An Open Letter to the Board of Trustees and the Board of Governors of Saint John’s University;
The Concerned Residents of Jamaica Estates is a group, comprised of Jamaica Estates residents, who organized with the sole mission of preserving our lovely community. I am writing to the members of the Saint John’s University Board of Trustees and Board of Governors to share our perspective on how the Saint John’s Henley Road Dormitory is, and will continue to, adversely impact our community.
St. John's University secured the deal to construct the Henley Road off campus dormitory by utilizing a technicality in the zoning code, known as community facilities, to build a 485 student private dormitory, in the heart of our residential community. Aside from violating the University’s own lofty mission statement of being a good neighbor and reneging on Father Harrington’s promise “that no off campus dormitories would be built”, 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, the SJU community dialogue group (a group created by Father Harrington to enhance dialogue and community relations), in the planning phase of this project. Not one of these entities was privy to this project until after the construction started.
If you would for a minute separate yourself from your role as a Trustee and see this situation from our viewpoint. We are teachers, social workers, sales persons, students, administrative assistants, school administrators, computer technicians, retirees; and our homes are our lifetime investments. They are not only our residences of many years, but our retirement nest egg and our children's inheritance. We are 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.
Many of us are parents of college students and know first hand what moving in and out of dorms is like. This is a chaotic period regardless of how much planning takes place and we can't help but cringe at the thought of double parked cars on narrow Henley Road and people trampling over each other as they maneuver carts full of furniture and boxes for 485 students and do so twice a year.
From an adults’ perception, teenagers and young adults have their internal clocks a bit askew, they 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. We do not believe that SJU has the right to alter the character of our community for self-serving reasons, excluding the residents from the planning process, ignoring our invitations to participate in community forums, and then spin the situation so they can portray themselves as victims.
If a similar situation were to happen in your own neighborhood, I am certain that you would passionately defend your investment and the peaceful enjoyment of your home with the same vigor and determination that we defend ours. We ask the Saint John’s community to reconsider their decision to continue with this ill-conceived project and take the correct, ethical alternative and stop this construction.
The Concerned Residents of Jamaica Estates