I write in response to the letter written by the President of the SJU Student Government, Lawrence King, to the local newspapers stating that the students of St. John's deserve respect. There is no need to challenge the community "to learn what St. John University's students are really like". I agree that the vast majority of St. John's students are talented and gifted individuals and I commend the 700 students who participated in SJU Community Service Day community service day. So please accept my apologies if you felt otherwise.
That said, I also feel very strongly that the residents of Jamaica Estates also deserve respect, something SJU has not shown us. The anger and animosity that permeates our community is a product of the underhanded and secretive manner in which Father Harrington and St. John's University secured the deal to construct the Henley Hall dormitory. Regardless of how they spin it, the point remains, it is not whether the building is legal or not. It's the ethics of using; the "community facilities loophole" in the zoning code, to build a private dormitory, for a private university in the heart of a residential community.
Aside from violating the university's lofty mission statement of being a good neighbor, SJU failed to include local elected officials, the community board, the planning commission, the Jamaica Estates Association, the community at large, or for that matter, SJU community dialogue group (a group created by Father Harrington to improve community relations) in the planning phase of this project. Not one of these entities was privy to this project until the after the construction started.
So please, Mr. King do not feel slighted if student groups were not engaged in constructive dialogue, Father Harrington does not believe in constructive dialogue he prefers a more dictatorial approach. This unbending behavior has forced the SJU to hire a costly damage control firm to protect the school's tarnished reputation, utilizing the alumni and benefactors' donations that could have been better employed enhancing financial aid to needy students or boosting professors' salaries.
Before you condemn the community, you should take a few minutes to look at the situation through my eyes and the eyes of many of the residents on Henley Road;
Our home, our lifetime investment, is not only our residence of many years, but our retirement nest egg and our children's inheritance. I am angered that St. John's University is able to infringe on our life plans and negatively impact our property values and do so with impunity.
I am a mother/aunt of college age students and every August I travel to upstate NY as well as to Stony brook and Boston to help them move in and do so in reverse in mid May. This is a chaotic period regardless of how much planning takes place and I can't help but cringe at the thought of double parked cars in narrow Henley Road and people trampling over each other as they maneuver carts full of furniture and boxes for 485 students.
Our daughter was an RA for three of her undergraduate years and what a learning experience this was. Most students, not only freshmen, have a difficult time mastering their new found freedom regardless of how gifted and talented they are, and while many of the quality of life infractions they commit may not be violent or criminal in nature, they will interfere with the peaceful enjoyment of your home.
Teenagers and young adults have their internal clock a bit askew, most of you start partying way past midnight about the time most of us have retired. We gave a lot of thought, as did many of our neighbors, in selecting a community with the attributes and amenities to raise children as well as grow old in. I do not believe that SJU has the right to alter the character of our community for self serving reasons and have the audacity to exclude the residents from the planning process, ignore their invitations to participate in community forums, and then spin the situation so that SJU can portray themselves as victims!
In addition to the above reasons, this project is moving forward without an environmental impact study to determine if the community can withstand a construction of this magnitude. At a time in history when developers are building "green buildings", Kamali Developers is desperately seeking creative ways to dispose the proposed buildings human waste in our aging sewer system.
At some point in the not too distant future, Mr. King, you will purchase your first home and I assure you that you will passionately defend your investment and the peaceful enjoyment of your home with the same vigor and determination that we defend ours.
Member of the Concerned Residents of Jamaica Estates