Saturday, February 16, 2008

Cracks in St. John's dorm plan

Cracks in homes lead residents to seek halt to work at SJU site
By Alex Christodoulides, Times Ledger

Next door to an unpopular dormitory project under way on Henley Road in Jamaica Estates, one neighbor says her yard has developed cracks as the work progresses and undermines her foundation, giving opponents one more reason to fight.

Since last fall, the Concerned Citizens of Jamaica Estates, which organized a protest Saturday, has been trying to fight the 478-bed dorm project at 172-14 Henley Rd. because of its out-of-context nature in the neighborhood and their fears that it will tax water and sewer infrastructure. Residents also believe that St. John's University, which is to lease the building from developer H2H Residences LLC, was dishonest with the community for failing to announce in advance its plans to house students in the residential neighborhood.

The community has sought to halt construction via stop work orders issued through the Department of Buildings in September and October, one of which was for inadequate sewer permits. But the most recent expired in November.

Evelyne Altenberg, whose house is immediately next door to the construction site, has had a crack develop along the length of her side yard in the past week, which City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) says is due to improper excavation and shoring of the foundation hole. The crack is wider than a human foot and deep enough that people stumbled into it Saturday after the rally.

"After the last meeting [in January], I asked the Department of Buildings to come out here and issue a stop work order because they haven't properly shored up the bulkhead," Avella said. "They sent somebody out here and found nothing wrong."

In mid-January Avella spoke to Queens DOB Commissioner Derek Lee about the shoring, and followed up with letters Jan. 18, Jan. 30 and Feb. 11, his office said. Lee replied Feb. 5 saying the agency had audited the plans and would allow construction to proceed, according to a copy of Avella's most recent letter.

City Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) pledged $5,000 to the group from his discretionary fund so they can hire a civil engineer to examine the site, an offer that made barely a ripple in the protest.

Aside from concerns about safety, sewer capacity, noise and parking, the foundation has been dug down to the water table and will be prone to flooding and mold, the group says. The tarp covering the chain link fence at the site flapped open in the wind, revealing standing water in several places in the excavation.

"This place is built over a stream. If mold develops, that's not good," said Philip Ross, one of the speakers at the protest. He said that the excavation for the six-story building's foundation keeps filling with water as a result.

Shakti Chris, another speaker at the rally, said residents who had sought permission to alter their house and basement were told by a geologist that they could only dig down six feet. The excavation for the dorm is much deeper than that, and "it's when they dug deeper and hit the water table that the water stands," she said.


Anonymous said...

Excavations in Jamaica Estates over the years caused a good number of cracks and have in some instances compromised the foundations of neighboring homes, and NOT ONCE has the DOB ever issued a stop work order, or even, for that matter, recognized the problem. They certainly won't buck St. John's this time. It is well known that there are underground streams throughout the area, and water table issues as well. The DOB ignores this and issues permits left and right, despite the ensuing problems.

I find it interesting that it is the "Concerned Citizens" of Jamaica Estates who are fighting this dorm. Not one word from the Jamaica Estates Association itself in protest. Kind of tells you what kind of people are in charge there, and what's in it for them to keep quiet.

Anonymous said...

Well, well, well,
Jimmy "the gent" Gennaro
suddenly becomes the Queens' champion.

I wouldn't trust this turncoat knave,
lest I wind up with his lance in my back.

Some "fine" knight!

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't exactly call Gennaro a champion. He is not fighting this project. His little donation for an engineer is simply a ploy to make it look as though he cares.

Anonymous said...

Some "fine knight" is right! He claims to be fighting the people's fight all while accepting donations from the firm that is building the dorm for St. John's.

The poor woman a senior citizen is having to deal with this issue and in the future the dorm fiasco. The city won't do anything until the house is at a 30degree angle.

Queens Crapper said...

Check this out:

Politician says St. John's University president making him target

Anonymous said...

A very interesting read "Crapper"!

I thought that not for profits
(particularly those with federal tax exempt status)
are NOT permitted BY LAW
to endorse any political candidates.

So now it appears they're coercing their students
into doing their dirty work for them!

Will they get college credit voting for
Frank's opponent or expelled if they don't ?

first it was the pedophilia scandal,
and now it's playing with politics.

What else is being kept under wraps
in the cupboard that's out of sight?

This is shameful behavior for a Catholic institution
if this all turns out to be true !

ken said...

hopefully St John's students will have enough integrity to refuse to be used as pawns in the school's schemes to politically assassinate its opponent.

Anonymous said...

Father Harrington is accustomed to having things his way at all times and he is mighty angry at community's opposition to the dorm project. He is having a tantrum but it's a shame that he is breaking the law and setting an awful example for his students at the same time. Maybe his defense will be a project for the St. John's law school students to work on.

Anonymous said...

Maybe we should inject some facts into this discussion. The Padavan "target" story is ridiculous. You are criticizing the university for a voter registration drive? Show me one piece of solid evidence that the school is pushing the students to vote against Padavan. Show me one piece of paper or school administration literature that backs that claim up, instead of pushing some innuendo and unverified rumors.
Also, the school has not broken any laws in this matter. When you make things up to support your arguments, no one will believe you about anything.

Anonymous said...

I think that it's time
for you to visit the confessional Father H.

Or maybe you'd like the feds to revoke
SJU's tax exempt status and become
your personal father confessor!

Shame on you.

Anonymous said...

C'mon SJU.....
you're buggering the neighborhood.....
jamming in that dorm!

Anonymous said...

I think that Senator Padavan
has exhibited far more integrity
over his 30 plus years of serving his constituents
than SJU has demonstrated during that same period.

Frank knows that lying is still a sin .

ken said...

our agruments or statements are based on a Daily News article, which may admittedly turn out be untrue in the end, but at least it is a substantial and swaying piece of evidence that St John's is engaged in the unethical, if not criminal, undertaking of trying to unseat Padavan by a student voter drive that may also be biased.

Your counter argument, by contrast, that the school is doing no such thing is solely based on your own personal opinion, completely unbacked by any supportive evidence, unless you know something we don't? If so, feel free to enlighten us. Contrary to what you may think most people that visit this site are pretty open minded and willing to listen to an opposing point of view.

ken also said...

and besides the article, our readiness to believe the school capable of such a scheme also stems from its building that new dorm by taking advantage of a loophole in the law, suggesting that their ethics are questionable to begin with.

Anonymous said...

A Daily News article with quotes of unverified rumors does not constitute evidence. I am not making any accusations. My not showing evidence to prove a negative does not support this unproven claim of a conspiracy to unseat Padavan. And you are sorely mistaken if you consider the proponents of this blog to be open-minded.

Queens Crapper said...

Hey why would St. John's do a signup of voters to unseat Padavan unless they knew the voters lived in the district and could vote him out? And if they live in the district, they probably aren't dorming, they're living at home and wouldn't be all rah-rah about the project. So you see, we can look at things objectively.

in contradiction to Crappy, Ken gulp, gulp said...

but there are the students presently living in pre-existing dorms on the campus, and if they have the right to vote in district elections (which I'm not sure they do) then they might well sway an election in favor of Pad's opponent after the school had hoisted a voters drive.

Anonymous said...

Padavan receive today's Daily News Knucklehead Award for opposing the expansion of a hospital for sick children. According to the Daily News:

"But the plan was wholly inoffensive. No public funds were involved. St. Mary's would stay at its present 100-patient capacity. Construction would take place inside a courtyard, and the new facilities would be no taller than the existing structure. No views would be blocked. No traffic would increase.

Basically, St. Mary's wants to provide more comfortable two-bed rooms for the children, instead of - as it must do now - cram them into four-bed wards. Who could possibly object to that? The disgruntled locals, to whose cause Padavan and Carrozza rallied by writing mumbo-jumbo letters urging the state Health Department to put the plan's approval on hold.

Health Commissioner Richard Daines rightly ignored them and gave St. Mary's a prompt go-ahead.

Padavan and Carrozza say they only wanted further study. They profess love and admiration for St. Mary's and wish the hospital the best. Etc. Etc. Etc.

But the fact remains they went to bat for nut cases who were all too happy to deny the sickest of children the best of care."

Crapper also opposed the hospital expansion, probably out of a selfish knee-jerk reaction to be against any development. I guess in the Daily News' view, Crapper is a "nut case". Is this "substantial and swaying" for you Ken? Anyway, Padavan is not the most credible person in my book.

Queens Crapper said...

And we all know how wise the Daily News editorials have been lately.

"No one wants to stand in the way of improving the lives of sick kids. But shoving a $105 million five-story building, paid for by taxpayers, into the middle of a bedroom community is arrogant and counterproductive." - Denis Hamill, Daily News columnist

Anonymous said...

Oh shit. I guess Denis Hamill is a nutcase then too according to his employer.

Anonymous said...

It seems the Holy Office of the Inquisition
has opened up a branch at SJU to twist some arms
and pull some legs.

No we're not laughing when Father H. .....
let's be polite for his reverence.... deceives
the local residents about the dorm plans.

That's not exactly racking up points with
the community !

Now let's hear a retort from the iron maiden!

ken said...

in regards to the hospital expansion I side with Crappy, especially as there's an alternative, non-residential locale where the hospital might be built, as was pointed out in the post.

Anonymous said...

As far as I am concerned Father Harrington and SJU use religion as a cover up but they are ruthless, greedy, and will stop at nothing when they do not get their way. Father H "dialogue group" is a perfect example, this group started several years ago with much pomp and circumstance to improve community relations. The group was not informed of the dorm construction and had to find out from neighbors and they had met the week before the construction started. When Father H disliked the former president of the Jamaica Estates Association and he gave the JEA an ultimatum either you get rid of him or SJU will rescind their contribution to the JE security patrol. So yes, I believe the Father H can't stand Padavan for opposing the dorm and he will try to destroy him anyway he can. Hopefully this will be fully investigated.

Anonymous said...

Three cheers for Frank Padavan who has taken the lead in this dormitory war against yet another "community organization" which is able to construct as of right a building which destroys the fabric of the very community that St Johns claims to serve. Frank personally yelled at the president of the Jamaica Estates Association after the Feb 28 mtg hosted by the Concerned Citizens of JE regarding putting an open letter from HRH Construction of the front page of the JEA newsletter with little opposing information. Jim Gennaro was a no-show--presumedly he was attending to more important matters such as buying hair spray. I say that St John's run a voter registration drive for their students--most don't live in the area and probably will be too busy to vote anyway.