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FASNY Reveals Impossibility of White Plains Location


Dear Mayor Roach and members of the Common Council,
 
The DEIS and FEIS before you reveal FASNY’s proposal for a regional campus to be fatally flawed.   Despite the withering smokescreen of thousands of  pages of DEIS and FEIS in defense of the development, FASNY by its (non-) response to difficult questions posed by interested residents, the City’s Planning Commission and City Department Heads has run up a red flag of warning.  One way for each of you to know that there is something terribly wrong with the proposal, is to observe just a couple of examples of the far-fetched and impractical measures that FASNY proposes to be taken to deal with ineluctable problems.   Where there is smoke (screen) there is fire or something very wrong.   
 
Finally after two years of public hearings and the SEQR process, FASNY has been forced to admit that barring extraordinary mitigating policies, the proposed regional campus will create insurmountable traffic congestion and public safety issues.  FASNY’s response?     FASNY proposes the seductive and unenforceable measure that it will institute “almost” mandatory student busing.  Make no mistake.   The assumption of universal student busing is sin qua non to FASNY’s fix of the traffic and related problems its proposed development will cause.  How good is that assumption?   Does it seem a natural component for this type of development?   Will financially independent FASNY parents (after all, current tuition of high school junior and seniors is over $27,000.00 per year) accustomed to driving in the morning willingly comply?  Is it enforceable as a matter of law or is it some abstract concept that may work in theory?            
 
FANY has gone to the brazen step of changing the FEIS in a fundamental way presenting three ingress/egress options that have not been properly vetted.  One interpretation of this FASNY strategy is that by presenting the three options they are seemingly complying with intractable  traffic issues but the reality is that FASNY is offering the City Council a “Morton’s Fork” or triple bind. One of the options arrogantly “de-maps” portions of Hathaway Lane.   
 
Far from finally, consider that addressing water problems in the immediate building areas require over 150 manholes, underground water retention reservoirs, and other abstract engineering proposals.  Golf courses, especially ones dating from long ago, were constructed to take advantage of river bottom land and other natural wetlands where no development was ever expected to take place.  For just a moment try closing your eyes and fix in your mind the concrete structures and attendant traffic associated with FASNY’s proposed development.  The suggestion that FASNY’s physical presence would be the equivalent of over four and a half Stop & Shop grocery stores and represent the single largest development in all of White Plains may help to make the picture vivid.         
 
The DEIS and FEIS devote entire chapters attempting to establish FASNY’s absolute right to be granted a special permit under the existing R1-30 zoning designation.  The specious argument being floated is that FASNY’s proposal is an educational facility and educational facilities cannot be excluded from residential districts.   Educational facilities presumptively serve moral and public welfare purposes, presumptively provide positive impacts and therefore enjoy special treatment with respect to zoning ordinances.    
 
However, FASNY does acknowledge that the granting of a special permit remains with the municipality to issue on a case-by-case basis.  In FASNY’s view, “the municipality is to balance competing public interests and attempt to cushion any adverse effect of an educational use upon a sensitive area by the imposition of reasonable conditions designed to mitigate them, thereby accommodating both public interests.” [DEIS Chapter 2, p. 2-32-33, 8/06/12]  FASNY has sown the seeds of its proposal’s undoing.
 
Adopting FASNY’s view, it seems clear that the reason a special permit must be issued, even for a specifically designated permitted use under the zoning code, is to ensure that competing public interests are balanced.   For instance, the successful Fordham University graduate campus is an educational use and needed a special permit for its location in an area designated for commercial offices.    There surely was some opposition to the project because I do not believe any development in a diverse communities like West Harrison or White Plains would go unopposed.  However, Fordham’s location would not pose significant traffic, water runoff and other problems that could not be reasonably resolved.  After reasonable and credible measures were agreed to by the West Harrison and Fordham to mitigate adverse effects, a permit was issued.   Fordham carried out the conditions for its permit and West Harrison was able to balance the various competing public interests.  For its campus to work, Fordham did not have to rely on extraordinary transportation policies and engineering feats.   The Fordham campus is not a commercial office park but permitting its location seems reasonable and fits nicely with neighbors.
 
FASNY like Fordham University is an educational facility and also requires a special permit for its proposed location.  The existence of a required special permit even for projects falling under designated permitted use, enables the City Council to make distinctions in order to balance competing public interests.   In the case of Fordham’s campus the adverse impacts could be mitigated by reasonable and credible means and therefore the special permit was issued. What about FASNY’s proposed location?  
 
FASNY’s potential location at the former Ridgeway Country Club property in Gedney Farms presents a very different situation than the Fordham location.    It is clear that FASNY is struggling with completely acknowledging the adverse impacts that its location will have on its immediate neighbors as well as the greater White Plains community.  FASNY is struggling too to identify credible and reasonable measures that must be taken to mitigate adverse impacts.  If solutions are not found and carried out, rather than a success like the Fordham location, FASNY’s location will be a complete, unmitigated disaster for them and White Plains.  
 
Any decision by a municipality to issue a special permit carries risk of unexpected consequences and this is for at the time knowable and identified adverse effects.    What about the future unanticipated negative effects?    Common sense would seem to dictate that a special permit be denied any project that carries a number of risky features with significant potential negative effects dependent upon policies derived from wishful thinking.   Got a traffic problem?   Ok, we’ll say we just won’t drive! Problem solved. 
 
A review of early drafts of the DEIS will demonstrate how one problem area, traffic, has evolved.   Initially, FASNY’s opinion was that an entrance on Ridgeway Avenue and some minimal traffic light adjustments would be all that was required for their location.    Now after various drafts of the DEIS and FEIS and public hearings and other information discovered during the SEQR process, FASNY acknowledges the enormity of the adverse effects its location will have on traffic and public safety and the paucity of measures available to counter these adverse effects.  Instead of the initial statements by FASNY and its consultants that the existing transportation and traffic infrastructure was more than sufficient to handle its development, FASNY now throws up its hands and says it will require universal (almost) busing of students to reduce its adverse impact on already overloaded roads.   It proposes in one option to build a traffic rotary on Ridgeway Avenue.    Unable to come to grips with a location for the development’s entrance/exit that can sufficiently address potential adverse effects, FASNY abrogates its responsibilities and presents Council three options not properly vetted and basically tells Council to choose what Council thinks is the lesser of three evils.  
 
FASNY acknowledges that a special permit is issued conditional on reasonable measures to be taken to mitigate identified adverse impacts.   The fundamental assumption that FASNY has introduced into the FEIS to mitigate traffic congestion and safety issues is universal student busing.   This is an extreme measure, contradicts all of their plans until recently, impossible to enforce and suggests that there is a genuine issue with its proposed location.   There are a number of other difficult issues that I will not go into here but I am certain others will be writing to you.  
There are a number of other permitted uses that would not create the havoc associated with FASNY’s development: a golf course, a 9-hole golf course with housing, single family homes.  The Ridgeway property is not the right place for four and a half Stop& Shop stores or the Fordham University Graduate School campus. You could not make these places fit in the location and you cannot make FASNY’s development reasonably and credibly fit in either.   A balancing of competing public interests demands that you vote no and deny FASNY’s request for a special permit.   Thank you.  Charles Diamond, Ph.D. (Economics)39 Hathaway Lane
Michel August 18, 2013 at 12:59 AM
I do not understand what any of this means. FASNY has been completely welcoming to White Plains. People must understand this is about our children.
worriedinwp August 18, 2013 at 12:54 PM
Michel, do you know how silly you sound? FASNY has been "completely" welcoming to White Plains??? Just Silly!! This may be about YOUR children but certainly not about OUR children. This is a private, elite, massive school campus DEVELOPMENT being plopped down in the middle of a residential neighborhood. So what exactly do you NOT understand????
AMC August 18, 2013 at 01:41 PM
I couldn't agree more with worried in WP. FASNY may want their dream campus which is fine but the site is wrong for ALL of WP. Why don't you move your dream to a more suitable site as suggested in the article, like Fordham's Westchester campus. FASNY brings nothing to the table except increased taxes for all WP taxpayers, massive traffic and safety disruptions to a whole section of WP and years of construction mayhem that would make 287 pale in comparison. Now, FASNY has ramped up their campaign to rush through their efforts to finalize their FEIS with the Common Council. Time to write to the CC to urge then to have a public comment and hearing period given the significant changes to FASNY's plans as outlined in the article.
Dan Seidel August 18, 2013 at 05:45 PM
Michel: put in in writing and send it in for the FEIS comments. Be sure to back it up with a financial and educational impact statement for the local population and the children that this "institution" (that's a good one!) would purportedly serve and benefit. a "what" you say? "huh" says your expression? exactly, I say.
Dan Seidel August 18, 2013 at 05:49 PM
let's all examine the docs and rip them apart ....again. this gets tedious. now, about the OSRED...... eminent domain would be my move, but that's gutsy, ain't it. Absolutely sustainable given our history and Comprehensive Plan, but gutsy. Could be a win/win though with the proper grant money. Planning looking at that alternative? It's been floated for a few years, but no one has the guts to flesh it out. pity. Isn't that why the admin gets paid the big bucks? think out of the box? thought it was so..... maybe this is all an urban farm dream.
Dan Seidel August 18, 2013 at 05:51 PM
Michel was up early, wasn't he. Sorry, had to do that one. c'est la guerre.....
Yvonne Gumowitz August 18, 2013 at 05:52 PM
"FASNY has been completely welcoming to White Plains"??? This is where I have to say "Huh?" The neglect of the property since FASNY's takeover has been a source of great irritation to those neighbors bordering the property (garbage, fallen trees, homeless camp, dog poop all over, etc.). It used to be immaculate. C'est la vie!
Dan Seidel August 18, 2013 at 05:57 PM
PPS: I know: let's shut down fire access to Hathaway from the local fire station, and let's keep those ambulances making turns when speed depends upon saving lives! Let the police drive extra time and roads - the neighborhood doesn't matter - it's only the elitist private French-we-don't-want-to-go-to-your-filthy-diverse-public-schools-we-may-get-cooties school which matters!
Dan Seidel August 18, 2013 at 06:06 PM
PPPS: alright: pile on! A two lane, with shoulders and drainage/plowing/salt/restructuring of the soild/drainage puts an end to the "preserve", a plan which has never been presented in toto (maintenance, access, use, plans, etc.) - SEGMENTATION IN THE AIR WILL NOT DO, says Judge Cardozo. The FEIS is fatally flawed and not complete - "segmentation" is NOT allowed in the SEQRA process - ALL cards must be played face up so comments can be had and heard and a record can be made. Maybe White Plains needs new counsel because I do not think proper counsel is being given at this point. THE FEIS IS NOT COMPLETE AND WILL NOT BE UNTIL ALL TRAFFIC STUDIES, PRESERVE ANALYSIS, NEW SUBSTANTIAL MODIFICATIONS BEING SUBJECT TO SEIS (SUPPLEMENTAL EIS PROCESS- BEING IT'S SIGNIFICANT). Something in rotten in Denmark.
Dan Seidel August 18, 2013 at 06:07 PM
is.
Yvonne Gumowitz August 18, 2013 at 06:14 PM
The "Greens to Green Conservancy" was always just a green carrot on a stick. Now the new plans call for huge amounts of impervious asphalt? A new road running parallel to Hathaway almost it's entire length? Merci beaucoup for nothing.
Michel August 18, 2013 at 06:17 PM
Only a tiny group of obviously xenophobic people oppose FASNY and the cultural opportunities for White Plains. The letter is wrong. Schools are already allowed under current zoning. The special permit exists only to verify the development is a school. I do not understand the issue with tiny group of people.
Yvonne Gumowitz August 18, 2013 at 06:22 PM
Xenophobic? Are you serious??? I AM part French, why do you think my name is "Yvonne"?! I was raised in Europe. Do not confuse the right of public schools with those of private schools... Michel Zarin, perhaps???
Yvonne Gumowitz August 18, 2013 at 06:26 PM
<tells New Yorkers about "cultural opportunities"... bwahahaha!>
Dan Seidel August 18, 2013 at 07:01 PM
Michel, maybe you do not read law that well: the "special permit" to be granted shall place no greater burden upon the area than was granted before - and I believe the statute says primary OR secondary school? I have to check it again, but I believe there is no "and" . I really do not know why the xenophobic school that touts itself as French should be so arrogant and insistent as to plant an imperial flag in White Plains and declare the land theirs to do what they wish - we got rid of royalty over 200 years ago.
Joseph August 18, 2013 at 08:31 PM
Mr. Seidel's comments regarding the significant changes which FASNY has made in the final EIS are right on point. FASNY has snuck in two entirely new access plans, from North Street and Bryant Avenue, without allowing an opportunity for public comment and hearing. FASNY now proposes roadways down from North Street across from WPHS and then along Hathaway, and a remaking of the north end of Hathaway Lane a a long road the entire length of Hathaway. The Common Council show allow further review and public comment on these drastic changes which impact the surrounding neighborhoods in different manners that the DEIS plans did.
Dan Seidel August 18, 2013 at 08:45 PM
http://turnermillergroup.com/dimages/file_89.pdf Start reading at page 4: Steinmetz, on opposing the expansion of Mercy College last year (?) - Oh....interesting. Why are we different? Listen to Sue Habel on the Planning Board tapes from 8/16/2011 and 7/19/2011 on denying Doris Sassower her B&B designation - what is different from Gedney Farms? (tapes on WP City Website - Planning Board meetings). At the very least, an SEIS is now demanded and required.
AMC August 18, 2013 at 09:20 PM
All politics is local. It's important that a high level of transparency be maintained at all levels of government. The WP common council should reopen the public hearings and comment period given the sea change in FASNY's Modified Proposed Plans. This project has the very real potential to cause serious negative impact on a great number of WP residents.
Ruthmarie Hicks August 18, 2013 at 10:27 PM
I think one of the funniest arguments here is that White Plains residents are "Xenophobic". Did I miss something? Is this a sketch from Saturday Night Live where the Coneheads are claiming to be from "France"?
Marylou Avery August 19, 2013 at 10:37 AM
The Citizen's of White Plains need to see the new proposals and have an opportunity to react. Is it even possible to build a road on top of the Mamaroneck River which runs right under the golf course where the new access road is proposed??? Not only White Plains, but the Harrison and Mamaroneck residents as well!!!
Michel August 19, 2013 at 01:35 PM
Our proposal for a school development has not changed. FASNY has worked with local officials and consultants to solve any potential problems. It is obvious that our Greens to Green Campus and Conservancy will be an improvement to Gedney Farms and an asset to all of White Plains.
laurie Kimmelstiel August 19, 2013 at 02:46 PM
How can Fasny be an improvement to Gedney Farms? More traffic and hence increased pollution, more waste, more taxes as we the residents must provide increased supervision from our police, sanitation and fire departments. This is a blissfully quiet neighborhood chosen for its quiet, green with little or no traffic on its roads. Tell me again, how your massive development will improve my home and community. Are you providing me with lower taxes, improved schools, and an improved quality of life? No, I do not need or want a greens to green park here that will bring traffic and more people to the area even on the rare day you won't using your property.
laurie Kimmelstiel August 19, 2013 at 03:04 PM
How audacious of the FASNY representatives to tell our incredibly diverse community that we are xenophobic?
AMC August 19, 2013 at 03:26 PM
Michel, your comments are so ludicrous that they are not to be believed! Did you read the article? Perhaps it was lost in translation. Maybe you should have one of your students translate the article and distribute it to the other FASNY parents. Maybe then you will have a true sense of the enormous burden your development imposes on everyone in White Plains. All of our taxes will go up, a charming neighborhood will be destroyed and the entire south end of WP will be forever changed/ ruined by traffic, traffic, and more traffic not to mention the years of construction disruption. Please think before you post.
worriedinwp August 19, 2013 at 04:35 PM
Well you said it Michel, "our school." You are obviously intimately involved with this masquerade. You could care less what negative impact you have on this neighborhood and city, just as long as you can plop your outrageous development in a beautiful neighborhood where you can drain the beauty right out of it....and then you go home. Your conservancy is a joke. In fact, your latest plan has a four lane road with buses and cars running through it and a huge baseball field as well as numerous retention swells right smack in the middle of it. You don't possibly believe the nonsense you write do you??
AMC August 19, 2013 at 05:11 PM
Gedney Farms was voted one of the ten most interesting communities in Westchester by Westchester Magazine, March 2013: "Gedney Farms, White Plains This historic residential park across from Archbishop Stepinac High School has 345 pre-war homes—mostly Tudors and Colonials—and quiet streets. Hoping to keep it that way, residents are fighting plans by the French School of New York to move into the old Ridgeway Country Club. Michel, we are not the only ones to recognize how special the neighborhood is that FASNY wants to 'improve'.
wpRez August 20, 2013 at 11:40 PM
Don't think there have been too many FASNY-related articles lately. Was wondering what happened to that dam on the property during the hurricane last year?
Michel August 22, 2013 at 04:59 PM
FASNY has spent millions of Euros already in engineering and other types of consultants. The people opposing FASNY's location will never be satisfied with the answers to their questions or the many options that will solve the small traffic and water problems. A compromise should be possible if people will be calm and honest.
Dan Seidel August 22, 2013 at 05:39 PM
here's the compromise: single family homes are built - WP gets 1-2 million yearly in prop taxes, mortgage taxes, low traffic, low impact and low density, no rotary, no North St entrance, no Bryant to Ridgeway road, low impact on storm drains, sewers, water usage, utility stress, etc. French School takes a hike. Michel: bummer for you people that spent Euro's (and not dollars). We could not care less. French School should never have come here. Go sue your brokers for a bum deal. Go away.
Michael Smith August 22, 2013 at 10:17 PM
Michel says: "FASNY has spent millions of Euros already in engineering and other types of consultants." Just how connected is Michel and his FASNY cohorts going to be with the White Plains community when he doesn't even realize that the currency we use in these parts is "dollars." Fichez le camp!!!

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