WHITE PLAINS, NY — December 15, 2017 — As you are probably Ware, the Gedney Association Board authorized our Attorney to appeal the recent decision by the Common Council to approve the French American School of New York’s (FASNY) application for a regional middle and high school. The lawsuit was filed December 5th.
The Board believes the Common Council was clearly in violation of the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) in a number of serious ways. The law mandates that an applicant fully describe development plans for an entire property in order to assess the cumulative effect of such plans on the surrounding neighborhood. FASNY and the Common Council ignored this requirement. The Council’s decision merely reflected FASNY’s agreement that it will not submit any future proposal for “FASNY Expansion” for 15 years.
This restriction is frankly meaningless in that it only applies to the school and not any other development plan.
Another glaring omission in the Common Council decision is that it ignored the critical “Safety” issues. This is and has always been our paramount concern. FASNY proposes to add close to 1,000 vehicles on Ridgeway and Hathaway Lane during the morning and afternoon peak periods. These roads were not designed for this level of traffic. our traffic engineer and fire safety expert identified numerous hazardous conditions that would result and thus endanger our residents. During the earlier SEQRA process, the Common Council emphatically rejected use of Ridgeway. Now, because the proposed student population has been lowered by 310 students, the Council has done an about-face. Curiously, they made no effort to address their earlier objections including inconsistency with the Comprehensive Plan, the Zoning Ordinance and their own staff consultant.
The most disappointing was Councilwoman Hunt-Robinson. Only one week before the final vote she identified Safety as a critical unresolved concern yet she never mentioned this key issue in her final assessment before the final vote. She did, however, mention FASNY’s agreement to offer scholarships to deserving children which is not a factor Ina Special Permit or Site Plan review. her comments seem to be connected to FASNY’s earlier efforts to obtain White Plains Ministers Association Support in which the president of the Minister’s Association stated that it obtained certain “concessions” from FASNY for their support. Coincidentally, Ms. Hunt-Robinson’s husband is an area minister. for FASNY to have stooped to this Level in order to gain the last “critical” vote is, at best, unseemly and very questionable.
FASNY played an unusual level of hardball during this process. It bought the property without the normal contingencies. It persisted despite overwhelming opposition by residents of the south end of the City and others. It authorized a very nasty campaign by its PR consultant. It enlisted the support of powerful out-of-town financial supporters of high-level politicians in New York State to put extraordinary pressure on our local elected representatives. Simply put, they have not endeared themselves to the community.
There is no assurance of success in our ongoing legal effort. The same Judge who made a preliminary decision in favor of FASNY and against our various motions has again been assigned to this matter.
However it is imperative to exercise our rights especially when the health, safety and welfare of our children are in jeopardy. Therefore, we need to ask for your continued financial support in this effort.
The support to date has been terrific whether it is the behind the scenes contributions of neighborhood lawyers that have helped frame our legal strategy or the generous monetary support of so many neighbors. The Board and I thank all in our neighborhood as well as bordering neighborhoods and others throughout the City.
Because of the timing of the Common Council decision and the filing of the lawsuit our need for additional funds is now. Please send all contributions to the above address. We wish you a wonderful Holiday Season and a Happy New Year.
John E. Sheehan is The Gedney Association President.