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Letter to the Editor: FASNY Would Not Benefit White Plains

Why the French-American School's proposed development is bad for all of White Plains.

Editor's Note: This Letter to the Editor is from the Gedney Association. 

Dear Neighbor:

The French-American School of New York (FASNY) plans to build a massive regional educational complex on the former Ridgeway Country Club site.

FASNY has embarked upon a major public relations campaign to convince the City that this development is good for White Plains. Unfortunately, this is not true.

FASNY will cause a significant, permanent financial drain on the City. It is tax-exempt and would pay no property or school taxes, and would require municipal services for which White Plains taxpayers will pay. In addition, FASNY will create massive traffic problems throughout the south end of the City.

FASNY’s legal and public relations teams have spread misleading information suggesting that it is the only viable alternative for the property, that approval of its plans is a “done deal”, and that its Conservancy will offset the many negative aspects of its plans. Again, this is not true.

We believe that it is essential that you have the facts about this development, and that our Common Council makes an informed decision on a project that would harm both the surrounding neighborhoods and the City as a whole.

Background of FASNY Development

In early 2011, FASNY purchased the former Ridgway Country Club property. FASNY paid $8.5 million for the property and will pay the Club an additional $2.5 million if it obtains a special permit to develop the property. FASNY must obtain a special permit because current zoning only permits residential use of the property. The FASNY plan violates the 1997 Comprehensive Plan and its 2006 update, which envision a golf course, or homes on ¾ acre plots, on this site.

As a not-for-profit entity, FASNY will pay no property tax or sales tax to White Plains.

FASNY currently has about 850 students, and proposes an increase in White Plains to about 1,200 students. It also estimates about 250 staff members. It is a private school with tuition ranging from about $22,000 to nearly $26,000. FASNY plans to build four large buildings (three school buildings and a gym/performing arts building), 5 athletic fields, a running track and tennis courts. The school complex will cover approximately 46 acres of the site. The plans call for a large access road on the property, and nearly 500 parking spots. FASNY also proposes a publicly accessible nature Conservancy on the rest of the property.

The Common Council will rule upon FASNY’s application. FASNY recently submitted its Draft Environmental Impact Scoping Statement (DEIS), which the Common Council must then review and act upon. The process will take several months, if not years. Contrary to FASNY’s suggestions, its plan is not a done deal.

FASNY will impose a significant financial burden on all White Plains taxpayers

As a tax-exempt entity, FASNY will pay no taxes but will use extensive municipal services that your tax dollars will cover. 

FASNY will cause your taxes to rise and your municipal services to be cut because FASNY will pay no taxes to White Plains. It will not pay for extensive municipal services such as fire, police, and sanitation services. The taxpayers of White Plains will bear these costs. By contrast, in its last year of operation, Ridgeway Country Club paid over $600,000 per year in property and sales taxes to White Plains.

White Plains has seen large property tax increases every year. Property taxes have gone up 25.6% over the last five years, and 74.7% over the last ten years. White Plains has also experienced major cuts in schools and municipal services. In the proposed 2012 budget, the City is eliminating 16 unfilled positions on top of the 74 unfilled positions and 86 filled jobs that have been cut since the end of 2009.

In this environment, does FASNY benefit White Plains financially?  The answer is “no”. White Plains will have to spend more to provide services to FASNY, and you will pay more taxes and face further service cuts to support FASNY

FASNY will lower home values and property tax receipts from those homes

FASNY will decrease property values in the neighborhood surrounding the school due to additional traffic, pollution, noise and other negatives. This will hurt both the Gedney Farms neighborhood and nearby neighborhoods. Decreased property values will lead to a decreased tax base, as lower property values will lead to lower tax assessments and tax revenues. Other White Plains taxpayers will make up these losses, and City services may be cut even further.

FASNY will cause massive traffic problems throughout the surrounding area

Access to the school would be from two entrances on Ridgeway, across from Fairway Drive, and at Hathaway Lane. FASNY will add traffic signals at Fairway Drive and Hathaway Lane. FASNY estimates that over 2,200 vehicular trips will occur in peak hours. Many more trips will occur during evening and weekend hours, as will trips to the Conservancy. The peak hour trips alone will increase existing traffic volume on Ridgeway by well over 50%.

The traffic lights that FASNY will install on Ridgeway will cause massive back-ups on both Ridgeway and nearby streets, including North Street and Mamaroneck Avenue. In addition, traffic controls along Ridgeway from North Street to Old Mamaroneck road must be changed, and a new traffic light must be installed on the southbound Hutchinson River Parkway entrance at Mamaroneck Avenue!

FASNY will cause traffic to cut through local streets as drivers bypass Ridgeway during peak hours. When traffic backs up on Ridgeway, drivers will cut though side streets off on the routes that FASNY vehicles will take from surrounding towns.

FASNY's supposed economic benefits are wildly exaggerated and will not overcome the economic harm it will cause

Knowing that it will impose a significant financial burden on White Plains, FASNY claims that it will bring financial benefits to the City. This is simply not true.

Claim: FASNY claims it will bring $15.4 ml a year in spending to White Plains.

Fact:  This supposed benefit would start in 2024/2025, over a decade from now!

 

Claim: 30% of its families will live in White Plains a decade from now.

Fact: This is sheer speculation, as less that 5% of its families now live in White Plains.

 

Claim: FASNY families and staff will benefit White Plains by personal spending.

Fact: This does not account for the loss of spending by current residents which FASNY families and staff would replace. FASNY will not build new homes in White Plains – their families would simply purchase or rent existing homes and would merely replace the spending that is lost when a current family moves out.

 

Claim: FASNY will provide an annual benefit of over $1.0 ml in sales and property taxes.

Fact:  Any FASNY families that move to White Plains would merely replace current residents who already pay school and sales taxes here.

 

Claim: FASNY will provide a benefit of $2.75 million to White Plains Public Schools. FASNY claims that the City will not spend money on FASNY students because its students would not attend our public schools.  

Fact: This is false: (1) many current White Plains families with school-age children send their children to private schools (2) many current White Plains families do not have school-age children.

There are viable alternatives to FASNY

You may hear FASNY claim that no realistic alternatives to its plans exist. This is simply not true. When FASNY bought the property, at least one golf course operator was willing to buy the property, and golf course operators remain interested in the property today.

Secondly, FASNY’S claim that the only alternative use is more than 80 homes is false. The property is environmentally sensitive and cannot support large-scale development. Experts indicate that only 30 to 40 homes could be built under current zoning, which requires ¾ acre plots. If the property is rezoned to one acre zoning, even fewer homes would be built.

Thirty to forty homes are a far better alternative for the property than FASNY. Homes will generate tax revenues for the City, and will have a minimal impact on traffic and the environment. Further, the City may negotiate with any home builder to provide open space on the site.

The FASNY Conservancy will not provide a significant benefit and will compound the harm that the school will cause

FASNY has been promoting its Conservancy without reference to the school complex next to the Conservancy. The school has become the “elephant in the room”, as FASNY would like you to forget that the real reason it is developing the property – its massive regional educational center. Further, FASNY is not obligated to create the Conservancy. FASNY characterizes the Conservancy as “aspirational" – this means that it is FASNY’s intent or hope, but is not a binding legal commitment. Further, FASNY will move forward only when funding is available and after certain phases of the project are completed in 2020. 

The vast majority of the property will remain as open space whether or not FASNY builds its educational complex. The City Comprehensive Plan calls for clustered residential housing, so homes would be concentrated in one area, and open space would remain on the rest of the land. Moreover, the property is environmentally sensitive, so only a small portion could be developed for any reason.

What you can do about FASNY

If FASNY builds its massive complex, White Plains will forever face a major financial drain, and major traffic problems. FASNY will change for the worse both the surrounding neighborhoods, and the City as a whole. Simply put, a city is destroyed one neighborhood at a time.

FASNY recently submitted studies from experts in its DEIS. FASNY has selected and paid these experts – they are on FASNY’s side. The City’s staff is very competent, but FASNY is only one of its many responsibilities. The Common Council should have its own experts to judge FASNY’s studies, and the law requires FASNY to help pay the cost of the City’s experts.

 

1. Tell the Council that you want it to retain experienced experts to help it make an informed decision.

 

2. Let the Council know that you have serious concerns about the financial, traffic and other burdens that FASNY will bring.


3. Write, e-mail or call Council members:

Mailing Address:

City Hall

255 Main Street

White Plains, NY 10601

 

Mayor Thomas M. Roach
914.946.8325
troach@whiteplainsny.gov

Hon. Benjamin Boykin II
914.328.7808
bboykin@whiteplainsny.gov

Hon. David Buchwald
914.831.3764
David.Buchwald@gmail.com

Hon. Dennis E. Krolian
   914-263-1020
dkrolian@whiteplainsny.gov

Hon. Milagros Lecuona
914.406.0048
milagroslecuona@gmail.com

Hon. John M. Martin
  914.686.0239
jmartin@whiteplainsny.gov

Hon. Beth N. Smayda
914.419.6891
bsmayda@bethsmayda.com

4. Follow ongoing developments at www.gedneyfarms.net 

 

Sincerely,

The Gedney Association

Board of Directors

Terence Guerriere

Yvonne Gumowitz

John Sheehan Garry Klein

Joseph L. DeMarzo Ellen Lee

Midge Sanchez Barbara Schwarz

Gaetano D’Antona Robert Stackpole

Anna Fagan

E.J. Lahrmann

 

Patch welcomes Letters to the Editor. To learn how to submit letters to Patch,  

Correction: This letter has been changed to reflect the correct website and a misspellling. 

Adrienne June 13, 2012 at 04:08 AM
Then why is it that some commenters insist that those with an open mind about FASNY provide their names and addresses while not asking anti-FASNY commenters who use pseudonyms to do the same? My response to this is to say exactly what you say in your comment above, i.e "it's an individual choice as to how a commenter identifies himself/herself". When I said something another commenter disagreed with they insisted that I and other commenter she disagreed with post their identity. Now Hugh does this and he is put down for not giving reasons why. Yes, he may choose to elaborate on why he supports FASNY, but by no means does he need to. I think he just wants to make the point that not all neighbors of the property oppose FASNY, and that he is willing to reveal his identity. I applaud him for that. And the argument that his opinion is not relevant because his house faces away from the property is ridiculous. All the supposedly negative aspects of FASNY would affect him as well as other near neighbors to the property.
Paula June 13, 2012 at 09:32 AM
Merrilee, In all of your communications and information sessions sponsored by FASNY, have they ever given the visual description of the project as having the buildings adding up to a size greater than twice the size of Stepinac? People who have gone to their information sessions who I know have stated that they were never given a visual such as that. Something is missing.
Paula June 13, 2012 at 10:28 AM
Merilee, you may not have been watching WP politics & land usage issues long enough to know that when the German School opened they had one set of things stated and now, years later they're requesting expansions. It's also going on on a huge level with the big buildings up for review on changing their intended purpose. The head of WP's Master Plan and the Head of the Planning Department both say that no one"could have never imagined the need to change the usage for these mega buildings back when their approvals were gained, but now we do." I'll tell you who saw that this would happen - me - years ago at the master plan meetings, and I was made to feel like some dummy who just didn't understand city planning. Now multiple mega buildings that went through the White Plains planning process are being considered for change of usage. Things will be changing and we lost out on having control of that land and we never had a chance to buy it for as low a price as FASNY paid for it because the City of White Plains Planning Department stuck on a giant aquatics complex, which we didn't need due to our many public pools in town. That and the fact that our old head of the Planning Board lives right on Murchison Ave, and his tires are burning rubber as he tries to get the heck out of the area now. Merilee, you seem very sincere, but have you seen in the long run how White Plains works over time with development? And are you a member of your local open space group? (CCOS)
Hugh Marshall June 13, 2012 at 02:11 PM
-- inability to communicate civilly -- Not much for irony, are you, Joan? Hugh Marshall 17 Murchison Place
Dan Seidel June 13, 2012 at 05:02 PM
Hi Merrilee! Regards to your parents!! Have you read the Open Space Recreational Zone documents and the FASNY application and submitted, but wholly deficient DEIS submitted by FASNY on the City WebSite (Zarin admitted a mea culpa)? What do you think of the comments, alternatives, law, Special Permit rights or lack thereof? and coupled with the exact opposite arguments that the same attorneys make in Irvington- what do you think about those? I'm curious to see what our youth, WP raised and somewhat educated, think after reading the crucial documents. Molly and Jon do not listen to me, although lately, after reading what I post/email and after discussions about the facts and issues and differing positions they see "the light". The democRAT and republiCAN parties would love to have youth join up and "get involved" in local issues (as you can tell I am pissed at my chosen party)!! Welcome to the Fray(ble)!
Dan Seidel June 13, 2012 at 05:08 PM
Read this: http://www.cityofwhiteplains.com/dataimages/DGEIS_draft_scoping_comments.pdf Alternatives to FASNY, as reflected in the FILED COMMENTS for the Open Space Rec District, please refer to pages: 65-94, specifically pages 71, 80 and 81. We can all talk in the air. Making the legal record for the coming court battle is crucial. As to who can sue? directly affected Citizens, such as anyone adjoining the property, someone who bought with "views", etc. Standing has been expanded a bit lately. I for one have direct injury stading - it costs me $350 to file an Article 78. Pat and Ellen Lee have standing. As for the time frame anticipated? about another 2 years, give or take.
Dan Seidel June 13, 2012 at 05:10 PM
and this: The City rights of way, utility easements, placements of stormdrain, sewer and water lines criss-crossing the property, set backs, buffers, wetlands, roads, access, all devolve to about 30-32 home max. FASNY's maps and buildouts are simplistic, wrong, and take nothing credible into account. There are many levels to this onion - please peel. Then read the Zarin/Steinmetz dog and pony show where that law firm says 180 degrees opposite in opposing the Mercy College expansion - the same legal arguments used for FASNY are now contradicted by the same law firm in Irvington (check website for THAT DEIS and Hearing transcripts). The FASNY school will not legally pass PRESENT Special Permit restriction law - period. FASNY has a right to TRY - but that is IT! Even Zarin admitted his DEIS submission was deficient as pointed out by the City Depts. There was no Cumulative Impact Statements - there are many projects on the board that must be considered TOGETHER at the MAX buildout and useage - traffic studies cannot be done until the fall - North Street buildouts MUIST be included. The alternatives do not even consider #4 on the Scoping Doc. Do most people understand this stuff? I'm thinking not. There are serious legal impediments for FASNY to actually go forward or even try - it was a bad deal for them and they should be suing their brokers for malpractice. FASNY was seriously misled as to what could be done. Someone's or some heads should roll for this one.
Dan Seidel June 13, 2012 at 05:13 PM
and these: The Mercy College Expansion DEIS documenst that Zarin and Steinmetz ARE OPPOSING: http://turnermillergroup.com/page.cfm?page=70 Now read what Steinmetz says in the hearings: schools do not have an absolute right to build and invade a residential neighborhood: http://turnermillergroup.com/dimages/file_45.pdf February Hearing - Steinmetz @ p36/37 and http://turnermillergroup.com/dimages/file_65.pdf page 33 and forward - Steinmetz talking at the April 2012 Hearing PS: Abby R. works in Planning now!!
Dan Seidel June 13, 2012 at 05:34 PM
and just as a PS (you know I talk alot): Mischa, Mike Zarin and Diego and me all get along and deal with each other very professionally, and with good humor (FASNY took all "my" ideas - the preserve, Stone Barns, pervious surfaces, stormwater detention/retention, etc.). We all have "hot lines" and we answer them when and if needed, even on a Sat night - so we are all talking and most of us have been, visited, talked with , read, performed our "due diligence" and research. Now time for the "newbies" to do the same, so read up and get on board - the ride will be stormy at times - prepare!!
Dan Seidel June 13, 2012 at 05:41 PM
PPS: I am proud that you are getting involved!!! and work in a nature preserve!! great stuff! check out "nitrogen farming" and L.I.S.W.I.C. and the need/Fed Court Order/Consent Decree for nitrogen load reduction of waters and drainage emptying into the LI Sound - Ridgeway and Westchester Hills are part of the Army Corp 3 year flood study (over in 2013) (see alsos the Mam'k River Valley Sewer District - $235Million ordered retrofit to the treatment plant in Mamaroneck - costs residents of this particular sewer district about $$350-$400 per year extra - each house/landowner).
Dan Seidel June 13, 2012 at 09:09 PM
Comment from a prior article: the FASNY Poll article where everyone voted 300-500x: 4:43 pm on Friday, November 18, 2011 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=msdndrWHktQ&feature=related Short YouTube on what the County did for Bonnie Briar CC - stormwater, Sheldrake/Mam'k Rivers. From today's Soil & Water Conservation BD Meeting. Does anyone have vision besides a few of us? Think outside the box? Merrilee: assuming money could be cobbled together to buy out FASNY thru eminent domain and keep the ENTIRE Ridgeway parcel open, recreational, horticultural and sales tax/revenue producing - like Stone Barns running an extant 300 seat "restaurant" in the old ballroom and a 4 seasons growing center located within the historic barn on site (maybe construct a low impact small secondary 4 season growing center behind the club house) to produce local, organic horticultural/food products for local restaurants as well as providing environmental educational internship possibilities for WHITE PLAINS STUDENTS? sales tax, revenue, open space, no growth inducing aspects, nitrogen farming, sustainable carbon sink, CRP lands, stormwater/flood prevention/heliping downstream municipalities, no need for traffic lights in a dense residential old neighborhood, creation of precedent to prevent the last mega open space corridor from being cemented over (Ridgeway goes, so does NYU Hospital as well as Westchester Hills)? Think that is a better option? I do. Want to talk? WE R AVAILABLE!!
Dan Seidel June 13, 2012 at 09:14 PM
Another reprint from last year: 12:07 am on Sunday, November 13, 2011 and due to hydrology (4 foot water table in my area anyway) a developer MAY get only 30-40 houses of the McMansion type - area cannot support more - water would be displaced laterally and would flood houses in existence already - the area is not suited for development. Look at the Renoda Hoffman books for the original housing plans - some streets and houses were never built BECAUSE of the water conditions. Ridgeway is also a colonial farm cut thru road - never meant to be a constantly used throughfare.
Dan Seidel June 13, 2012 at 09:16 PM
Another from the past: let's get the newbies up to speed: 11:59 pm on Saturday, November 12, 2011 seriously, The Citizens proposal would be to arrange stakeholders for about $6 million (Castelli is already involved) - purchase of development rights - deeds in perpetuity, we bond for about $4 mill, the stakeholder money and bonding money would be used to buy out the school (eminent domain - they make a profit - no taking - market value for the land), we build a four seasons growing center (the barn on site is an historic building and can be converted back into what it was/could be), we make the restaurant (seating capacity for 300 is what is there now) into a Stone Barns type restaurant; we grow and sell community supported agriculture (urban farming is back!!), the land goes into "preserve/park" status and we can do all sorts of neat stuff - "nitrogen farm" for example (keeps the stuff out of runnoff and LI Sound - complies with Fed Court Order), we can direct stormdrain overflow onto the course to lighten the water load going into Mam'k AND PREVENT BACKUP FLOODING THE AREA, we create jobs and internships - we get a price (more $$), we create a unique urban park, nowhere else in this area for such a size, we prevent the spread of land changeover (NY Hospital, Burke will then claim "changed area" - "me too!!" (precedent- changed character of area - that's the law!). we stop that dead in it's tracks. we preserve a neighborhood and keep traffic/cut throughs down.
Dan Seidel June 13, 2012 at 09:17 PM
more: 11:38 pm on Saturday, November 12, 2011 Did you read alternative #4 in the Moratorium Scoping Document? Did you read the legislation submitted last December by the Citizens? did you read the case law? Did you check out the soil maps from the County GIS Site? Zarin is taking our ideas and making them into French School ideas, but with a 45 ACRE PAVE OVER!!!!! did you know that artificial truf is no good for water supplies? leaches lead and tuiny rubber and platic particles that make their way into food chains (fish concerntrate the stuff - lots of PBA too!!). The French send a pretty picture and you fall for that? Board the train for relocation to the east! They would not lie to you!
Dan Seidel June 13, 2012 at 09:17 PM
yet another: 11:30 pm on Saturday, November 12, 2011 Tax exempt - the restaurant and "pool/water activities" would have made $$, AND sales tax. The four seasons growing center alternative/horticultural center/WHITE PLAINS OWNED PARK PRESERVE would bring in sales tax (the club restaurant brought in upwards of $150K per year of sales tax I am informed) AND $$$ - sales of plants and locally produced CSA produce as well - we figure with all combined - about $250K-$300K per year, enough to pay off the bonds that would be floated for purchase and maintenence. Grant $$ too!! as for the French jokes? c'est la guerre!
Dan Seidel June 13, 2012 at 09:19 PM
case law time: 12:28 pm on Friday, November 11, 2011 Schools ONLY HAVE THE RIGHT TO APPLY for a permit: NOT GUARANTEED! >>TRUSTEES OF UNION COLLEGE IN THE TOWN OF SCHENECTADY IN THE STATE OF NEW YORK, RESPONDENT,v.MEMBERS OF THE SCHENECTADY CITY COUNCIL, ET AL., APPELLANTS, REALTY PLOT ASSOCIATION, INC., INTERVENOR-APPELLANT. 91 N.Y.2d 161, 690 N.E.2d 862, 667 N.Y.S.2d 978 (1997). December 18, 1997 3 No. 255 [NY Int. 0229] DecidedDecember 18, 1997 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Michael T. Brockbank, for appellants. Ben Wiles, for intervenor-appellant. Michael E. Basile, for respondent. KAYE, CHIEF JUDGE: In Cornell University v Bagnardi (68 NY2d 583), involving the application of local zoning regulations, we considered the correct balance to be struck when educational institutions seek expansion into a residential zone. Today we consider the novel, but related, question whether a municipality has acted lawfully in excluding educational institutions from a residential historic district. Like Supreme Court and the Appellate Division, we conclude that the City law denying educational institutions the opportunity to apply for special use permits in a Single Family Historic District was unauthorized and therefore unconstitutional. .....
Dan Seidel June 13, 2012 at 09:20 PM
case law: 12:02 pm on Friday, November 11, 2011 http://digitalcommons.pace.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1494&context=plr Let's get down to the nitty gritty - Mike has no creds - read the "Cornell" case he touts - NOT WHAT HE SAYS!!!! THE CASE: http://www.leagle.com/xmlResult.aspx?xmldoc=198665168NY2d583_1597.xml&docbase=CSLWAR2-1986-2006
Dan Seidel June 13, 2012 at 09:22 PM
another soot, asbestos/car brakes school bus diesel pollution emimssion/noise comment: 6:25 pm on Friday, November 11, 2011 Not to mention the asbestos from cars braking, pollution and soot from cars and diesel buses, horns, brakes, constant traffic - 2500 cars daily, so much road use it gets repaved every 2 years (who pays for THAT?)? What planet do these people come from, Beldar? four foot water table - HAHAHAHAHAHAH! or is "the fix in" that I should be crying from the planned lateral water movement and displacement?
Dan Seidel June 13, 2012 at 09:24 PM
7:36 am on Saturday, November 12, 2011 Mike's "case": CORNELL UNIV. v. BAGNARDI 68 N.Y.2d 583 (1986) Cornell University, Appellant-Respondent,v.Elizabeth S. Bagnardi et al., Respondents-Appellants, and Charles Hindman et al., Intervenors-Respondents.In the Matter of Sarah Lawrence College, Appellant,v.Zoning Board of Appeals of the City of Yonkers, Respondent, and Lawrence Park West and Neighborhood Homeowners Association, Inc., Intervenor-Respondent. Court of Appeals of the State of New York. December 19, 1986. In these cases involving local zoning regulations, we are called upon to determine the proper method of balancing the needs and rights of educational institutions that desire to expand or construct into purely residential neighborhoods against the concerns of the surrounding residents about the potential inconveniences. We hold that the presumption that educational uses are always in furtherance of the public health, safety and morals may be rebutted by a showing that the proposed use would actually have a net negative impact, and that a reasonably drawn special permit requirement may be used to balance the competing interests in this area. In all instances, the governing standard should be the protection of the public's health, safety, welfare and morals. Since in these cases the schools involved were prevented from implementing their expansion plans for reasons not related to these considerations, the denial of their applications was improper. WE WIN!
Dan Seidel June 13, 2012 at 09:24 PM
9:15 am on Saturday, November 12, 2011 Matter of East Hampton Lib. v Zoning Bd. of Appeals of the Vil. of E. Hampton Share | [*1] Matter of East Hampton Lib. v Zoning Bd. of Appeals of the Vil. of E. Hampton 2011 NY Slip Op 50921(U) Decided on May 17, 2011 Supreme Court, Suffolk County Whelan, J. Published by New York State Law Reporting Bureau pursuant to Judiciary Law § 431. This opinion is uncorrected and will not be published in the printed Official Reports. Decided on May 17, 2011 Supreme Court, Suffolk County In the Matter of the Application of the East Hampton Library, a non-profit educational corporation and institution of the University of the State of New York, Petitioner, against Zoning Board of Appeals of the Village of East Hampton, Respondent. 31117-10 ; HON. Thomas F. Whelan, J. The petitioner commenced this Article 78 proceeding for a judgment reversing and annulling two resolutions adopted by the Zoning Board of Appeals of the Village of East Hampton (hereinafter ZBA) on July 23, 2010 relative to the petitioner's application for a special permit and area variance so as to proceed with an expansion of its library. For the reasons set forth below, the petition is granted. [*2] (PART 1)
Dan Seidel June 13, 2012 at 09:25 PM
9:17 am on Saturday, November 12, 2011 NOW THE REALLY REALLY REALLY IMPORTANT LANGUAGE: "The deferential standard that the law affords to religious and educational uses for the zoning arena does not afford a full exemption from zoning rules for all such uses; rather the controlling consideration in reviewing the request of a school or church to expand into a residential or other specialty zoned area must always be the over-all impact on the public's welfare (see Cornell Univ. v Bagnardi, 68 NY2d 583, supra). Rare as they be, some educational uses may be unarguably contrary to the public's health, safety or welfare and thus need not be permitted at all (Id., at 596). Categorical exclusions are not permitted, as the decision to restrict a proposed religious or educational use can be properly made only after the intended use is evaluated against other legitimate interests, with primary consideration given to the over-all impact on the public welfare (see Trustees of Union Coll. in Town of Schenectady in State of NY v Members of Schenectady City Council, 91 NY2d 161, 667 NYS2d 978 [1997]). A municipality's pursuit of legitimate zoning objectives does not diminish the importance of striking a balance between the important contribution made to society by educational institutions and the inimical consequences of their presence in residential neighborhoods (Id., at 166). " The decision will be data driven and evidentiary/expert analysis; Gird for war!!! enuf 4 now.
Ellen June 14, 2012 at 10:50 AM
Easy Dan....Marilee it is quite clear those oppose to FASNY have done their homework and you suggesting that we have not is just insulting. I have personally engaged in dialog with FASNY on a number of occasions. You are not the only one who has. I have had their representatives to my home. I have been told to MOVE because of how their project is going to destroy my home. That is what my family got. WHO IS THE BULLY MARILEE??? Please get off of your high horse. I ask you, even if it just destroyed 1 families home (it does far more then that) is that OK? Just so you can have a conservancy? Please stop ignoring the 46 acre tremendous development they are proposing. They did not come here to give us a conservancy. They came here to build a massive regional education center. The conservancy does not make up for that. So much of the property they want to leave as open space can not be developed. Please take the time to read the DEIS and tell me what do you think about their plan for the conservancy is "aspirational" and will be done IF they secure funding and AFTER everything else is built. People are so angry with them because they have engaged in such expensive PR tactics never seen in White Plains before. If it was a great plan they would not have to do that.
Dan Seidel June 14, 2012 at 11:46 AM
Morning all, Merrilee is a classmate of my daughter - she's a youngin'. Like my daughter and son, who we raised in what we now find to be a bubble, education and knowledge is key to determining one's opinion. I was giving a large dose of education. Now the learning must take place. With $190 million in the school budget, we should be doing better at educating the youth in municipal and environmental needs. I am trying to fill some education gaps - this is an ongoing process and we should grab it when we can. You were told to move? Now THAT is so nice of them!! looking out for the homeowners - got to hand it to them - great strategy to win hearts and minds. Merrilee? want to talk? we are available. Reach out! This goes for anyone else. Much cannot be squeezed into 500 characters in a Patch comment. I think the soccer field goes in behind my house. The French forgot the sewer/stormdrain lines that make like fountain gushers from underneath this area. I guess no field, eh?
Joan's WP June 14, 2012 at 01:29 PM
If FASNY builds, I would have a school building behind my house as well as a playground. Not something I bargained for when I moved here. Merrilee, you live nowhere near this proposed school, in fact you live on the other side of the city and you will be unaffected by the direct, everyday consequences of a 46-acre school campus. So it's easy for you to talk so positively about FASNY. But what have you talked about? The school? No. The Conservancy? Yes. The school itself is the issue and the Conservancy is a diversionary tactic by FASNY. We all like open space and, guess what, we would still have it without the school because as so many of who have educated ourselves about this issue know, that land cannot be built on due to wetlands and environmental issues. Please don't insult those of us who are really educated about the FASNY project. We are trying to get the no nothings to understand what is really at stake. They are mesmerized by the shiny object FASNY is waving in front of their eyes. In the end, the Conservancy is an illusion, because not only is most of FASNY's proposal "aspirational", dependent upon funding, and not planned for many, many years, FASNY can chose not to proceed with it. A conservation easement would not require FASNY to make the "improvements" they are proposing. Once they get what they want, they an thumb their nose at all of us. We know FASNY for what they are -- the bully in the playground!
Joan's WP June 14, 2012 at 01:44 PM
The Land Trust Alliance defines a conservation easement as "a legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust or government agency that permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values. It allows landowners to continue to own and use their land and they can also sell it or pass it on to heirs." "Conservation easements offer great flexibility......An easement may apply to all or a portion of the property,and need not require public access."
wpRez June 14, 2012 at 02:44 PM
Hi Joan - WpRez the fraudster here. I know this is going to come across as rude and obnoxious - but I honestly don't mean to be. I'm just being honest here. To be blunt, I don't really care about your house, its value, or your golf course views or what you bargained for when you moved there. The shiny object (conservancy) I do care about. That is what I look forward to. If your view is destroyed it has no impact on my everyday life. Neither does the traffic as I work during the day and don't drive on those streets at the school traffic hours. I also live in the highlands, not far from Merrilee. Again, no impact on my everyday life. Whereas even if the school does the absolute, barebones minimum with the conservancy - even if they did nothing else but open their gate for me on the weekends, that has a positive impact on my life and I think the whole city. I will definitely utilize it with my family. I know I'm being selfish, but again, honest - and most people I've spoken to that don't live in Gedney Farms agree with what I said. That said, I do feel bad for you and perhaps would do the same if I were in your shoes. Your post is illustrative because it reveals that it is your own personal situation that is motivating you, and the idea that you're in this fight "for the good of the city" is nothing more than a sideshow for selling your cause to people outside the neighborhood. "Paula" demonstrated the same thing in her post. You need to get back on message.
wpRez June 14, 2012 at 03:01 PM
Meant to post this in the other thread - could be of interest to some here. On PBS a few nights ago, they had a show called "Treasures of NY" - and this episode was a documentary about Costas Kondylis - an architect that has built more than 70 buildings in NYC over the last few decades. Fascinating program - very well done - and fascinating guy. Many parts of it reminded me of this FASNY situation. Here's the link to the program in case anyone is interested: http://www.thirteen.org/treasures-of-ny/building-stories/
Joan's WP June 14, 2012 at 03:09 PM
wpRez, yes I do have skin in the game and mentioned a school behind my house to show that. But that doesn't mean that I can't see the whole picture for what it is, what it means for my entire neighborhood and what it means for the city. Let me make one thing clear, I do not have a view of the golf course greens. Not only are there some trees on the other side of my fence, but we planted screening trees when we moved in. So I have spent my time here gazing at greenery not greens. I am not going to address your being selfish since you have already explained how that is motivating you. However, as one neighborhood goes, so may another. If this development can happen in this residential neighborhood, it sets a precedent for all neighborhoods. If a developer wants to build in your neighborhood and you were against it, I would support you, not dismiss you.
wpRez June 14, 2012 at 03:28 PM
Joan - thanks for being civil. In any case, something is going to be developed there. Houses don't do me much good. Another golf course doesn't do me much good. Leaving the land empty and closed up for years doesn't do me much good. The school with conservancy is the only option (other than the city or county buying it) which seems to have any sort of positive impact on me. Even if the conservancy was half the size of what they're saying, and was nothing more than an empty field - that's still better than all the other options. Again, I don't mean to be selfish, but I'm giving you my honest perspective of someone that does not live in the neighborhood. I should note, that other members of my family do live in Gedney Farms and they are adamantly against the plan. This provides for some "lively" discussion at family get togethers.
ds455 June 18, 2012 at 04:17 PM
wpRez--as has been stated over and over, the open space must remain, because it is wetlands and CANNOT BE DEVELOPED UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. As for your future enjoyment of the so-called Conservancy, read FASNY'S DEIS, in which they finally admit "that most usage would come from nearby residents who would be able to walk to the conservancy." Full disclosure: I live in the Gedney Farms neighborhood. Oh, and I have no view of the golf course -- for some reason, this seems to be of critical interest to many of the letter writers. Donn455

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