A throng like this has not been seen since 2011 on an issue in White Plains,
A total crowd through the evening, counted as 391 by an organizer, heard a panel of speakers providing statements and personal opinions on the effects of the proposed FASNY campus that will move on to the crucial stage of approval: the first Public Hearing on the proposal for Special Permit and closing of Hathaway Lane (within the proposed FASNY complex) on the Monday after the last day of the July 4 weekend.
The meeting was advertised as “A Call to Action! White Plains at the Crossroads: Can Our Neighborhoods be Saved?” and was “sponsored” by Gedney (longtime opponent of the FASNY project for Ridgeway), North Street, Havilands Manor, Rosedale, Wyndham Close, Club Pointe, Glenbrooke and Maplemoor Pond.
The flyer said other proposed developments in addition to FASNY plans would be discussed, (the Sholz development planned by Grid Properties, the Urstadt-Biddle “City Within a City” they plan for the White Plains Pavilion Mall; expansion of the White Plains Transit Station.
Several observers of the meeting told me, the meeting was dominated by FASNY talk, and one observer said when the Sunrise Detox Center aimed at DeKalb was brought up, it did not resonate and the commentary returned to FASNY issues.
A representative from the French American School of New York, coming out of the meeting criticized some of the speakers for having their facts wrong, such as the number of students FASNY would have there (950), the speaker had told the audience 1250, for example.
I asked several observers after the meeting what action going forward was decided upon if any. They said there was no specific plan of action. Speaking to two organizers and an interested party who owns property in the vicinity of the proposed school complex, they said the aim was to bring more citizens into the issue of FASNY and what it would mean for the White Plains High School, Gedney, North Street, Bryant Avenue area in decline of safety for pedestrians (high school students walking to school) and motorists dealing with increased traffic on North Street and Bryant Avenue.
John Sheehan, one of the organizers told me he was very encouraged about the turnout, and said the groups would be focusing on galvanizing more residents outside of the areas affected to lobby the Common Council to deny the Special Permit. It was pointed out that 5 votes of the 7-members of the Common Council are needed to pass the FASNY Special Permit.
WPCNR, which could not attend until 9:30 P.M. was told that three White Plains Councilpersons attended the meeting: Milagros Lecuona, Dennis Krolian and Nadine Hunt-Robinson. Krolian and Lecouna have expressed concerns about the project, as has Council President, John Martin. Hunt-Robinson, new to the council has been non-committal so far, but has an extensive background in environmental law, in supervising toxic clean-ups for her insurance company employer. A negative vote by those or any three councilpersons could deny the project going forward.
Sheehan, introducing a man in his late 30s who had a young family pointed out that many younger families are unable to attend meetings due to the need to care for their younger children, and that the organizations would be aiming to educate this segment of the population. Sheehan pointed out many long residents no longer have children living at home and thus are able to participate in community affairs. He felt galvanizing this busy population involved with raising younger children to exert their opinions on the Common Council could be a factor in turning the Council around.
The meeting was video-taped, and the tape is in the process of being edited.
It should be noted that should the council turn down the project, the city will most likely be challenged in court by FASNY. Consideration of the project in public hearing is predicted by Mayor Thomas Roach to take at least through September. The project has been considered by the city for four years, and been opposed by the Gedney neighborhood relentlessly since being first proposed in 2011
Not since the first citizen-organized meetings when the French American School of New York purchased the Ridgeway Country Club and announced plans to build a centralized campus there, has so much interest been generated against the issue at a privately organized meeting. This was more people than appeared at the Findings meeting held in December when the Council voted the environmental impacts of the project were mitigatable.