The Civic Scene: Huge crowd opposes Mets at St. John’s

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An informational report at the February meeting of Community Board 8 drew a huge crowd to the meeting room in the United Cerebral Palsy Building opposite Queens Hospital Center. The occasion was the New York City Economic Development Corporation's and the New York Mets' presentation with St. John's University, of their proposal to renovate the St. John's baseball field so the newly purchased AA Minor League team, the Kings, can play there for one or two summers.

The residents packing the room came from the Jamaica Estates Civic Association, the Hillcrest Estates Civic Association, and the Flushing Heights Civic Association. While other civic association members were present, the opposition to the plans came from these civics, who are on the borders of the St. John's Campus.

The civics are all concerned about the impact enlarging the seating capacity of this stadium would have on their quality of life. Some old-timers remember when the campus was a golf course. Then St. John's moved from downtown Brooklyn. There was some inconvenience as the buildings were built and students started to park their cars on residential streets, sometimes blocking driveways, but they co-existed.

On the eastern border the Jamaica Estates Civic had some streets made one-way away from the school so students would not speed down them rushing to get to class. They had no-parking signs erected near corners to eliminate blind spots caused by parked cars. On the western border, the Hillcrest Estates Civic fought cars blocking their driveways, speculators making some residences rooming houses and fast food trash.

To the north, across Union Turnpike, the Flushing Heights Civic has endured the parking problem, keg parties from houses rented out by students and the noise of the basketball games from Alumni Hall.

I will grant the fact that the Red Storm brings national prominence to Fresh Meadows and Queens but...

A couple of years ago St. John's decided to become a Division One school, which was great because it brought prestige and respect. This required dorms, however, so they created a master plan and decided to build dorms. However, dorms meant more cars, so they decided to build a garage. However, all this has affected on the quality of life for the surrounding residents, which they have been struggling to maintain for decades,

Although this is a relatively small campus compared to some in other cities and in other states, they are adding dorms and more students. Now they want to upgrade the baseball stadium, which will add to the congestion in a small campus surrounded by thousands and thousands of single-family homes, stretching for miles. Yes, it will bring prestige if a Mets' farm team, The Kings, plays here but... The Mets' organization, the Economic Development Corporation and St. John's, were well-prepared to answer all questions about lighting, noise, parking, security, prices of tickets, construction, impact on the community and the future. Michael Carey, President of the Economic Development Corporation, said that they are negotiating with the Mets and St. John's but it looks like a done deal to me unless the civics can convince them all that the stadium should not be here.

St. John's can do what it wants on its campus because it is a religious organization and a community facility. Like doctor's offices, religious institutions, group homes, hospitals and all types of schools, these facilities are supposed to be there for the benefit of the community, thus it is hard to stop them or make them change But it can be don eif the community really wants to.

The Queens Civic Congress, the umbrella organization for Queens civics, has been trying to get the City Planning Commission to better define community facilities and what it means by saturation of an area. Too bad we don't have it now.

When St. John's started to expand, a dialogue group of concerned parties was set up. It has met, but the civics have complaints about it. There is an effort to control the noise, trash, drinking and inconvenience caused by the additional students.

A few things were learned. There will be 38 summer games. Tickets will cost only about $10. After concern at a previous meeting, it was decided that beer would not be sold, yet people can go over to the bars on Union Turnpike only a couple of blocks away. A board made up of Community Board 8 members will be set up to monitor things, whatever that means.

The Mets promised grants for children, tickets, equipment for local teams, honors for achieving local students, plus many more things. St. John's agreed to let the community use the field for seven years. However, the Youth Committee Chair of Community Board 8, Marc Haken, complained that St. John's never approached him in the past to use facilities on the campus.

State Senator Frank Padavan and Assemblyman Mark Weprin were annoyed because they had a bill passed by the Legislature so St. John's could buy 10 acres on the Creedmoor property for $ 1 million with a stadium with existing infrastructure. Suddenly this new deal will have the cviding about $8 million to fix up their old stadium and add temporary seats.

GOOD NEWS: They are offering many good things to the community. BAD NEWS: They are going to impose more density and construction on this residential mmunity.

Updated 10:26 am, October 12, 2011
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