Myers Park Takes Queens To Court Over Expansion
The new red brick parking garage topped with two floors of student housing sits beyond the athletic center now under construction. Photo: Julie Rose Homeowners in the well-to-do Myers Park neighborhood are suing Queens University over the school's latest expansion. They'll be in court today. The dispute centers on Wellesley Avenue: a narrow, two-lane street, lined with stately old homes. Fairfax Cooper bought his seven years ago and liked the fact that Queens University was just across the street "It was just the feeling of being in a college neighborhood and just the daily goings-on," says Cooper. "At the time when I was moving here, there did not seem to be any disadvantages to being near Queens, as there are now." Today, Queens University has about 1,400 undergrads, but hopes to boost that to 2,000 in the next ten years. A building boom is underway on campus. Much of the work is happening on Wellesley Avenue. A five-story parking garage topped by two floors of student dorms will be finished this fall. Next to it, Queens tore down its outdated athletic center and is building a new one - three times larger. It'll have room for 2,000 fans to cheer on Queens athletes. The school had a study done in 2009 that found Wellesley Avenue could handle the extra traffic, but Cooper and his neighbors doubt it. "I think it's inappropriate to have that many cars and that many spaces coming in and out on a street that where they do, is 20 feet wide," says Cooper. Cooper worries about his kids crossing the street to visit friends. And he suspects the value of his home will suffer. "I feel even more sorry for the people directly across the street, because it is going to loom large right over their house," says Cooper. Adam Prus is that person. Two years ago - after the university's plans were set, but before construction was underway - Prus bought the home that's now facing right at the entrance of the new athletics building. "We wouldn't buy this house if we would have known," says Prus. "You expect places to grow, to an extent. But to build to a level that they're building at is shocking." The Myers Park Homeowners Association believes the city violated its own zoning policies in approving the Queens expansion. At a minimum, they want traffic from the new buildings to come and go through the school's main entrance on Selwyn Avenue, rather than Wellesley. Queens University President Pamela Davies says that's not feasible, but she's not turning a blind eye to Myers Park. "This is such a lovely and charming neighborhood, it makes Queens a more attractive institution for our students," says Davies. "So we certainly want to be respectful of our neighbors and we want to contribute to the environment and our neighborhood, rather than detract from it. And we do believe these facilities will indeed do that." Davies says the new athletics center will be much better looking than the old one and the garage will mean fewer students parking on side streets. Queens officials say they've met almost monthly with Myers Park homeowners for the last four years - and even changed their construction plans to address some concerns. But those meetings stopped earlier this year when homeowners filed a lawsuit against Queens University. The Myers Park Homeowners Association has raised more than $70,000 for the legal battle, which goes to court today.