Residents Grill SBU Officials Over Enrollment, Student Housing

Plans to increase enrollment and add more than 3,000 beds in new dormitory halls get residents riled up at Monday's Civic Association meeting.

Residents at Monday's meeting of the grilled two Stony Brook officials over the university's plans to increase enrollment and add housing space, saying those plans will only exacerbate existing quality-of-life issues in the community.

According to a presentation delivered by Barbara Chernow, Senior Vice President for Administration, and Elaine Crosson, Vice President for External Affairs, crime on campus is down; there are fewer fire alarms; there are more mass transportation options and increased sustainability practices on campus. However, it was the university's plan to increase enrollment and add more than 3,000 beds in a handful of new residence halls that caught much of the residents' attention.

Some present at the meeting worried that the increase in students would overburden local infrastructure and resources such as the sewage treatment facility on the campus, at which point Chernow said the university would still be "well within the capacity for the sewer district" even with the added students. Others were concerned with the problems associated with more vehicle traffic, at which point they were assured that parking garages and increased mass transit on campus would alleviate those problems.

But others said the perceived problem of students living off campus, many in illegal boarding houses, illegal accessory apartments, and overcrowded rental homes, has got them worried.

Former civic association president Herb Mones described the resulting problem as "essentially some very entrepreneurial or exploitive individuals who are turning these homes into large rooming homes and making substantial profits out of that" – not unlike in Stony Brook.

One resident, who described himself as a 41-year resident who lives near the university's P Lot, said he assumed students have been renting homes and rooms in the community for that entire 41-year period but has "never seen anything quite like what’s happening now."

"I think the university could help us ... if they're willing to," the resident said.

"We are," Chernow replied.

However, students living off campus is not something that the university can control – at that point they are considered commuter students. Roughly half the population of Stony Brook students are commuters.

According to Brookhaven's town code, renting rooms in one's home is illegal, and accessory apartments and rental houses must have certificates of occupancy. The town provides a service on its website whereby people can search for legal rentals; there are hundreds listed in a database searchable by hamlet and street name.

RELATED: Brookhaven enacts amendments to give the Town more power in acting against illegal rooming houses.

Stony Brook's Off Campus Housing website provides this disclaimer: "... The fact that any listing is on this site does not imply that FSA [Faculty Student Association] or the University has researched and/or confirmed that the prospective housing is in a legal apartment and/or free of any liens and/or any encumbrances by any governing municipality and/or authority. In this regard, it is recommended that any potential tenant contact the Town in which the listing resides."

Additionally, a website called Stony Brook China advocates parents of foreign students buying homes in the community for not only their children's housing needs but for investment as well. Its website reads: "Parents of students going to American colleges find it is smart to purchase a residence near the college their child is attending, especially graduate students. It becomes a long term investment, it gives the student a place to live, it provides income by having the extra rooms rented to other students."

Another website, called ULoop.com – also not affiliated with Stony Brook – purports to make students' search for housing easy. "Let us guide your SBU off campus housing search for apartments for rent, houses for rent, and college roommates near Stony Brook," it reads, and lists rooms for rent and apartments and houses to share by university. A Stony Brook spokeswoman said in an email to Patch in January that ULoop "is not connected in any way to Stony Brook University."

The new undergraduate residence halls will mostly be built in several phases over the next four to five years near Stony Brook's Long Island Rail Road station on Route 25A on existing university property, and will tie in to in the areas around the train station.

"The design [for the dormitories] is complete. We’re about to move to construction for the first phase," Chernow said.

RealTea September 20, 2012 at 10:01 PM
Wow, The BS is running kind of deep here since the last time I checked! Sentiment seems to be running between 'screw you and your house that you worked your whole life for, the laws don't matter, it's a free for all, rent or move, the greedy win, we will crush you', and; 'the boys helped find my puppy, I do believe they can walk on water'. Actually how did it work out regarding the boys cleaning up their garbage? The pile out front this morning looked like the South Bronx. Speaking of the South Bronx, how about the empty baggies of bath salts and crystal meth laying around in the street after the boys have one of their parties? How would you like your dog or kids getting into that? Me thinks maybe you earnest folk are swallowing the lies of these deceitful doper low lives. At least the 'We will crush you contingent' is straightforward and honest about their intentions. Now, you gunna let them do that?
Jesus September 24, 2012 at 11:10 PM
Ah, My Dearest Flock, As my 9th Holy Commandment clearly states, "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor." It does not, however, say: "Slander thy neighbor with libelous accusations of low-living, doping delinquency." I'll see you on Sunday, you have much to learn.
Dan Elton September 25, 2012 at 03:48 AM
I agree with everything you say, except I don't think many students are leaving campus to eat, at least, not for lunch. It's too hard to get off campus by car and the stuff near the train station is somewhat limited and hard to walk to. The university needs to allow more food venders in, because right now the dining halls are so crowded they are a public health hazard. One of the reasons I'm excited about the prospect of some infrastructure improvements around the train station and Nichol's Road is that they might attract more eateries with cheaper (and more nutritious) alternatives, not mention make the area more nice to walk around.
Dan Elton September 25, 2012 at 03:53 AM
I agree mostly, but I don't think the dorms are necessarily a bad thing. Consider the amount of additional spending money all those students will bring to local businesses. As the size (and hopefully, prestige) of the university grows, that will attract more people to this region. What the university needs to do is start doing random drug tests and put out a ban on off-campus drinking. (they've did something at the school I went to). Until they can set some standards for student behavior, increasing the size of the student body won't have much support from the community. With community relations already tense, it's time they started fixing the relationship.
C. Bery October 08, 2012 at 10:31 PM
Hey George Starke, How many kids do live at 150 Christian Ave.? Not 40+ then how many??With the mortgage to cover that house and the 25,000. in taxes - you do the math - how many kids do you think are REALLY living at that house? and Robert Tkatch - why can't YOU ask your friends to pick up their garbage - why do you need me to come with you? Since Sept. 17th no improvement in the disgusting mess of a house with garbage all over the place and now an attractive dumpster. Does anyone there actually go to school? There are always!!! so many cars there! What a shame that our local politicians let this happen??


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