More than 400 parents and kids attended an informational meeting hosted by the Three Village Soccer Club on Monday, airing grievances that added up to one sentiment: they believe that Stony Brook University is being unfair to the club in its negotiations regarding the South P Lot soccer fields.
"I just feel the University in this whole episode is being very heavy-handed in negotiations. We've given them a lot and they're not giving back to us," said Jerry McKnight, a seven-year resident of Three Village. "It's going to be a win-lose situation."
Another parent, Mike Brunken, a 14-year resident, said he doesn't personally have a problem with what the University needs. Stony Brook officials have said more field space is needed for the University's growing club sports programs.
"But absorbing the cost of the development when we already had [the fields] developed is flat-out unfair, and the duration of the permit is far too short," he said.
Michael Arens, the University's assistant vice president for Government and Community Affairs, represented the University at the meeting Monday night.
"We know this is an important program. I’m here to listen to your questions," he said. "We’ve been talking a lot, and at the same time we realize that we’re going to work out a solution where we’re going to continue to share this property."
Echoing previous statements made by University officials, Arens also said: "The university serves the students first. That is our priority. I’m sure you would understand that. That’s first and foremost where we need to begin."
Olinda McGee, a 15-year resident, said she understands the University's needs.
"Point taken," she said. "But we support the University. We are part of the University community. We're not being unreasonable."
The University and the community at large have sometimes clashed in the past over land use, such as the annexing part of the Gyrodyne company's Flowerfield property by eminent domain and the building of a hotel on campus. But State Assemb. Steve Englebright, D-Setauket, said the soccer field issue is an opportunity to "build that bridge between the campus and the community even stronger." He suggested that the Stony Brook students get more involved in the Three Village Soccer Club.
"If you could be a part of the lives of the children of the community…I think that that would interlock the destinies of not only the students who are the players but also the students who are the campus," he said.
Some described the overall tone of the meeting – which was attended not only by many parents but also by many of the kids playing in the soccer club – as civil.
"I think it's great that we had the showing that we had," said Brunken, who added that he can scarcely go to a grocery store without seeing people he knows talking about the issue. "The fact that the community cares this much about this is tremendous. Something like this can be with angst, but having the kids here kind of tempered that."