Dear Editor (Queens Chronicle):
I am writing in response to the recent letter that appeared in the Jan. 24th edition of the Queens Chronicle from Lawrence King, Student Government President at St. John’s University, regarding the Henley Road dorm.
Mr. King’s assertions about the character and high standing of the St. John’s University students have not gone unnoticed. I agree with Mr. King that most of the St. John’s students are outstanding individuals who are focused on their studies. I commend students who are committed to giving back to the Queens community in various endeavors that help those in need.
As a community concerned about our quality of life we have every right to question all aspects of St. John’s on-going plans to build a six-story, 485 bed dormitory in our neighborhood. The simple fact of the matter is this, no matter how you spin the facts or the numbers, the Henley Road dorm will have a negative impact on the Jamaica Estates community.
As far as I am concerned, and I am certain the community will agree with me, the fact that 503 liquor and drug violations out of 800 reported cases have been referred for disciplinary action is still too high. There is no hiding the fact that these are incidences reported by St. John’s security. It also represents a high percentage of students that reside on campus. Given the lack of details furnished to the community, I am still left to question St. John’s ability to provide security at the Henley Road dorm and prevent these incidences from spilling over into our residential community.
From the very outset the actions of the St. John’s administration have violated their own self-proclaimed declaration of being a good neighbor. No public meetings took place to inform the community of their plans to build this dorm. The St. John’s administration engaged in no discussions with local civic leaders and elected officials prior to entering into the lease with the developer.
When confronted with these facts St. John’s University President Father Donald Harrington admitted in a Sept. 19 letter to my office, that “any early dialogue with the community would have been premature, speculative and fiscally irresponsible.”
Even when given the opportunity to attend a community meeting, where hundreds of local residents showed up, and engage in a meaningful dialogue on this issue back in December, Father Harrington failed to attend. In fact, St. John’s failed to send a representative to listen to the community’s concerns at this meeting.
The safety, security and well being of the Jamaica Estates community and St. John’s students is my chief concern. This dorm will also have additional adverse consequences for the entire community. It will overwhelmingly burden our infrastructure and utilities along with increased traffic congestion and noise pollution.
At the end of the day, my opposition to the building of an off-campus dorm in the heart of the Jamaica Estates community lies with the actions of the St. John’s administration and building developers.
It was my hope that the new year would have brought about a new found spirit of openness and cooperation from the St. John’s administration in regards to the Jamaica Estates community’s concerns. Sadly, as we end January it seems St. John’s is intent to move forward with its plans without working or listening to the concerns of the Jamaica Estates community.
Senator Frank Padavan