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Hundreds Debate FASNY Proposal at City Hall

Supports and opponents of the proposed French American School of New York debate the impacts of creating a new facility on the old Ridgeway Golf Club site in White Plains.

A standing room only crowd filled rooms and hallways in City Hall Wednesday night, debating the French American School of New York's controversial proposal to build a new campus on the former site of the Ridgeway Country Club.

A long line of speakers addressed the White Plains Common Council to discuss FASNY's lengthy Environmental Impact Study as the school petitions the City for a permit to build on the property. After acquiring the property in 2011, FASNY hopes to build a unified school campus on 46 acres on the southern end of the property. The proposal also includes an 84-acre conservancy of maintained walking trails that would be open to the public.

FASNY supporters used the opportunity to discuss the expected construction jobs and environmental positives of the proposal. Opponents said the added traffic, development and overall change to the former golf course will forever alter their neighborhood if approved.

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Mischa Zabotin, chairman of the FASNY board of trustees explained the proposal's inclusion of open space and the creation of approximately 500 construction jobs within the City creates a win-win for White Plains.

"There aren't many $60 million projects in the pipeline of local communities in lower Westchester," Zabotin said.

Some neighbors, particularly members of the Gedney Association, which represents about 450 homes in the area, see things differently.

Terence Guerrire, president of the Gedney Association, said while FASNY has made every effort to focus the proposal on the conservancy on the northern portion of the property, the focus should remain on the construction of the new schools.

FASNY opponents are fearful that thousands of drivers will clog Ridgeway Ave. and surrounding roads while dropping off and picking up students every day. They also fear that parking lots and school buildings on the campus will detract from the historic neighborhood.

"We can all agree that FASNY offers a fine education, and that open space is preferred use for this land and many others," Guerrire said. "But this application is about a developer who wants to construct several buildings next to homes in the center of a neighborhood."

The proposed campus would house about 1,200 students and 250 staff members. In addition to the 84-acre open space conservancy, the proposal includes the construction of an upper, middle and lower school totaling 230,863 sq ft., three playgrounds, four tennis courts, four soccer fiends, a six lane track, a basketball court, baseball and softball diamonds and 428 parking spaces.

FASNY representatives opened the hearing with a brief overview of the project, as well as a list of possible alternatives for the site if the school had not purchased the property. Representatives said athletic fields, parking lots and school buildings will take up only 15 percent of the property. They added that the proposal allows for most of the traffic to be handled on-site and that the school will prevent drivers from cutting through neighborhoods during peak traffic hours.

Alternative uses for the site, including a house of worship, recreation center and the construction of a 39-lot single home development were deemed unrealistic alternatives during the presentation.

Opponents believe there are better options.

Steven Gould, who lives in the Gedney neighborhood, said the proposed school would funnel more traffic into the City's most dangerous intersections, including Bryant and Mamaroneck Ave. and Ridgeway and Mamaroneck Ave.

"This is where they are feeding all this traffic into," he said. "Our biggest accident intersections."

Gould also said the traffic issues won't be limited to mornings and afternoons, as the school will host hundreds of after school events and activities year-round.

Hundreds of people attended the first public hearing on the proposed project. The common council room in City Hall was filled well before the hearing began, hundreds of other people watched on projectors and televisions placed in the hallway outside and City Hall's entryway.

The two sides of the project were, for the most part, easy to identify, wearing either green shirts and stickers to support the project or red shirts and buttons to oppose it.

Ellen Mellyn, an Eastchester resident wearing green on Thursday said she attended the meeting because the construction of the school would be great news for her family, though she can understand why people in the neighborhood are concerned.

"I can understand that it adversely affects a few people, if you live there and a parking lot is in your backyard, yea I understand that," she said. "But the majority of residents, it's beneficial because it's going to be open space."

Frank Banister, who attended the meeting with his wife Barbara Hamil, said while leaving the meeting he is one of the few people in his neighborhood who have supported the project. Residents of Macy Ave, located near a proposed baseball field on the campus, both said the proposal is better than housing developments of other alternatives.

"I think the alternative uses for the property, this seems to be the best that's out there," Banister said. "(Housing) development would be a shame."

But other residents, who have placed hundreds of anti-FASNY signs in front lawns surrounding the property, don't see it that way.

"What we're talking about tonight is certainly going to change the character of our neighborhood," said Gould.

The common council didn't provide feedback as a line of speakers shuffled to the podium for hours. The second, and final, public hearing will be held on Oct. 17. After that, FASNY representatives will be given the opportunity to respond to any environmental concerns in writing.

Written comments will be received until 5 p.m. on Oct. 20 and should be directed to the City Clerk, City Hall at 255 Main St., White Plains, NY 10601.

Click here to view the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for the project. A copy of the DEIS will also be available for view at the White Plains Public Library. 

Yvonne Gumowitz September 22, 2012 at 04:10 AM
Regarding the Ellen Mellyn (of Eastchester) comment: "...it's beneficial because it's going to be open space." It currently IS open space. What FASNY is proposing is developing over 40 acres of never before developed land. ANY developer would have to leave a large portion undeveloped because the land is unsuitable for building, be it setbacks or wet soils.
LOVE MY WP September 22, 2012 at 05:44 PM
Yvonne, I just want to say... Job well done. You know you're on to something with Zarin stands up & objects. You were genius at the meeting and I just could not believe the intertwining of each person in at least one way being connected to FASNY. You are my (our) hero!!
Yvonne Gumowitz September 22, 2012 at 05:56 PM
It was too much of a coincidence that "suddenly" 16 environmental groups (or whatever they may call them) decide to write letters of endorsement. And then there was the claim that it was done "on their own"... say what? Unraveling this ball of "deep pocket" yarn took a few days, but most of the 16 puzzle pieces are linked. So much for "unsolicited support". http://gedneyfarms.net/FASNYsignatories.html
Joan's WP September 22, 2012 at 10:00 PM
That is an amazing flow chart. FASNY uses its deep connections with the powerful and privileged to exert influence at every turn. Thank you for shining a light on their strategy and exposing this story.
Joseph September 23, 2012 at 01:45 AM
The irony is that FASNY has sought to portray the residents of the neighborhood in which it seeks to build in as elite and wealthy, when FASNY is backed by Soros and Rockefeller family members, and its chair is an international investment banker! I do not agree with class warfare tactics in general, but the hypocrisy of FASNY cannot escape comment.
Paula September 23, 2012 at 09:41 AM
I think the Gumowitz flow chart requires it's own article in order for a non-Gedney Farms person to understand it. With the time limit given at the hearing and the difficulty that can be experienced when trying to view it on your own, it is an interesting issue that I think deserves it's own article. I think people who have had calm unlimited time with Yvonne can come to see this much easier than those hearing about it without the visual on this site, or those trying to get it on the first hearing on TV - and how many people don't even watch the WP channel?
Hugh Marshall September 23, 2012 at 10:22 AM
You left out the Illuminati, Knights Templar, and Bilderberg Group. Also the black helicopters.
Yvonne Gumowitz September 23, 2012 at 05:26 PM
What's in it for you Hugh? You're too old to have children attend the school and you have yet to answer the question what you think will be so great about this project. Maybe you simply enjoy sitting in traffic? Everyone's got their kinks.
Jacqueline Bernard Blades September 26, 2012 at 12:04 PM
There are new people living in that area and most of of the residents that are opposing are old residents that are resisting change.
Joan's WP September 26, 2012 at 12:40 PM
You seem to be saying that new people living in the area have no attachment to it so they don't care what happens to Gedney Farms. At the same time, you are saying that "old" residents (translation, "old people") are set in their ways and that their opposition has nothing to do with how much they care about Gedney Farms and don't want to see it destroyed. You are seriously deficient in your knowledge of the entire situation, which is not cut and dried, but has important aspects that would affect Gedney Farms in multiple ways. In addition, the entire southern end of White Plains will be impacted by traffic according to FASNY's own statements in their DEIS. This is no small matter. Go onto the City's website and download the DEIS so that you can educate yourself. Until you do, you have no right to pass such cavalier judgment.
Jacqueline Bernard Blades September 26, 2012 at 01:49 PM
HI Joan's WP It was never my intention to offend the parties in the discussion however I never "said " anything. I wrote the comment I have not heard the term "cavalier" in decades. You are absolutely correct in some of your comments.
Alexander V. September 26, 2012 at 03:32 PM
So, to clarify, the old should be shoved out. In with the new French speaking?
Jacqueline Bernard Blades September 26, 2012 at 03:47 PM
HI Alexander V Just to be in the ball park, I 'm quite aware of the Gedney Neighborhood Association's concern about the impact of FASNY on their privacy. They're doing a good job. They're not ethicnic snobs.
Jacqueline Bernard Blades September 26, 2012 at 05:39 PM
I'm enjoing you carrying the ball. Culture has never been one of the strong points out here.
Joan's WP September 26, 2012 at 05:51 PM
Jacqueline, you just don't get it, do you? This is not a privacy issue If that is what you think after all that has been written, discussed, explained, etc., you are not paying attention. First is zoning. Gedney Farms is not zoned for a school. That is why FASNY has applied for a Special Permit. They cannot build without one. The other major issues are: increase in traffic on Ridgeway by at least 50%; sensitive environment where FASNY wants to build; flooding locally and downstream; increased costs to the City to provide services (police, fire, sanitation) to a non-taxpaying entity; air and noise pollution. Understand that there are many serious issues raised by the FASNYproposal. It's ridiculous to call it a "privacy" issue and leave it at that. Where are you coming from?
truthbetold September 26, 2012 at 10:41 PM
Jacquelines message is dripping with sarcasm. For her to comment that most of the people opposing are "old" residents says it all doesn't it??? The total disregard for others is what FASNY is all about. JBB your comments disgust me.

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