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White Plains Narrowly Approves New, Smaller French-American School

White Plains residents at a public hearing at City Hall on the French-American School of New York's earlier plan for a campus at Ridgeway Country Club. At Monday's meeting, the Common Council voted 4-3 to approve a new, scaled-down FASNY project.
White Plains residents at a public hearing at City Hall on the French-American School of New York's earlier plan for a campus at Ridgeway Country Club. At Monday's meeting, the Common Council voted 4-3 to approve a new, scaled-down FASNY project. Photo Credit: File photo

This story has been updated.

In an Election Eve vote unpopular among many in the overflow crowd at City Hall,  the White Plains Common Council narrowly gave the French-American School of New York approval to build a school at the former Ridgeway Country Club in White Plains.

Nearly seven years after a larger school campus was proposed, the Common Council had the "super majority" approval required for FASNY to move forward, by a 5-2 vote.

Councilwoman Nadine Hunt-Robinson, who opposed an earlier, larger FASNY proposal, said she decided to support the development Monday because of concessions made by the private school. She said the new plan, with 640 students, is substantially smaller than the original 950 student campus.

Two council members, Milagros Lecuona and Dennis Krolian, voted against the project on Monday, saying it remains too large and that other neighborhood impact concerns have not been revolved.

White Plains Mayor Tom Roach voted in favor of the revised FASNY project, along with Hunt-Robinson, Beth Smayda, John Martin and John Kirkpatrick.

Lecuona, a Republican, is challenging Roach, the Democratic incumbent, in the Tuesday Nov. 7 election. Martin and Kirkpatrick, both Democrats, also are up for re-election on Tuesday.

Some neighbors complained they did not get advance notice of Monday's FASNY vote until Thursday, Nov. 2.

The development plan required five votes, rather than a simple majority, because of the environmentally-sensitive nature of the property.

FASNY agreed to a 15-year moratorium on any school-related development of the three parcels surrounding the approved project. Nearby residents of the Gedney Association said they remain fearful that new housing will be built on adjoining country club property owned by FASNY, and said they are considering lawsuits.

According to the school project's opponents, Mayor Roach and Council President Kirkpatrick received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from parties connected with FASNY.

White Plains resident Daniel Seidel, who assembled campaign contribution data from election disclosure reports by the candidates, said the failure of conflicted council members to recuse themselves from Monday's vote "opens the door for litigation."

In September 2016, the City of White Plains reached a "stipulated settlement," ending litigation by FASNY, but requiring Common Council approval of a scaled-down school project.

Under the newly-approved plan, a school for grades six through 12 would be built on the developed portion of the site where the clubhouse and other facilities exist. Hathaway Lane will remain open.

FASNY's original $60 million plan, would have consolidated its schools in Scarsdale, Larchmont and Mamaroneck on the 131-acre site of the former golf course and country club. That project included a new pre-K through 12th-grade school and public nature park.

FASNY now proposes reducing the size of a public nature park from 78 acres to 51 acres.

The plan includes a greenhouse, gymnasium, performing arts center and athletic fields.

Some neighbors still fear that increased traffic will jam local roads, endangering students from nearby White Plains High School.

FASNY argued the revised plan addressed such concerns, such as moving the new school's main entrance from North Street to Ridgeway.

Spokesman Geoff Thompson said FASNY's project was subjected to a lengthier, more in-depth review than any other proposed development in White Plains.

FASNY bought four parcels at the former country club in January 2011. Five months later, it submitted its original development plan application.

FASNY sued White Plains in September 2015 to expedite the approval process.

The suit was settled a year later, as reported here by Daily Voice, when the Common Council voted 4-3 to consider the scaled-down plan that was approved on Monday.

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