April 25, 2019
Members of the Common Council
White Plains City Hall
Re: FASNY Press Release
Dear Members of the Common Council:
The recent Press Release by the French American School of New York (FASNY) announcing its intention to sell approximately 48 acres of the former Ridgeway Country Club has caused considerable confusion and indignation by many residents in Gedney Farms as well as other adjoining neighborhoods. In announcing its intention to sell a portion of its property, FASNY has contradicted the essence of its earlier assurances that it would not expand beyond the approved campus.
During the Common Council’s final deliberations on the FASNY proposal, Councilwoman Hunt-Robinson expressed concerns regarding the development of Parcels B, C and D and the need to consider, if necessary, mitigation of any adverse impacts. This question was entirely appropriate and essential under the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), which mandates consideration of potential development of an entire property. Segmentation or limiting review to only part of a property is prohibited under the law. In response to Councilwoman Hunt-Robinson’s questions, FASNY proposed postponing any additional development on the property. As a result, the Common Council’s approval letter stipulated that, “An application will not be filed to expand the school use on any of the four former Ridgeway Country Club parcels for at least fifteen (15) years from the date FASNY receives a temporary or permanent Certificate of Occupancy for the School”. This clever subterfuge did not go unnoticed by the Gedney Association which cited non-compliance with the SEQRA requirement in its lawsuit challenging the approval. The announcement by FASNY to sell separate parcels clearly demonstrates how the SEQRA requirements were violated during the approval process.
Regrettably, the City Administration permitted FASNY to obfuscate their real intentions. In fact, the City Administration was complicit in this deception. For example, FASNY quietly removed the bike trail from Parcel C that previously was so integral to Mayor Roach. Why was this removed other than to enable FASNY to sell this and other parcels for development?
FASNY is now attempting to sell three parcels, presumably for development. One of the parcels slated for sale, Parcel D, is directly across from the entrance to the planned school on Hathaway Lane. How would traffic circulation operate here with approximately 1,000 vehicles entering and exiting the school each day? Furthermore, Parcels B and C front on Gedney Esplanade and Heatherbloom Road, two already heavily trafficked streets. Doesn’t this highlight why the FASNY approval should only have been made after careful consideration of other potential development?
So where does that leave us? Instead of a carefully planned development of the former golf course we have a hodgepodge plan. Since the approval, traffic on Ridgeway has measurably increased according to City studies. FASNY appears to change its plans weekly. Indeed, its own website suggested it might find a separate alternative location for its “unified” campus. Also, the so-called Conservancy isn’t permanent, in that, if FASNY leaves, the Conservancy disappears. In the meantime, the property continues to be very poorly maintained with fallen trees and beer cans and other refuse littering the property. The City has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes for what now appears as an investment speculation by FASNY. Is the City Administration assessing the loss of another 48 acres of open space or will it again take a reactive stance?
Last November, when reports of FASNY’s plans to sell all or part of the property became widespread, the Gedney Association wrote to the Mayor and Common Council requesting a meeting to discuss the neighborhood’s concerns and objectives for any new alternative development. With the exception of Councilwoman Lecuona, no response has been received from the City Administration. As residents and taxpayers, we would minimally have expected a response.
Very truly yours,
The Gedney Association Board