Editorial: Stony Brook U. needs to be a better neighbor

The Stony Brook University campus on Oct. 22,

The Stony Brook University campus on Oct. 22, 2013. Photo Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

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Brookhaven Town has been waging war against landlords in the neighborhoods around Stony Brook University who have converted single-family homes into illegal rooming houses for as many as a dozen or more students. Officials should continue the crackdown as long as it takes to restore residents' quality of life.

But the town and university also need to work together to ensure that Stony Brook has enough housing to meet student needs as enrollment expands. The status quo is unacceptable.

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In the past year, Brookhaven has taken action against more than 100 houses where landlords carved up the insides and rented them to students. Front lawns were paved to accommodate as many as 10 cars. Some houses have hosted parties with hundreds of students whose rowdy behavior required police intervention.

Some promising steps are underway. In educating students about living off campus, Stony Brook is advising them not to violate town code barring more than four unrelated people in one rental. And the school is building new housing -- 759 beds for 2016, bringing the on-campus total to 10,300. Officials say that will meet demand among its 15,000 undergrads, but the school also has 9,000 graduate students.

More can, and should, be done. School and town officials are discussing a plan advanced by town Supervisor Edward Romaine in which private developers would build on-campus dorms, rent them to students for a period, then transfer them to the university. Romaine said the town also is looking to create 200 units of housing for up to 400 students as part of a planned mixed-housing development at the train station in Port Jefferson Station. Both ideas are worth consideration.

Stony Brook has made great strides in recent years with program and facility upgrades that have attracted more students.

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Its neighbors should not have to bear the burden of that success.

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