Active Rain December 7, 2010

Iona College Dormitory Controversy in New Rochelle

I had very mixed feelings when I came across the article New Rochelle neighbors get rowdy over Iona dorm plan in the local paper. The neighbors are essentially concerned about more dorms undermining their quality of life and property values. The article talks about broken bottles, loud music and drunk students. Colleges in residential areas can have issues. As a real estate broker, I understand the concern.

As a former college student, however, I have a more visceral reaction. It is in my financial interest to support the neighborhood homeowners. I want them to think favorably of my company. I want them to list with me when it is time to sell. But they are wrong.

When I was a student at Villanova University in the 1980’s Radnor Township had draconian regulations on the dormitories the school could build, resulting in no guaranteed housing for upperclassmen. After sophomore year we were forced to live in the surrounding community, right in the middle of suburbia, in rental homes, low rent apartments, and basements.  What made things worse was that the municipalities in the area had severe “blue laws” limiting the number of non-related people who could live in one housing unit to just 2 or 3. Students often live in larger numbers due for budgetary reasons, so we either lived in fear, moved way out, or, like me, got evicted by the town authorities. Not fun. 

All of those problems could have been been avoided had the University been allowed to build more dorms. Eventually, they developed west campus on an old estate adjacent to main campus, and the problem was alleviated. Far fewer students parking on the side streets and living in the neighborhood absolutely helped. My nephew, a junior at Villanova, lives on campus. And he’s never spoken a word to me about problems with the township.

If the Iona students can’t live in that dormitory, then they’ll have to live in the surrounding area, right among the homeowners at odds with the college now. I’ve lived that way, and it isn’t my fondest college memory. It is my considered opinion that the only thing worse than that dormitory being built would be to not build it.