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

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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

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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