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St. John’s University seeks off-campus housing for fall

St. John's University is negotiating with several landlords to secure off-campus housing for about 150 students for the fall semester, university officials said.

"The residence hall program is going so well that we've run out of space," said SJU spokesman Jody Fisher. "We'd like to find some space for some graduate and law students."

St. John's has six residence halls on its Queens campus that house about 2,100 undergraduate and graduate students. There has been a waiting list for the residence halls since the first one opened four years ago, Fisher said.

"We'll never let it get overcrowded, but there are more applicants than there are spaces," said Fisher.

Fisher did not identify the exact locations of the off-campus housing under negotiation, but said it would be conveniently accessible by train, bus, or walking.

Cost for the off-campus housing would be similar to that of on-campus residence halls. A double or triple room in a residence hall now costs $6,050 for two semesters and a single room runs $7,200.

About 150 off-campus housing units are currently rented to students on SJU's Staten Island campus.

"The situation works very well, but that campus is significantly smaller than the Queens campus," said Fisher.

But Kevin Forrestal, the president of the Hillcrest Estates Civic Association, said Joe Sciame, the vice president of community affairs for the university, had referred to problems with students living in the Staten Island off-campus housing.

"Mr. Sciame mentioned that they had difficulty with behavior when they first started," said Forrestal.

Forrestal said he was concerned that the university was not being upfront with the community in disclosing its plans for off-campus housing.

"Given the housing shortage in Queens, to take rental apartments out of the market for transient students is a concern," he said.

Fisher said university representatives meet regularly with Community Board 8, which covers the campus, and other community groups about developments.

"We share that information with them as regularly as possible," said Fisher. "But we also try to share with them what we know is going to happen, not what maybe might happen."

Fisher said details of the off-campus housing had yet to be worked out, but the university would like to have an agreement "signed, sealed and delivered."

Reach reporter Tien-Shun Lee by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com, or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

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