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Queens College starts construction on dorm

Queens College announced Monday that it has closed on a contract with Alabama-based Capstone Development Corporation to build an on-campus dormitory, which some residents have opposed on grounds that the CUNY campus is a commuter school serving local students.

The 506-bed building is to be located on the site of the campus' outdoor tennis courts, and construction has already begun, a college spokeswoman said.

The low-rise building Queens College did not say how many stories it is to be is to have bedrooms in suites with kitchenettes, common areas and bathrooms and is expected to be ready for occupancy in August 2009. The new dorm will not have a dining room, so the current dining hall will expand its services to accommodate the new residents, the school said. Monthly rental rates will vary by unit type and range from $920 for a shared room to $1,150 for a single room, Queens College said.

Resident David Kulick, who heads the Flushing on the Hill civic association and is a vice president of the Queens Civic Congress, said the dorm project confuses CUNY's mission of educating local students at low cost.

"It strikes at the heart of what CUNY is supposed to be it's not Harvard or Princeton or Yale it's supposed to be for local kids," Kulick said. "If they're competing for non-local students, why not roll it into [the State University of New York] and eliminate a layer of bureaucracy?"

Kulick also worried about the inevitable tensions between dorm students and longtime residents.

"It's going to be a clash and it's supposed to be. We're worried about music blasting, worried about kids coming home at 3 a.m. in a neighborhood where people get up at 5 [a.m.] to go to work, worried about parking," he said. "There's no alternate side parking in the neighborhood and these kids are going to park their cars on our streets and leave them for days at a time."

The project is financed by $72 million in tax-exempt bonds issued by the city Housing Development Corporation, enhanced by a letter of credit issued by RBS Citizens National Association and underwritten by RBC Capital Markets, Queens College and Capstone said. The bonds and letter of credit are secured by project revenues, and no public funds are supporting the project, the school said.

Queens College selected Capstone's bid last July after soliciting proposals for construction of the facility.

The project includes 200 parking spaces, 89 of which are to be located below and adjacent to the new dorm building and the rest elsewhere on campus, the school said. New tennis courts, replacing the ones displaced by the dorm, are to be built in another location, the college said.

Capstone, which specializes in the development and management of student housing nationwide, has worked since 1994 with more than 55 colleges and universities to develop more than 31,000 beds of on-campus housing. It currently manages more than 15,000 beds on 19 campuses. Among its projects is The Towers dormitory at City College, according to Capstone's Web site.

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