Each member of the White Plains Common Council expressed some concerns over the proposal submitted by the French American School of New York for a new 1,200-student campus on the 129-acre site of the former Ridgeway Golf Club.
But in the end, those concerns weren’t enough to stop city officials from passing a resolution Monday to accept the final environmental impact statement for the proposal as complete. Officials approved the resolution 5 to 2 during Monday’s special meeting, with council members Milagros Lecuona and Dennis Krolian representing the two ‘dissenting’ votes.
Mayor Thomas Roach said the application process for FASNY has gone on for more than two years, with more than 10 hours worth of public comments, about 136 speakers heard before the scoping process of the state environmental review. Roach said more than 200 emails have been received since the final draft environmental impact statement was posted on the city’s Web site in August.
“We are not voting up or down tonight, we are not issuing our findings,” Roach said to jam-packed room of people in the council’s chambers. “Anyone who does not recognize that there are strong area of disagreement between the opinions of the applicant regarding the modified proposal and the review undertaken by the city. These will be addressed in the council’s findings on which work will now begin and be voted on a later date.”
FASNY is seeking special permit to build a campus with an 83-acre open space conservancy on former country club, located off Ridgeway and North Street in White Plains. The campus would accommodate 1,200 students inside a high school, middle school and lower school buildings.
The lower school would house the nursery, pre-kindergarten and kindergarten programs along with students in grades one through five. A gymnasium and performing arts building would also get built on the property.
Many residents have expressed concerns that the proposed school is out of character with the rest of the largely residential Gedney Farms neighborhood and that the surrounding traffic will be hampered with the influx of 1,200 students and staff members. There have also been concerns expressed about the impact the school would have on the neighborhood, which was once farmland and includes the club’s property.
“This document is extremely flawed and should not be accepted,” said Yvonne Gumowitz, a member of the Gedney Association, said following Monday’s vote. “The [stormwater prevention plan] has not been submitted, they lied about their parking, the busing plan is unenforceable and I’m disgusted.”
Claudia Murphy, who is running for the Common Council in November’s election, said she wanted to Common Council to resolve the issue quickly.
“The people in downtown White Plains are also against this because they’re feeling neglected and the people in southern White Plains are doing research and trying to defend their zoning and properties,” Murphy said. “It’s about time that a decision is made. I’ve come out to public meetings and spoken out against this project...but we need a resolution so our residents can move on.”
Phil McGovern said he is pleased with the Common Council’s decision. He supports the project and believes it will add another world-class presence to the city. He is also excited about the prospect of the school opening more than 80-acres of green space to the public.
“I think it was the right decision and I’ve been for the project from the start,” McGovern said. “I think that we have to thank our state legislators because they have instituted a process whereby these concerns and the concerns of the community, contiguous and extending, can be listened to.”
FASNY has made changes to its original proposal. Those changes, which are also in the FEIS, include:
A mandatory busing policy for reducing automobile traffic in and out of the school. It is believed that the policy would decrease traffic by 50 percent in the morning and 51-percent in the evening.
School times would be altered so that they would not conflict with the start times of the city’s public schools.
Increased setbacks to the buildings and athletic field on the campus.
The installation of a roundabout at Ridgeway and Hathaway Lane. The roundabout would replace the original plan to install traffic signals where Ridgeway intersected the campus driveway and Hathaway Lane.
The addition of new access points to the campus. A new driveway would be created off of North Street to and a new two-lane driveway would be created off Bryant Avenue.
Councilman Krolian said the mandatory busing policy still had too many contingencies and unknowns to adequately forecast its use and effectiveness. He also said a proposal to the create a roundabout on North Street would have a negative impact on the nearby White Plain High School community.
“The FEIS does not give a clear understanding of the overlapping transportation requirements of both schools at that shared location,” Krolian said. “A more comprehensive analysis is required to decide what impact FASNY will have on its public school neighbors.”Councilwoman Lecuona said she declined to accept the FEIS as complete because it lacked stormwater improvement plan. She also doesn’t believe the FEIS addresses properly addresses alternatives, which said is mandatory under the state environmental review process.