburg said the presence of students on Henley Road has not been as bad as he thought it was going to be.
“It’s been pretty quiet,” he said. “Let’s see if they can keep it up.”
Homeowners Dario Bautista and his wife Josefina, who live about five houses down from the dorms, said St. John’s students renting property in the neighborhood have been a greater problem than the students who have been dorming.
Dario said he understands the
apprehensions his neighbors have for the new dorm, but said he believes the University has done a good job keeping the noise contained, the street clean and the area secured.
“It’s well-lit and there are a lot of security cameras,” he said.
Beverly Medina, another Henley Road resident, thinks the addition of the dorms has hurt the neighborhood.
“When I bought my home 22 years ago, this is not what I expected,” she said. “It is making our neighborhood into a St. John’s campus. It’s just not fair.”
Medina said vandalism, noise pollution, litter and traffic have increased significantly now that students are living in the dorm.
“St. John’s has trampled on our neighborhood,” she said. “We could absorb the St. John’s renters, but not this.”
Shana Porter, a student who lives in the Henley dorms, said she thought the neighbors’ protest efforts were “pointless.”
“The building is finished and we are already living here. There’s really nothing they can do,” she said.
Some students living in the dorm also said they have not had confrontations with neighbors, but feel a little unwelcome.
“I get looks from them sometimes,” said sophomore dormer Colette Phillips, “Like they’re thinking ‘Oh there’s another college student,’ but it never really escalates to anything.”
Joseph Sciame, vice president of St. John’s Department of Community Relations, said the University is always trying to improve its standing with nearby residents.
“We care about our neighbors,” he said.
Sciame said St. John’s hosts bi-monthly community dialogue forums to provide residents an opportunity to voice concerns. City council members, civic association representatives and University President Fr. Donald Harrington, among other University and community officials, attend these meetings to address complaints and issues that arise from the surrounding St. John’s community.
Medina said she feels the meetings are a “rubber stamp” and that Henley Road residents will continue to monitor the dorm and student activity.
“Our fight is not with St. John’s students,” she said. “Our fight is with the University.”