The Civic Scene: St. John’s dorm house lowers quality of life in Fresh Mdws.

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New York University is planning to expand its campus by 40 percent over the next 20 years. These plans have concerned the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation and me because what NYU can do in Manhattan St. John’s University can do in Queens.

Right now, the other end of my block is under siege by St. John’s students, who are renting a house and having weekend parties. It may be over soon because the school year is almost over, but I wonder what they will do for their year-end party.

NYU’s 2031 plans call for doubling the size of the campus in 20 years. It wants to add 3 million square feet of buildings to Greenwich Village and the surrounding area. It wants a 40-story hotel tower, a 26-story dorm on East 12th Street, large-scale buildings in landmarked districts and more people, noise, trash and cars all coming with vague building plans.

If one closes one’s eyes, this could be the Fresh Meadows, Hollis or South Flushing neighborhoods. SJU has built dorms, bought houses on Union Turnpike near 148th Street, purchased an office building where a Carvel once stood on Union Turnpike and 150th Street and bought a 400-plus student dorm in Jamaica Estates.

The dorm has been open for eight months and I have not heard any noise or party problems caused by the students nor seen any sewer overflows due to the many students in the building and heavy rains.

The GVSHP has zoning rules to protect it and its area has landmark status, but NYU will attempt to get variances and exemptions from the city Board of Standards and Appeals, which many civic association leaders have contempt for because its seems to break zoning rules by giving variances to almost anybody who asks. City Hall has a growth fixation and believes buildings are more important than the air, the sky, grass, flowers and a good quality of life.

Here in Fresh Meadows, I am going against an SJU satellite house students are renting out at the far end of my block near 73rd Avenue. The absentee owner has been renting it out for years. This year, the students have been having parties. Big event days, like Supper Bowl Sunday, have been bad and even I heard them that evening.

One suggestion the GVSHP made to CUNY was that it build satellite campuses. I heard a builder wanted a variance to build a dorm in Long Island City to presumably sell to CUNY. The Dutch Kills Civic Association in LIC is having enough trouble with builders who build hotels with no parking facilities in a neighborhood with little off-street parking. I do not think they would want that dorm.

In 2008, NYU bought Polytechnic Institute in downtown Brooklyn. It is now planning a campus on Governor’s Island. Officials talk about a great city needing a great university, but what if there is no space available except by taking away air, grass, trees and sunlight?

Why do NYU, SJU, Columbia University and the big hospitals in Manhattan have to build bigger? Even though they planted trees on our Union Turnpike mall, the city did not clean out the tree pits last year. The dead weeds from last year are still there and probably on side streets I do not notice. The local city councilmen are working on this issue for us now.

If you want more information about this type of expansion, call the executive director of the GVSHP at 212-475-9585 or visit

GOOD NEWS OF THE WEEK: It seems the new health care law has provided positive dividends for some people. Some insurance companies have decided not to immediately cancel a policyholder’s insurance if a policyholder develops a serious illness. This provision in the law will take place in September 2010.

Bad publicity had made the insurance companies do this. Companies also started letting dependents stay on their parents’ policy until they are 26, although it was not supposed to start until September also.

BAD NEWS OF THE WEEK: An explosive device did not go off near Times Square a few weeks ago. We were lucky. The terrorists continue to plot against us.

At any rate, the city and a few other places are targets and need to be protected better than they are now. I hope anti-terrorism money is spent where it is needed and not as pork. I hope our various intelligence agencies are now cooperating with each other.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority fired about 500 station agents to save money. But what will happen to, “If you see something, say something”? Who are the passengers going to say “it” to if there is no MTA worker underground?

Updated 5:50 pm, October 10, 2011
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