Board of Education Writes Mayor and Common Council it Opposes FASNY Ridgeway Campus Proposal

WPCNR SOUTH END TIMES. September 16, 2014 UPDATED 9:55 P.M. E.D.T. UPDATED 10:15 p.m. E.D.T.CORRECTION, SEPTEMBER 17,2014:

All seven members of the Board of Education reached a consensus but did not hold a vote Monday night, in agreeing to send a letter to Mayor Tom Roach and the White Plains Common Council Tuesday morning, declaring the School Board opposition to the French American School of New York proposal to build a 5 building school campus on the former grounds of the Ridgeway Country Club with an entrance on North Street opposite the entrance to White Plains High School. The policy was announced in a letter dated Monday.

They write:

“…it is the unamimous opinion of the White Plains Board of Education that 1.) the increased traffic resulting from the location of the main entrance to the proposed consolidated French American School on either North Street or Bryant Avenue would have a profoundly negative and disruptive effect on the operations of White Plains High School and the safety and welfare of our students, their families and our staff and 2., the traffic mitigation proposals submitted by FASNY not only fail to remedy the flaws identified in their originally submitted plans, but certain suggested mitigation efforts potentially create much larger, more untenable problems for the White Plains schools.”

The conclusions of the letter were reached after a review of the FASNY site plan by  a committee composed of Superintendent of Schools Timothy Connors, Assistant Superintendent for Business Fred Seiler; Ellen Doherty, the Principal of White Plains High School ; the Director of Facilities, Frank Stefanelli; Diane Markert, the Director of Transportation  and the members of the Board of Education.

Michele Schoenfeld, Clerk to the Board of Education, asked why the item was not published on the agenda, told WPCNR  the letter was discussed and approved with all 7 members agreeing to send the letter Monday night at the Board of Education. Discussion of the letter, she wold WPCNR, was originally not included on the published agenda to the public because the Board did not know if the letter was going to be “ready on time” to be discussed.

Schoenfeld reported the letter was delivered to the Mayor and the Common Council Tuesday morning.

John Sheehan, President of the Gedney Association issued this statement to the membership:

This letter from those charged with the safety of our school children is an extraordinarily significant development and corresponds to the serious concerns raised by residents from all over the City regarding the feasibility of locating such a facility on the former Ridgeway Country Club property.


Please join us in thanking the Board of Education in undertaking such a thoughtful review of the FASNY proposal.

The Gedney Association would again like to thank the hundreds of residents who attended the Public Hearings last week and those who spoke so eloquently and factually on the FASNY proposal.  We are certain the Common Council heard the overwhelming opinion of the residents.

Lastly, for those who have not seen the excellent video on Gedney Farms prepared by Anne Casey of Hathaway Lane please see the link.  It truly provides a wonderful sense of the unique attributes of Gedney Farms.

The Development of the North Street alternatives was quietly developed in June of 2013 :

The Board of Education first learned of North Street alternatives in June, 2013, as WPCNR reported in its daily report of September 17, 2013, while the FEIS with the North Street proposal was being presented. You can read the entire article at

http://whiteplainscnr.com/2013/09/17/fasny-planners-met-with-school-officials-in-june-to-show-roundabout-north-street-entrance-possibility/

The key portion of that article revealed that School District personnel had attended those meetings and learned that a North Street entrance was the strategy being looked at seriously by city planners and staffers and FASNY whoever they were,  for mitigating the Ridgeway traffic situation that had been one of the main complaints from the Gedney Association about the project. The key narrative in that  September 17, 2013 WPCNR article says:

“Contrary to protestations of school board members they knew nothing of the proposed entrance alternative  offerred  last night in the approved Final Environmental Impact Statement, WPCNR has learned  representatives from the French American School of New York met with Assistant Superintendent for Business of the School District, Fred Seiler and Facilities and Operations Manager Frank Stefanelli in June of this year (June, 2013).

Fred Seiler told WPCNR Tuesday afternoon that the group from FASNY included the head master of the French American School, a representative from the FASNY project architectural firm, a member of the FASNY Board and two others. Seiler said they presented about four  designs, one of which included the proposed traffic circle/roundabout entrance featured in the Final Environmental Impact Statement approved as complete and accurate by the Common Council by a vote of 5-2 Monday evening.

Previously this week (September, 2013) a member of the school board Peter Bassano told WPCNR, the board had not known of the proposed entrance until the beginning of September and said the Interim Superintendent, Timothy Connors had not known either.

Seiler said that the FASNY contingent did show  him and Stefanelli  ithe design for the roundabout/traffic circle to Seiler and Mr. Stefanelli. Asked if the two had any reaction, Seiler said “Frank felt the roundabout would be difficult for pedestrians to cross.”

Asked if Seiler had told the Board of Education about the presentation, he said he had told the superintendent, Christopher Clouet at the time, and Seiler said the Board of Education did not feel it was an issue that concerned them at the time, and that it could be taken up when and if it was an actual proposal. Seiler did not say he and Stefanelli had endorsed any of the plans shown.”

In noting tonight again what Seiler and Stefanelli said in speaking about those June 2013 discussions, it appears the two did not rule out a North Street entrance in any way, nor did the two endorse entry to the  FASNY campus from North Street. The key words that Seiler conveyed to this reporter last year at this time was that  the Board of Education did not feel it was an issue that conerned them at the time, and that  it could be taken up when and if it was an actual proposal

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Autumn in New York: Cider Mills, Farms, Celebrate the waning sun of Summer.

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Apples ripening in fields  of Wilkens  Fruit Farm (a working farm since 1917) last weekend. The farm  and its store and bake shop below gives the family a feel for what a working farm is like. It sells pies, cups of the first cider of the season and donuts, jams cookies. You can find out how to get there by going to www.wilkensfarm.com

 

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2013922bramsonad 006 Thompson’s Cider Mill, a tradition in Westchester County  opens Saturday, 10 A.M. to 5 P.M. proimising the first cider of the season, brewed up by the master ciderer, Geof Thompson.  for information go to  www.thompsonscidermill.com2014906nyc 115

 

 

 

 

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The Last Word: Gedney Association President: The Case for Denying FASNY BUILD.

 

WPCNR SOUTH END TIMES. From John Sheehan, President, The Gedney Association. September 13, 2014:

John Sheehan was the last speaker Wednesday evening when the site plan/special permit hearing on the French American School of New York plan to build a five-building complex on the former Ridgeway Country Club site suspended public comment and adjourned to September 29,

Mr. Sheehan eloquentely summed up the reasons why his neighborhood association feels the city should not approve the application.

Here are his remarks:

I am here tonight to discuss and comment on FASNY’s application for a Special Permit and Site Plan approval. 

 

First let me comment on some things that became very clear Monday night:

  1. 1.                 FASNY acknowledged that property values have indeed declined;
  2. 2.                 The overwhelming comments from residents of White Plains, not having an affiliation with FASNY or someone connected with FASNY, were against approval of a Special Permit for the property.  Remember over 2,000 residents and  voters from all corners of White Plains earlier signed a petition rejecting the FASNY plan;
  3. 3.                 The Army Corps of Engineers has entered into the FASNY application process despite comments from some that this has been resolved. 

The effect on property value is a required consideration in your decision.  Mr. Botti of FASNY recognized the serious drop in property values in the neighborhood but dismissed this citing “uncertainty”.  Its seems to me as a real estate consultant that this argument is not logical. If I am a potential buyer in the neighborhoods near the property and assessing the situation there are two possibilities: either FASNY gets approved or it does not.  If it does not it will be developed residentially or remain as a golf course.  If not, the school would be built.  The former was always true and historically has not hurt property values.  So it is reasonable to assume that the clear reason for the significant diminution in home values is that most buyers believe the regional school complex would be a negative condition in the ownership of a home there.

FASNY’s requires a Special Permit because the use they propose is not permitted as a matter of right but only with the issuance of a Special Permit.

The City’s zoning ordinance provides clear and unambiguous standards that have to be met:

Section 6.51 clearly states “The location and size of the special permit “use”, the nature and intensity of the operations involved in it or conducted in connection with it, the size of the site in relation to it and the location of the site with respect to “streets” giving access to it are such that it will be in harmony with the appropriate an orderly development of the area in which it is located.”

Furthermore, Section 6.53 states “Operations in connection with any special permit “use” will not be more objectionable to nearby properties by reason of noise, traffic, fumes, vibration or other characteristics than would be the operations of permitted “uses not requiring a special permit.”

The use permitted in the zone is single family homes on parcels of at least 30,000 square feet.  Who could say with a straight face that the FASNY project with 950 students and 250 staff in 262,000 square feet of buildings surrounded by a sea of parking lots is in harmony with the neighborhood? Who could seriously argue that the vehicular traffic it will generate will not be more objectionable to single-family homes on 30,000 square foot lots?

Its interesting that the environmental findings resolution does not mention these standards – obviously done so as not to identify restrictions that would prohibit this planned development.

May I also remind the Common Council that colleges are not permitted in this zone.  Who would deny that the density and scale of the FASNY project is not more similar to a college?

Also the clustering of school buildings and parking lots are not permitted in the zone.”

 

These standards in the zoning ordinance are your standards and the Common Council must adhere to them.

 

The City’s Comprehensive Plan also does not support the type of use proposed by FASNY.  It clearly states:

“If not economically viable to maintain the golf courses in private club ownership, the Plan’s preferred scenario is preservation of the golf courses through other, private, quasi-public or public means”

If the courses cannot be maintained as golf courses then  the “Plan envisions residential development at the City’s lowest residential density, clustered to preserve open space and environmental features and providing public and quasi-public areas including trailways linked to the City’s open space network”.

The Comprehensive Plan is very clear:

  • If a golf course is no longer feasible the use should be residential;
  • The density should be at the lowest residential density.

A few other key points:

  1. 1.      The neighborhood surrounding the property already has more land dedicated to institutional or non-profit use than private homes.  The saturation point has already been reached;

 

  1. 2.      A study done by The Institute of Traffic Engineers found that private schools generate double the amount of traffic than a public high  school.  Was this or others studies ever considered or was every projection based on guesses and studies done when other schools were not in session;

 

  1. 3.      FASNY’s traffic study indicated that with the North Street entrance and the so-called Traffic Management Plan traffic on Ridgeway would be reduced by 89% or go from 292 vehicles to only 42 vehicles in the morning peak period.   They further stated that much of the reduction would be attributable to cars and buses using the Hutchinson River Parkway.   No mention was made that standard school buses are not permitted on the parkway. Even more incredible was that the FASNY study never considered that traffic is congested every weekday on the parkway from the Cross County Parkway to I-287 in both morning knowledge, including the City’s traffic engineer and the City and afternoon peak periods.  In fact, it’s common Police Department that cars travelling to New York or to I-287 on the parkway leave the parkway and use Rosedale Avenue and other local streets as a short-cut to avoid the traffic congestion.  Yet we are to believe that cars and buses coming from Larchmont and Mamaroneck will do the opposite, leave local roads to sit in traffic on the parkway.  In fact, FASNY buses and cars will use local roads like the Scarsdale bypass to Ridgeway or come up Mamaroneck Avenue to Ridgeway.  Ridgeway is not designed for this or intended to be used as an arterial road but only as a local collector road but that’s where the vehicles would unquestionably go if not on even more local streets.
  1. 4.      The intersections at Mamaroneck Avenue and Ridgeway and Bryant Avenue and North Street currently operate at unsatisfactory Levels of Service according to City records.  I might add that both the White Plains High School and Ridgeway Elementary School are situated at these intersections yet no mention of this was made of these serious conditions by any Council members in the environmental review.

Why is the Common Council listening to this FASNY gibberish when your own traffic consultant’s findings were entirely different. The City’s traffic consultant, TRC said “Access from North Street reduces “some” of the Project impacts along Ridgeway.”  The TRC report furthermore stated “that it will alsosomewhat” reduce project traffic at the intersection of Mamaroneck Avenue and Ridgeway.”  The TRC report never said that this new entrance would measurably or significantly reduce traffic on Ridgeway or a ridiculous 89% as FASNY purports.

With regard to the so-called busing management plan the TRC report raises the same doubts.  It states that “there are several uncertainties about the actual trip generation and bus utilization and there could be significant fluctuations in these numbers which could result in significant additional traffic impacts” and furthermore that “the number of buses and bus occupancy could vary significantly”.  It’s totally unenforceable and likely to collapse since school districts are abandoning the funding for it.

Remember this was the City’s traffic consultant’s report yet the findings resolution and everything thereafter cites FASNY’s numbers and analysis  which frankly are not worthy of serious consideration.

One last comment with regard to FASNY’s consultant saying they identified every watercourse on the property.  This is absolutely not true.  There is a labyrinth of streams on the property, most having been covered. One of the most glaring omissions is the stream emptying into Westchester Hills from Ridgeway.  FASNY’s consultants did not identify this stream until a few hundred yards down Westchester Hills property despite it being in clear view at Ridgeway.  Interestingly, this culverted stream is directly under the portion of the property where FASNY hopes to erect its high school.

The environmental findings this Council made in December very clearly required FASNY to resolve certain issues most specifically with regard to the  Traffic Management Plan prior to any Special Permit approval.  I am especially mindful of the very specific comments by Council members Martin and Krolian.  It is now evident that these questions have not be resolved nor could they be resolved and therefore the application must be denied.

Recently, a supporter of FASNY wrote a letter warning residents that the FASNY plan would preserve much open space while residential development would not.  I beg to differ.  The 3,000 foot entrance road eviscerates much of the so-called conservancy.  Also, as a former Assistant Town Planner in Greenwich, Connecticut we successfully developed a conservation zone for large properties worthy of protection.  In essence, the zone would require a minimum of 40% of the land permanently protected as open space.  In return the residential lots could drop down to one-half the lot size in the zone.  In this case, you would have 15,000 square foot lots instead of 30,000 square foot.  Importantly, you would not be permitted any density greater than a conventional subdivision after deducting, ponds, watercourses, steep slopes and subdivision roads.

Members of the Common Council listen to your zoning ordinance and its clear standards for Special Permit approval.  Listen to the Comprehensive Plan that was put together by hundreds of our residents.  Listen to your own traffic consultant’s report.  Listen to your Planning Board which unanimously did not approve of the closure of Hathaway Lane.  Listen to Lynn Oliva of the Planning Board, formerly the highly regarded Commisssioner of Planning for Westchester County when she strongly challenged the basis for the traffic findings of FASNY.  Listen to the Court of Appeals of the State of New York which said clearly said “educational and religious uses which would unarguably be contrary to the public’s health, safety or welfare need not be permitted at all”.   Lastly, listen to you constituents who overwhelmingly oppose this application for a Special Permit.  

Thirty years from now all of you will be gone from public service – the pressures pushing you for approval will be long gone – do what is right to protect our residential neighborhoods and hopefully White Plains will continue as a balanced City of an active downtown surrounded by beautiful and safe neighborhoods.

 

 

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Tennis Innovators Academy Clinic at Gille Park Introduces Year Round Facility to Open in January at Ebersole Rink

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Action in the Afternoon: A youngster slams a volley across the net at Gille Courts at  theTennis Innovators Academy held Sunday to introduce the Academy staff and teaching style. The clinic attended by 35 youngsters and adults  served to introduce the new facility being constructed adjacent Ebersole Rink in Delfino Park. (See photo below)
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Under Construction: The construction site of Tennis Innovators Academy alongside Ebersole Rink Sunday. Future home of the Academy opening in January.
WPCNR VIEW FROM CENTER COURT. By John F. Bailey September 15, 2014 UPDATED. 
Tennis Innovators Academy  the New York State firm building the new yearound, bubbled tennis courts adjacent Ebersole Ice Rink hosted  a FREE tennis exhibition  on the courts  at  Gillie Park  courts  to promote the  coming  facility adjacent Ebersole Rink now under construction and to introduce their staff.
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Sixteen youngsters of all ages participated in the first clinic, having a bunch of fun and experiencing the easy-going, active workout worked around humorous, easy-to-understand tips and tweaks on technique. An innovative round-robin game had all particpants involved in a fast-moving game at the end of each session.
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In the adult session that began at 1:15 P.M. featured a formidable gathering of serious older players were involved in a fast-paced session testing their repertoire of tennis shot-making, wrapping up with an exciting competitive round-robin.
An exhibition followed matching Cesar Andrade, Director of Operations for Tennis Innovators Academy, White Plains with three of his instructors in a tense doubles match.
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Construction of the new courts is well under way, and Tennis Innovators Academy is paying the $1.1 Million in construction costs.  At this time it is expected to open in January alongside Ebersole Rink. The rendering above and below shows the six bubbled courts, clubhouse and location of the outdoor courts.
Surfaces will be the most advanced surface in the county, according to Cesar Andrade, Director of Operations at the Academy. “The surface is the Har-Tru surface Hydro court system – The court irrigates itself automatically when in need of water, the court(s) are  always in top shape! “
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This new facility will bring year-round tennis to both adults and junior tennis enthusiasts. Mr. Andrade, in an interview said the Academy will have bilingual instructors and is dedicated to involving more of the county Latino community in tennis. He plans to bring after school tennis to youth organizations in White Plains as well as the schools
He said White Plains residents with a City of White Plains Recreation and Parks Card will play free on his  courts during the summer season and enjoy 15% discounts on lessons, court times and equipment.
He touted  the new surface his courts will provide that descibed as state of the art. He feels the absence of a membership fee, and the 8 AM to 11 P.M. hours of the club offer an attractive, flexible and superior tennis atmosphere compared to private clubs and health clubs in the area, no matter what a player’s objective will be. He  has done price point surveys of the competition in the area for the tennis dollars, and feels his prices are competitive on convenience, facilities, and tennis atmosphere.
Originally from Ecuador, he moved to this country where he was raised in Queens, graduating Francis Lewis High School in Fresh Meadowns.  He learned tennis through  the Mayor David Dinkens-instituted after school tennis program. He wants to bring that same experience to Westchester and White Plains. He has worked for Sportime and with Tennis Innovators Academy for 12 years.
The Tennis Innovators Academy runs facilities successfully in New Rochelle (the New Rochelle Racquet Club), John Jay Tennis Court, Chinatown Y, Kips Bay Tennis Court, Westend Church, Montclair School, Hunter College Sportsplex and the River School.
For information and questions about the coming White Plains facility and how you can use it, you may send e-mail to info@tennisinnovators.com or go to their website, www.tennisinnovators.com.
 They expect to open our courts at Ebersole Rink January 2015..
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Cesar Andrade congratulating the competitors in the Junior Clinic Sunday.
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City Observes 13th Year Since the World Trade Center Attacks. Remembers the City’s 6 Victims.

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Sharon Balkom, Marisa Dinardo, Hemanth Kumar Puttur, Joe Riverso,

Gregory Rodriguez, Linda Sheehan

WPCNR MILESTONES. September 12, 2014:

The ceremony observing the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center, part of a two-site attack by terrorists taking over three commerical airliners was solemnly remembered and the six residents of White Plains honored and memorialized yesterday at 8 A.M.

The observance struck a plaintiff evocation and painful remembrance of how anyone watching the all-too-real video images that day, by White Plains Police Officer Tara Altamuro’s stately colorata voice singing the Star Spangled Banner.

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Richard Hoffman, the brother-in-law of Joseph Riverso, one of the six White Plains citizens lost on that day,  read a poem One  that observed  the horror that unfolded that day 13 years ago that every American, no matter who they were, what color their skin was, what religion they followed became “One Family. One Faith” for each other. He is seen here with Marisa Hoffman, niece of Joseph Riverso

The verse evoked exactly how every person living here across the nation felt.  As Mayor Tom Roach noted in his remarks, “we all wanted to help.”

Counilmembers laid a wreath on the marble memorial, after Mayor Roach read the names of the White Plains six.

Officer Altamuro concluded the solemnity by rendering hope and love in her robust singing of God Bless America

The Mayor thanked all for coming and quiet conversations followed.

And all dispersed, going our separate ways.

.(You can see and hear Officer Altamuro concluding the remembrance singing God Bless America on White Plains Week, this evening at 7:30 P.M. on Channels 45 FIOS countywide and Cablevision Channel 76 in White Plains, or on the internet at www.whiteplainsweek.com)

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FASNY SITE PLAN/SPECIAL PERMIT HEARING WILL RESUME SEPTEMBER 29

WPCNR SOUTH END TIMES. By John F. Bailey. September 10, 2014:

The proceedings of the French American School of New York Site Plan/Special Permit wrapped up at 9:30 P.M. At the finish of the speakers, Mayor Tom Roach asked for a motion to continue the hearing on Monday, September 29 at 6:30 P.M. It was motioned and passed, keeping the hearing alive and ongoing.

Mayor Roach told WPCNR the meeting would be used by the Common Council to ask questions of the applicant. He said it would be open to the public. It is not clear at this time whether members of the public would be allowed to speak.

This would mean most likely that the time for community comment on the issue would probably be held open 30 days through October, allowing a vote to take place possibly the Monday before election day, November 3,  at the regularly scheduled Common Council meeting, or  at a Special Meeting after Election Day in November, or in December.

However, if FASNY needed more time to answer the Council questions posed at the September 29 meeting, the vote on the proposal would most surely be put off until after Election Day.

If the decision night was moved passed the Election Day, this assures the one Common Council seat up for election matching appointed Councilperson Nadine Hunt-Robinson against Republican Terence Guerriere would not be influenced by how Ms. Hunt-Robinson voted on the passionately debated FASNY issue.

At this point, sources close to the Democratic Party are saying 5 Councilpersons are expected to favor the project: The Mayor, John Martin, John Kilpatrick, Beth Smayda, and Ms. Hunt-Robinson with Dennis Krolian and Milagros Lecuona opposed. Five positive votes are needed to approve the project.

Krolian and Lecuona opposed the approval of the Final Evironmental Impact Statement  last December have been consistent in opposition to the project. Krolian and Lecuona are to stand for re-election next November.

Thirty six persons were heard Wednesday evening at the continuation of the French American School of White Plains Site  Plan/Special Permit public hearing, with thirty persons calling for the Council to deny the proposal for the 5-building campus on the former Ridgeway Golf Club, and six persons speaking in favor.

The overwhelming sentiments tonight challenged the Common Council to overcome their fearm of a lawsuit from the French American School  and reject the project, a sampling of comments:

“Don’t OK it because of fear of litigation, for results (of an approval) may bring problems not just in the long run but in the future as well.”

“The losers turn out to be the taxpayers.”

“Focus on the law under the zoning ordinance: can you grant the special permit…The zoning ordinance does not allow ballfields or rec facilities in the R.I. 30 Zone. In approving a Special Permit, the effect (of granting a special permit) must be mitigated to be the same as before (construction).”

“FASNY and this Council have laid an egg (The project) is an outright insult.” (CORRECTION from original quote.)

“(FASNY’S conservation easement terms) is irreversible. FASNY seems to be playing a game of catch me if you can.  Walk away from it. Don’t fall into their trap. It (the conservation ) is an insult. Vote No.”

“You took an oath you would be our eyes and ears. This is what your residents want. Have the backbone to pursue it. The effect on people’s lives Don’t destroy what has been built (in the neighborhoods).”

“Stick with your citizens — vote No.”

“Government should be for the people not by private developers.”

WPCNR interviewed Robert Stackpole in the hall tonight and he elaborated on his statement Monday that a private developer is interested in redeveloping the former Ridgeway Country Club as a country club. Mr. Stackpole said several billionaires and foreign companies from Austria are intrigued with redeveloping the golf course, establishing town house complexes on the fairways. He could not name the companies at this time.

 

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Army Corps of Engineers Requested Site Documents, Plans in July. Will Schedule Visit to Site to Determine if Corps Must Approve Site Plan.

 

WPCNR SOUTH END TIMES. By John F. Bailey. September 10, 2014:

After being informed of the French American School of New York Plans by Ann Bobroff-Hajal , of White Plains, the Army Corps of Engineers has requested details of the FASNY site, showing branches of the Mamaroneck River that lay underground in manmade underground conduits of the river branches.

A  letter from Stephan Ryba, Chief Eastern Section, the Army Corps of Engineers, obtained by Freedom of Information Act request sent by Ms. Bobroff-Hajal,  sent to FASNY July  31, (5 weeks ago), confirms this.  Mr. Ryba directed FASNY in the letter as follows:

“It has come to the attention of this office (Corps of Engineers) that the French American School of New York (FASNY) has proposed work activities which may occur in, and involve discharge of fill material to waters of the United States on your property located at 400 Ridgeway in the City of White Plains, County of Westchester, New York.

Until a jurisdictional determination is prepared for the site and approved by the Corps of Engineers, we cannot determine the extent of proposed work in Corps juristion.

Therefore, the Corps recommends FASNY now submit to this office a request for a Corps jurisdictional determination for the entire site to clarify the extent of wetlands and Waters of the United States on the property.”

After receiving this letter The French American School of New York started to submit and continues to submit materials requested by the Army Corps of Engineers delineating site maps and natural streams and features of their proposed new campus construction site.

Here is a copy of this letter:

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The Corps of Engineers learned of the proposed construction on the former Ridgeway Construction site from White Plains resident Ann Bobroff-Hajal,  one of whom spoke at the still open Special Permit and Site Plan Hearing  continuing this evening at 6:30 P.M. at White Plains High School in the auditorium. The purpose is to hear some 30 speakers who were still left to speak late Monday evening when the hearing was suspended until this evening.

On July 31, Stephan Ryba, Chief of the Eastern Section of the Army Corps of Engineers, 26 Federal Plaza, Manhattan, wrote The French American School of New York Chairman, Mischa Zabotin the following letter, released to WPCNR by Ms. Bobroff-Hajal.

After requesting a  ruling on whether or not the Army Corps of Engineers had jurisdiction on their property twice in June, 2011, the French American School of New York did not submit the scope of their proposed construction as it became available for three years to the Corps, and had not as of the date of July31. They have been very cooperative after receiving the Ryba letter.

It is unclear at this time, if the Army Corps of Engineers ever followed up, or routinely follows up on the development of such requests  after receiving the initial requests from AKRF, the FASNY environmental consultants in June, 2011.  The Army Corps could have asked if they intended construction on the site and what kind. A call has been placed to the Army Corps of Engineers to ascertain whether follow-up is routine in all requests for jurisdiction determination.

A call to the Mayor’s Office has been placed by WPCNR asking if FASNY informed the city of the receipt of the Ryba letter and the pending Army Corps of Engineers review of jurisdiction (and possible plan approval needed).  The Mayor’s Office has not returned the WPCNR call yesterday asking why city hired consultants and planners did not advise FASNY they should provide detailed information on their plans to the Army Corps of Engineers, since the preliminary plan has undergoing review the last three and a half years.

The Ryba letter after a laundry list of what FASNY has to submit, and has not submitted previously, says the Corps will be in touch for an on-site inspection of the premises:

“Upon receipt of the above requested information, we will contact your office to schedule our site visit to confirm the extent of Corps jurisdiction on the site. Failure to comply with the requirements to obtain authorization to discharge fill into Waters of the United States pursuant to Section 404 of the Clean Water Act will result in further enforcement action by this office including the possibility of substantial civil and criminal penalties.”

Ms.Bobroff-Hajal commented to WPCNR that the pond now existing on the golf course, previously thought to be man-made is actually the head waters of the middle branch of the Mamaroneck Riverand feeds an underground pipe with its outflow. She also observed that the new  entrance road at North Street  is planned to be directly over the wetlands that form the Mamaroneck River middle branch.  She commented that when the golf course was made and the pond created using the Mamaroneck River waters, this would have not been allowed under today’s environmental regulations.

 

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FASNY Consultant’s Hearing Statement Says Army Corps Concerns Addressed. “Whistle Blower” Disagrees.

WPCNR SOUTH END TIMES. Official Transcript of FASNY Hearing Response to Traffic, Army Corps of Engineers Situation from The French American School of New York provided to WPCNR.  And Whistle-Blower’s In-Hearing Response September 9, 2014:

Thompson & Bender, the spokesagency for The French American School of New York  issued the following response  today to WPCNR questions asking why they did not explore invoving the Army Corps of Engineers in analyzing the water sensitivity of the property, and whether the Corps feels a study is needed:

Attached are the comments provided by Graham Trelstad, Senior Vice President and Director of Environmental Planning of AKRF, FASNY’s environmental and planning consultant, at Monday’s Site Plan Hearing. He comments first in response to questions about the validity of FASNY’s traffic data collection and then regarding FASNY’s interaction with United States Army Corps of Engineers.  I believe this addresses your questions regarding FASNY’s ongoing interaction with the Army Corps of Engineers that began in 2011 when work on the plan for the property commenced.

“With respect to wetlands, FASNY contacted the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) in early 2011 at the very start of the environmental review and shared all relevant information with them at that time for the environmental impact assessment.

Wetland experts from AKRF used both the 1987 USACE methodology and the 1989 Inter-Agency methodology required by the City of White Plains to identify wetlands.

Using both the three parameter approach requiring presence of hydrophytic vegetation, hydric soils, and presence/evidence of wetland hydrology …

… and the more subjective and flexible standards that allow other factors to be considered…

…we identified all potential Waters of the United States (or wetlands) on the Property.

In addition to the large forested wetland area that is also a NYSDEC wetland, there is one small pocket wetland on Parcel D and one stream corridor on Parcel C.

The project will not affect any of these wetlands or their City and State 100-foot buffers. There is no required USACE buffer.

FASNY has always identified the property as being located in the Mamaroneck River watershed.

As is typical and customary during the site plan process, we have reached out to NYSDEC and USACE for their final review and concurrence.

Contrary to previous suggestions that FASNY is seeking to hide from the USACE, we are actively engaged with them as we knew we had to and is customary at this point in the process.

We are confident that FASNY has met and will continue to meet all City, State, and Federal regulations regarding wetlands, stormwater, and all other issues.

(Editor’s Note: Anne Bobroff-Hajal exposed  that the French American School had not passed its actual plans to the Army Corps of Engineers Monday evening according to the Army Corps of Engineers. She provided her notes to WPCNR of what she said in response to Mr. Trelstad’s statement on the Army Corps of Engineers situation:)

Bobroff-Hajal:

“Trelstead said FASNY had always adhered to Army Corps regulations and contacted them immediately after they bought the land in 2011.

My remarks:  YES, FASNY got in touch with ACE 3 years ago after buying the land, but that was before they had created any of their building plans.  They never contacted ACE after 2011.  They never sent ACE any of their building plans. 

When we contacted Stephen Ryba ( Army Corps of Engineers regulatory program manager in charge of FASNY review), he was grateful.  He told us that they often have to rely on citizen activists contacting them about what’s happening in local areas because otherwise they don’t have any way of knowing what developers are up to under their radar.

Trelstead denied FASNY ever tried to cover up their link to the Mamaroneck River, that they “always identified themselves as part of the Mamaroneck River watershed.”

“Watershed” is a general term that means nothing and doesn’t bring anyone under the Army Corps’ jurisdiction.  The entire city of White Plains is part of the watershed, but we’re not all under ACE’s jurisdiction. So FASNY identifying themselves that way omits the crucial element of their property.

What potentially brings FASNY under ACE jurisdiction is that one branch of the Mamaroneck River literally starts on and crosses their land (one stream begins in the pond, the other is the buried stream on the left side of the property). 

Yet FASNY has subtracted that branch of the river from all their maps that they circulate widely (buried deep within the EIS docs are one or two accurate maps, so they aren’t unaware of them).  FASNY seems to have consciously chosen to omit from their widely-publicized maps the single crucial fact that potentially brings them under Army Corps jurisdiction. 

I spoke again about the big US GIS map I brought (which I gave Mayor and Council individual copies of) which very clearly shows the river-branch accurately.  Why did FASNY eliminate this from their maps if they’re not trying to hide it?  They show all other wetland features clearly.

(Editor’s Note, 6 P.M. E.D.T.:The Mayor’s Office has not responded to the WPCNR query as to why city SEQRA consutants and Planning Department, Public Works Departments, and Legal Counsel did not suggest to The French American School that they run their plans past the Army Corps of Engineers to see if the Corps had jurisdiction .

On the subject of  protests  from speakers that Traffic issues had not been adequately studied.. Trelstad made these comments at the hearing Monday evening

“A number of issues raised at previous hearings on the Special Permit, as well as tonight, address the accuracy and sufficiency of traffic data collection and analysis have already been addressed in the FEIS.

That document contains detailed technical studies carefully reviewed by City staff and consultants. All data and analyses were determined, by City staff and consultants, to accurately and completely evaluate existing traffic conditions and potential future traffic. All data were collected on days when school was in session. While observations may have been made on days when school was out, no data collected on those days was used in the analysis. To repeat, we did not use any data collected during days when school was not in session.”

 

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