A Letter from Michael Zarin to the Mayor and Common Council

WPCNR THE LETTER TICKER. October 29, 2014:

Editor’s Note: The following is the full text of a letter from Michael Zarin, attorney for The French American School of New York to the Mayor of White Plains and Common Council, that accompanied the documents submitted updating and revising the school site plan and Special Permit/Hathaway Lane closure proposal for the grounds of the former Ridgeway Country Club.

The letter, furnished to WPCNR by The French American School amplifies the materian submitted Friday and makes some legal observations about court decisions of the past on siting schools in communities related to zoning. The letter is long, but an important perspective, in the editor’s opinion on where the proposal with the changes stands now:

October 20, 2014

Mayor Thomas Roach and the Honorable Members of the Common Council

FASNY respectfully submits this Letter, together with several revised Site Plan drawings, and other documentation, including a revised, redlined Transportation Management Plan (“TMP”- Exhibit 2), Conservancy Area Master Plan (“CAMP”- Exhibit 3), Construction Management Plan (“CMP”- Exhibit 4), Hathaway Lane Discontinuance Petition (“Discontinuance Petition” – Exhibit 5”), Declaration of Covenants, Restrictions and Easement (“Declaration”- Exhibit 6) and the updated 3D Modeling as requested.  FASNY continues to make changes to its Site Plan, and offer additional amenities and commitments to the City and the community, in its good faith attempt to bring this matter to a favorable conclusion.

We would like to call your attention to several of the more notable changes, many of which are in direct response to the specific comments of the Common Council offered at your September 29, 2014 Work Session:

  • Reduction of Parking – overall parking has been reduced by another 30 total spaces from 348 to 318.  The Northern parking lot has been reduced from 130 to 80 spaces. The Central lot has been increased, but reconfigured to create two clusters of parking (55 and 75 spaces) separated by large landscaped islands. The Lower School parking lot has been reduced from 101 to 90 spaces.
  • Removed Basketball Courts – both outdoor basketball courts have been eliminated
  • Reduction in Building Square Footage – eliminated approximately 33,000 square feet by combining Upper and Middle school activities; eliminated majority of the Middle School building and converted to green space
  • Declaration of Covenants – revised per the review of Corporation and Special Counsel to include, among other changes, more definitive language regarding permitted and prohibited uses; Declaration in perpetuity, with right of first refusal to City to purchase Conservancy for $1 if Property no longer used for educational purposes; added City as Beneficiary with full enforcement powers; FASNY may not amend or modify the Declaration without consent of City and Enforcer; and only Court can remove Enforcer
  • Hathaway Lane Discontinuance (Access) – will open section of Campus driveway to public during non-School days (approximately 196 days per year) to directly access Ridgeway, and avoid diversions to local streets; met again with Fire and Police Chiefs to confirm acceptable emergency access, which is provided 24 hours per day and 365 days per year
  • Hathaway Lane Discontinuance (Location) – moved discontinuance of Hathaway Lane fifty (50) feet south of 57 Hathaway Lane’s property line to avoid any disturbance with this residence; provided an alternative emergency access to Hathaway Lane including a turn around for service vehicles
  • Enhanced Landscaping – additional landscaping at three locations to shield car lights, and additional buffers along western residential property border
  • Pedestrian and Bicycle Trails– expand paved trails to width of 8 feet, as well as move trail on Parcel B from 10 feet to 50-60 feet from residential property lines
  • Construction Vehicle Deliveries – prohibit deliveries by heavy construction vehicles during White Plains High School morning and afternoon drop and pickup times, and on Mamaroneck Avenue during Ridgeway Elementary morning and afternoon drop and pickup times
  • Transportation Management Plan – more definitive monitoring and enforcement provisions and procedures, including Enrollment Agreement, Student Handbooks and other short and long term corrective measures

FASNY respectfully contends that these revisions to its Site Plan and Special Permit Applications strengthen its compliance with the Standards for Special Permit approval (Section 6.5 of the Zoning Ordinance) and Standards for Site Plan approval (Section 7.5 of the Zoning Ordinance).  FASNY also submits that it has demonstrated that it meets all the requirements of Section 4.4.25 of the Zoning Ordinance with respect to minimization of impacts to steep slopes, and Section 3.5.2 of the City Code with respect to avoidance of any impacts to City-regulated wetlands or watercourses.

Exhibit 1 attached to this Submission is a Summary Figure highlighting each of the changes described above. Below is a more detailed description of each revision, as well as responses to other comments received by FASNY. FASNY sincerely hopes that the Common Council appreciates the effort the School is making to substantively respond to and accommodate the Council’s and the community’s concerns. Many of the items include additional cost to the School and its families, and are not without consequences regarding certain educational programs.

 

Building Size Has Been Reduced By Approximately 33,000 Square Feet

Council and Planning Board members have questioned why the total building area presented in the Site Plan Application has increased in comparison to what was presented in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (“FEIS”). FASNY explained the rationale to the Planning Board by letter dated August 12, 2014 (on which the Council was copied), including, that the building sizes increased as the more detailed school design progressed. Notwithstanding, FASNY has agreed to increase the number of classrooms in the Upper School and combine some Middle School and High School program uses, so that the Middle School building can be reduced in size to contain only the Black Box performance space. The total square footage within the School has thus been reduced by approximately 33,000 square feet, from 262,250 square feet to 229,197 square feet. The area of the Campus previously occupied by the footprint of the Middle School building will now be additional green space.

The remaining buildings continue to comply with the Zoning Ordinance standards for Building Coverage (20% permitted, 4.2% proposed) and Floor Area Ratio (40% permitted, 5.5% proposed), and various setbacks.

FASNY believes that the size of the proposed School use, and the location of the proposed School buildings, is consistent with the requirement of Section 7.5.1 of the Zoning Ordinance that the location and size of the Special Permit “use” “will be in harmony with the appropriate and orderly development of the area in which it is located.”

FASNY further believes that the quality of architecture and overall site design will enhance and protect the character and property values of the adjacent neighborhood, as required by Section 7.5.4 of the Zoning Ordinance. It continues to bear repeating that thousands of White Plains residents currently live near schools, and the quality of life and home values in those White Plains neighborhoods do not seem to be negatively impacted.  We also note that the City’s Design Review Board in its letter dated July 3, 2014, approved “the architectural building concept(s) including materials,” and recommended Site Plan approval.

 

Parking Lots Smaller with Greater Buffer Distances

As requested during the Council’s Work Session, and in its Staff Comment Memorandum, the size of the Northern or Upper School parking lot has been reduced from 130 parking spaces to 80 parking spaces, and the Lower School parking lot from 101 parking spaces to 90 parking spaces. The more internal Central parking lot now has 130 parking spaces with increased islands for landscaping. The island essentially creates two cluster lots in the Central parking area. With the 9 parking spaces in the Service Area off of Ridgeway and 9 parking spaces adjacent to FASNY’s proposed administrative offices at 557 North Street, the total parking on the Campus will be 318 spaces. This is a net decrease of 30 more spaces than what was previously proposed in FASNY’s Site Plan, and 48 less than the FEIS North Street Modified Plan.

FASNY has provided additional detail in the Transportation Management Plan, documenting how these spaces will be used by staff, students, and visitors so as to permit the Common Council to establish and approve the amount of parking on the site in accordance with Sections 8.3 and 6.5.4 of the Zoning Ordinance. The amount of parking proposed will be of adequate size for FASNY’s particular use, and are “properly located and suitably screened from adjoining residential uses, and the entrance and exit drives [are] laid out so as to achieve maximum convenience and safety” as required by the Standards for Special Permit approval at Section 6.5.4 of the Zoning Ordinance.

FASNY contends that the location and size of the parking lots, as well as the considerable landscape screening within the parking lots and surrounding the parking lots, will mean that the operations of the parking lots and School buildings 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” (e.g., a public school or house of worship of similar size and scope or full scale residential subdivision) as required by Section 6.5.3 of the Zoning Ordinance.

FASNY further believes that the proposed parking lots and Campus circulation plan fully comply with the specific Site Plan Standards of Section 7.5.2 and Section 7.5.3 of the Zoning Ordinance.

Pursuant to Section 8.7.2, “Improvement,” of the Zoning Ordinance, FASNY is hereby requesting that the Common Council permit approximately 45 parking spaces along the northwestern edge of the Northern parking lot to be graded and surfaced with grass. These spaces would only be used, if necessary, for overflow parking during smaller special events (such as, for example, an athletic event) that would occur no more than two (2) or three (3) times per month. All of the requisite drainage infrastructure for these parking spaces would be included in the stormwater management system and Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) prepared for the Campus.

In addition, pursuant to Section 8.7.3 of the Zoning Ordinance, “Partial Waiver of Improvement,” FASNY is hereby requesting that the Common Council permit the land-banking of approximately fifty-five (55) parking spaces in the Central parking lot. These parking spaces represent the northern-most cluster of parking in the Central parking lot. FASNY believes that the initial staff levels when the Upper School first opens will be less than the ultimate Phase I staffing levels (approximately 138 teaching staff, administrative staff, maintenance staff, and support staff) projected in Table 2 of the Transportation Management Plan. With 173 paved parking spaces in the initial years of Upper School operation, FASNY would have 110 parking spaces for staff, 40 parking spaces for students, and 23 parking spaces for visitors (with the additional 45 overflow parking spaces also available for special event visitors). FASNY believes that the land-banking of these fifty-five (55) parking spaces would provide sufficient parking for its immediate Phase I needs.

 

Basketball Courts Have Been Removed

FASNY has heard concern expressed about the inclusion of outdoor basketball courts on its Campus. FASNY has removed the proposed basketball court adjacent to the Upper School, and the half-court adjacent to the Lower School from the Site Plan, and replaced it with additional green space.

 

Consistency with Comprehensive Plan and Zoning

In Finding A-3.12, the Common Council concluded that “[s]ubject to the implementation of all conditions and requirements set forth in Findings A-3.1 through A-3.11 … MPP/North Street is consistent with the City’s Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Ordinance.” FASNY believes that the Site Plan Application demonstrates consistency with Findings A-3.1 through A-3.11, and that, with the reduction in size of the Middle School building, the Campus remains consistent with the building coverage and floor area ratio (FAR) standards within the Zoning Ordinance. As detailed above, FASNY believes that the revised Site Plan continues to be consistent with the City’s Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Ordinance and consistent with the Standard at Section 7.5.1 of the Zoning Ordinance.

At the Council Work Session it was correctly stated that the Court of Appeals in the case Cornell University, set forth a presumption in favor of educational uses, which is rebuttable based upon health, safety and welfare concerns. 68 N.Y.2d 583, 510 N.Y.S.2d 861, 866 (1986). In other words, religious and educational uses are not exempt from local zoning laws, and may be regulated accordingly. However, the Court of Appeals in Cornell University and its progeny have been unmistakenly clear that while a municipality may use the Special Permit mechanism to impose conditions related to the health, safety and welfare of the school and the surrounding community, such conditions must be “reasonable.” More importantly, municipalities in evaluating such applications must demonstrate “greater flexibility,” and must make “every effort to accommodate” such educational use.  Rosenfeld v. Z.B.A. of Ramapo, 6 A.D.3d 450, 774 N.Y.S.2d 359 (2d Dept. 2004), quoting Genesis Assembly of God v. Davies, 208 A.D.2d 627, 628, 617 N.Y.S.2d 202, 203 (2d Dept. 1994).

Relevant to FASNY’s Applications, as the Court of Appeals explained in Cornell University, courts were “thrust into the role” of protecting educational institutions from “community hostility” caused by fears that a project “would unnecessarily bring people from other communities into the neighborhood to disrupt its peace and quiet.”  510 N.Y.S.2d at 865.  Thus, New York Courts have held that it is  “incumbent” upon municipal land use boards to affirmatively suggest measures to accommodate the proposed religious and educational uses while mitigating the adverse effects on the surrounding community to the greatest extent possible.  Genesis Assembly, 617 N.Y.S.2d at 203. See Pine Knolls Alliance Church v. Zoning Bd. of Appeals of Town of Moreau, 5 N.Y.3d 407, 804 N.Y.S.2d 708, 710 (2005); Trustees of Union College v. Schenectady City Council, 91 N.Y.2d 161, 667 N.Y.S.2d 978, 981-982 (1997).

There is no question that the Common Council has not “st[oo]d helpless in the face of proposed uses that are dangerous to the surrounding area.” Cf. Cornell Univ., 510 N.Y.S.2d at 867.  To the contrary, the conditions that the Council has imposed on FASNY during its SEQRA and Site Plan reviews have more than adequately safeguarded the public health, safety, and general welfare. Assuming the Common Council votes to approve FASNY’s Applications, FASNY believes that it will have struck the proper balance and satisfied its legal obligations of accommodating the School as a presumptive beneficial use while safeguarding the public’s health, safety  and welfare.

 

Enhanced Landscaping for Screening

In response to comments from the Council, City staff, and certain members of the public, FASNY has identified three (3) locations where enhanced landscaping will be provided to further screen the parking lots and buildings from adjoining residential properties.  While FASNY sincerely believes that it has submitted an ambitious and robust landscaping plan, let alone its plan to preserve and restore,  and make accessible to the public, 78 acres of Conservancy land, included in this Submission are revised Landscaping Sheets from the Site Plan, showing additional landscaping (i) along the western edge of the Upper School parking lot to shield car lighting; (ii) along the western edge of Parcel A, and (iii) along the northern edge of Parcel D behind the houses that front on Southdale Road, again to shield car lighting. FASNY proposes the installation of approximately 166 additional trees and shrubs on the Property to enhance the open space character of the property while protecting adjoining residences.

FASNY submits that its comprehensive  Landscape Plan complies with the Standards for Special Permit approval at Section 6.5.2 of the Zoning Ordinance, as well as the Standards for Site Plan approval at, inter alia, Sections 7.5.2.9, 7.5.3.1, and 8.7.5.

 

Improvements to Access per Traffic Commission

FASNY met with the Traffic Commission in July and August and made several improvements to the design of the entrance driveway at North Street in response to their comments.  Shown on the attached revised Site Plan Drawings is an extension of the northbound left-turn lane on North Street from 80 feet to 140 feet per their recommendation. This left-turn lane can be constructed without widening North Street by removing a portion of the existing median. The resulting condition would mirror the southbound approach where a narrow median separates the northbound and southbound lanes. The FASNY driveway design and operations would have no effect on the private driveway at 567 North Street, and would not have any bearing on the operation of the center two-way left-turn lane (also known as a “suicide lane”), which is located approximately 1,800 feet (.35 miles) south on North Street just south of the intersection of Ridgeway.

FASNY believes that the proposed access plan is consistent with the Standard for Special Permit approval at Section 6.5.1 of the Zoning Ordinance, as well as the detailed Standards for Site Plan approval at Section 7.5.2 of the Zoning Ordinance, including, most importantly Section 7.5.2.10, which requires adequate access for emergency service vehicles to and through the Campus. FASNY met again with the Police and Fire Commissioners to review and obtain their concurrence with the emergency access routes through the Campus as shown in the revised Site Plans.

 

Transportation Management Plan has Additional Detail

FASNY has made substantial improvements to the Transportation Management Plan (TMP) at the request of the Traffic Commission, Deputy Commissioner of Parking for Transportation Engineering, Planning Consultant, Traffic Consultant (TRC), and general public (including the Gedney Association’s Traffic Consultant, Mary Manning). The revised TMP includes greater detail on how FASNY will monitor and report on traffic levels, what specific measures would be taken to ensure that FASNY does not exceed the 530 peak hour vehicle trip cap, and, as explained below, how FASNY can avoid to the extent practicable adverse impacts from vehicles diverted onto local side streets from the discontinuance of Hathaway Lane south of 57 Hathaway Lane. Once again, this is probably the most detailed and extensive Transportation Management Plan any applicant in White Plains, or the County as a whole, has ever committed to.

The traffic analysis contained in the FEIS includes a conservative (“worst case scenario”) approach to identifying potential future vehicle trips to the Campus. FASNY believes that this worst case scenario approach would account for any of the various factors that might arise on a family-by-family basis that might change how each student reaches the Campus. Many of these factors are within FASNY’s control and a number are not. FASNY understands that the SEQRA Findings, which stipulates a maximum of 530 peak hour vehicle trips, is the controlling instrument. As discussed in the revised TMP and attachments, FASNY and its families will take all necessary measures (short and long term) to ensure that the cap is not exceeded. As such, the following statement has been included in the TMP:

“Should the City of White Plains identify more than 500 peak hour vehicle trips three (3) times in any given month using the trip detection system to be installed at the North Street driveway, FASNY will be required to take corrective action such that within thirty (30) days of being notified by the City of White Plains any of a series of short-term measures will be employed to ensure that the trip count does not increase beyond 530 peak hour trips. If the trip count continues to exceed 500 trips on a regular basis, FASNY will be required to take longer-term corrective action by the end of the semester.”

“Short-term corrective action could include:

  • increasing the number of students car-pooling;
  • increasing the number of students using public transportation;
  • increasing the number of students reaching the Campus as bicyclist or pedestrian;
  • implementing shuttle van service for students; and

Longer-term corrective action could include:

  • implementing private busing through a contracted bus vendor; and
  • installing additional traffic mitigation improvements.”

Other measures and specific enforcement provisions and procedures are included in the revised TMP.

Also included in the TMP for the first time is an expanded Enrollment Agreement attached to the TMP (see Section 10), which will be signed by every family attending FASNY. A detailed description of the terms and conditions of the TMP, and associated transportation rules and regulations governing each FASNY family, will also be included in a revised School Student Handbook prepared annually prior to each School year. These are real commitments and rules for the FASNY community, and will be monitored and enforced in accordance with the good faith and sincerity that the School has demonstrated throughout this review process.

It needs to be emphasized that the 530 peak hour trip maximum is based on an analysis of what additional mitigation measures might be required to maintain acceptable operating conditions. If FASNY’s trip count is below this level, all of the identified traffic mitigation measures would be considered sufficient to handle projected traffic levels for an enrollment of up to 950 students. Conversely, if FASNY exceeds such maximum trip count during Phase I or thereafter, and the immediate short term corrective measures do not cure such exceedances, FASNY will have to implement more drastic measures such as providing private busing or installing additional traffic mitigation improvements.

Finally, several comments were raised as to specific details of the Mandatory Busing Program, and how effective it would be if students were allowed to seek exemptions. New procedures were added to the TMP and Enrollment Agreement with each family requiring that such requests be made in writing, strict certification requirements, and that such records could and would be shared with the City if requested. These exemptions will be limited.

 

Conservancy Area Master Plan has Additional Detail

FASNY has provided additional detail on implementation of the Conservancy improvements. FASNY remains committed to creation of the Conservancy in coordination with development of the Campus. This is an expensive and ambitious undertaking that FASNY has offered from the beginning of its Application, and stands by it. FASNY has also provided additional detail on how the meadow habitat will be implemented through controlled use of herbicides. At the suggestion of the Traffic Commission, the bike path has been widened from five (5) feet to eight (8) feet to allow passing. The bike path has also been relocated further from the western property line of Parcel B. The bike path is now a minimum of 50 feet from the western property line on Parcel B.

 

Declaration of Covenants, Restrictions and Easement Provides Long-Term Protection

The Declaration of Covenants, Restrictions and Easement (“Declaration”) has been revised in accordance with the comments of various entities, including Corporation Counsel and the Council’s Special Counsel, to provide stronger controls and long-term assurances that the Conservancy will be preserved as open space, even if FASNY or its successor, for example, ceases to use the Property for educational purposes. FASNY has agreed, for example, that in the event it or its successor ceases using the Property for educational purposes, it will grant the City of White Plains a right-of-first-refusal to purchase the Conservancy for $1 with the Declaration remaining in effect. It is also clear now that no additional buildings, athletic fields or ball courts can be built in the Conservancy under the Declaration.

The City also is now a Beneficiary and signatory to the Declaration, and has full enforcement powers in addition to a third party Enforcer. The City and the Enforcer now must agree to any amendment or modification in the Declaration. Also, FASNY has the right to close portions of the Conservancy only to correct unsafe conditions, and those measures must be implemented in a reasonable and timely manner. Finally, only the Court may remove the Enforcer if FASNY believes, for example, the Enforcer is acting unreasonably or inconsistent with the terms and intent of the Declaration. The Declaration is extremely comprehensive and detailed, and will ensure that the Conservancy is operated in conformance with its intended purpose and intent.  It will be a tremendous amenity for the School, the City and the neighborhood, and frankly, this Council’s legacy.

Construction Management Plan has Additional Detail

The Construction Management Plan (CMP) has been updated to provide additional details on the controls and best practices that will be used to ensure that construction activity does not produce nuisances to adjoining residential properties. The CMP also stipulates, per the request of a particular Council Member, that FASNY will place additional restrictions on the timing of large deliveries to avoid having construction truck traffic on local streets during peak times when local public and private school drop-off and pick-up is occurring:

1.     Restrictions on Deliveries Phase I (Upper School Construction)

Due to the proximity of the Project to White Plains High School and Ridgeway Elementary School, no major truck deliveries will be permitted during morning drop-off (7:25 to 7:55 AM) and afternoon pick-up (2:15 to 2:45 PM), during the school year. To avoid conflict with vehicular and pedestrian traffic accessing Ridgeway Elementary School, all heavy truck traffic will be prohibited from using Mamaroneck Ave between Bryant Ave and the Hutchinson River Parkway.

2.     Restrictions on Deliveries Phase 2 (Lower School Construction)

Due to the proximity of the Project to White Plains High School and Ridgeway Elementary School, no major truck deliveries will be permitted during morning drop-off at WPHS and FASNY (7:25 to 8:15 AM) or during afternoon pick-up at WPHS and FASNY (2:15 to 3:55 PM).

Enforcement provisions, such as fines and other common measures, are included in the revised CMP.

 

Compelling Reasons to Discontinue Southern Portion of Hathaway Lane

FASNY previously submitted to the Council a comprehensive Technical Memorandum dated September 8, 2014 (“Technical Memorandum”), supporting its Petition for the Partial Discontinuance of Hathaway Lane. Foremost, there seems to be a consensus among the City’s and FASNY’s transportation experts, as demonstrated during the SEQRA review and described in the Technical Memorandum, that the School cannot safely operate if Hathaway Lane is left open. Moreover, if Hathaway remained open as many as 180 parking spaces would need to be located in the Northern parking lot due to the shrinking of the Central lot area, as well as all the parking lots would be pushed closer to the residential property lines, violating certain design principles ascribed to throughout this process by the Council.

 

Finally, while FASNY’s original proposal to the City located its entrance to the School from Ridgeway, not requiring the closing of Hathaway Lane, the only access to the School permitted in the Council’s Findings (i.e., the North Street Alternative), requires the closing of Hathaway Lane. There are also at least two recent precedents in White Plains for the discontinuing of City streets to accommodate so-called private development, including, the closing of one or more local streets to accommodate development of the Westchester Mall, and the closing of E.J. Conroy Drive  to accommodate construction of the construction of the City Center. Respectfully, there are important compelling, or as the Courts have expressed,  “public interest,” reasons here for discontinuing a limited portion of Hathaway Lane as requested in FASNY’s Discontinuance Petition.

Indeed, as the Court of Appeals recently declared in determining whether there constituted a compelling public purpose or public interest in a condemnation case to facilitate the expansion of Columbia University, the Court, in citing Cornell University held that the “advancement of higher education is the quintessential example of a ‘civic purpose’”:

Indeed, the advancement of higher education is the quintessential example of a “civic purpose” (see Cornell Univ. v. Bagnardi, 68 N.Y.2d 583, 593, 510 N.Y.S.2d 861, 503 N.E.2d 509 [1986] [recognizing that schools, both public and private, “serve the public’s welfare and morals”]). It is fundamental that education and the expansion of knowledge are pivotal government interests. The indisputably public purpose of education is particularly vital for New York City and the State to maintain their respective statuses as global centers of higher education and academic research.

Kaur v. New York State Urban Development Corp.,  15 N.Y.3d 235, 907 N.Y.S.2d 122, 135-36 (2010).  The Court of Appeals further observed that, like here, “[i]n addition to these new educational facilities, the Project will bestow numerous other significant civic benefits to the public,” including “the development of approximately two acres of gateless, publicly accessible park-like and landscaped space.”  Id.  Also of relevance, the Court held that Columbia University, though private, operates as a nonprofit educational corporation,” such that “the concern that a private enterprise will be profiting through eminent domain is not present.” Id.

Notwithstanding the above, FASNY recognizes there are certain potential impacts on the local residents due to the partial discontinuance of Hathaway Lane. Based upon the comments received from the public, the City’s transportation consultants and this Council, several changes have been made in FASNY’s respective Applications to reduce and address these impacts:

  1. The Site Plan now shows Hathaway Lane being discontinued south of the property line of 57 Hathaway Lane as suggested in the written comments of certain City Staff. This change should alleviate several criticisms advanced by this residence. The portion of Hathaway Lane abutting this residence will remain undisturbed and the property limits of this residence shall remain the same, and FASNY will design the driveway on its property to allow snow removal and other City trucks to continue to directly service this residence.
  2. To minimize the amount of traffic that might be diverted to other local streets in the Gedney neighborhood, FASNY has agreed to open the Emergency Access Campus driveway for general public vehicular access on non-School days, including weekends, holidays, and during the Summer (approximately 196 days per year). The Emergency Access Campus driveway would be accessed through the emergency access roads from Gedney Esplanade and Ridgeway, which would be designed and improved to handle safe two-way vehicular flow.

Second, FASNY would continue to collaborate with the City transportation officials on identifying other potential solutions, including, for example, turning restrictions or traffic calming on certain local streets or intersections, which could be implemented with the advice and consent of the Traffic Commission should future traffic conditions warrant.

To accommodate public traffic within the Campus, the emergency access points from Ridgeway and Gedney Esplanade have been adjusted to ensure easy access to the Property by vehicles and emergency service vehicles. The bus driveway along the western side of the Central parking lot has been widened from 20 feet to 24 feet to provide greater room for two-way vehicle flow (and for emergency service vehicles to bypass any school buses that may be queued within the driveway on school days when only FASNY traffic is using the driveways).

FASNY believes that the measures described above will minimize, to the maximum extent practicable, any impacts from additional traffic on local side streets. An analysis of potential diverted traffic indicates that, while traffic along local side streets will increase, the total amount of traffic will still be less than one (1) car per minute in either direction, and that the total 24-hour traffic volumes will not require any physical design changes to the street to safely convey the additional traffic volume. FASNY acknowledges that while some residents will continue to believe that the increase in cars on their local street – most of which would be local traffic – would result in a change in the character of their street, the measures described above will reduce such impacts. Certainly, various alternative permitted uses of the Property – whether a residential subdivision or public school of similar size and scope – would generate local traffic on the neighborhood side streets.

FASNY also respectfully submits that the potential impacts to emergency access in the event that the southern portion of Hathaway Lane is closed has been more than adequately addressed and avoided. First, the emergency access plan has been reviewed and thoroughly vetted by both the Chief of Police and Fire. The EIS provides that the reconfiguration of the emergency access and Campus circulation would add only five (5) seconds to response time to any emergency vehicle crossing the Campus. More importantly, the City’s Public Safety representatives in reviewing the Site Plan expressed that they would only use either Hathaway Lane or the emergency driveway proposed under the current Site Plan only in the most remote emergency conditions. They typically avoid using any roadway or driveway where their vehicles might come into conflict with school children on-site.  Nonetheless, they seemed assured that, as designed, if they were to use FASNY’s current proposed emergency access, it would operate comparable to an open Hathaway Lane from an emergency response perspective.

Finally, FASNY has discussed with City Staff and amended the Site Plan to leave the electrical and telecommunication lines along the discontinued portion of Hathaway Lane in their current place, aboveground.  FASNY reached this conclusion based upon pragmatic and financial reasons, and its discussions with Con Edison. It will in no way impact their functionality or maintenance.

Traffic Analysis of FASNY Driveway Was Comprehensive

Several members of the public and their consultants suggested that the EIS did not evaluate the impacts associated with the North Street Access. This is simply not accurate.

The FEIS (at pages 2.2-14 to 2.2-17), for example, contains a complete analysis of the operation of the North Street/FASNY Driveway intersection. While the FEIS presumed that the location of this aligned intersection would be approximately 75 feet further north (requiring a relocation of the White Plains High School driveway), FASNY’s purchase of the 557 North Street property allows FASNY to now construct this intersection directly opposite the current WPHS driveway. There is sufficient room within North Street to construct the proposed northbound left-turn lane without widening the roadway or affecting the private driveway at 567 North Street. None of the City’s consultants or staff identified the need for any additional analysis at this location.

FASNY would also like to correct the record that the proposed FASNY start times and dismissal times as presented in the current Transportation Management Plan (TMP) have not changed from the start and dismissal times analyzed in the FEIS. FASNY does not believe that any additional analysis is required to demonstrate FASNY’s ability to meet the Findings requirement of no more than 530 peak hour vehicle trips. FASNY respectfully maintains that throughout the SEQRA process the most conservative assumptions were applied, and FASNY is confident it can and will meet these conditions. If it finds it cannot for some unforeseen reason, then, unlike most approvals that rely on informed projections regarding traffic analysis, FASNY will be required to cure such condition, or otherwise, risk having its School and Special Permit impacted.

EIS Contained Detailed Accident & Safety Analysis

Contrary to the extensive line of questioning offered by one Council Member at the Work Session, the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) contained a detailed analysis of accident data obtained from the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) from July 1, 2008 through June 30, 2011 (see DEIS at pages 11-17 to 11-19). As provided for in the Scope of Review adopted by the Council during the SEQRA process, and later resolutions by the Council finding that the DEIS and FEIS was complete and accurate, that data demonstrated that the majority of accidents at study area intersections are attributed to rear-end collisions, which are not uncommon at signalized intersections. Additional review of unsignalized intersections on Mamaroneck Avenue between Rosedale Avenue and Ridgeway, where none of the intersections were classified as “high-accident locations,” revealed that speeding was a primary cause of accidents. Chapter 2.1 of the FEIS included additional analysis of accident data provided by the City of White Plains. The FEIS indicates that “[p]roject-generated traffic is not anticipated to significantly exacerbate accidents at study area intersections as the Proposed Project would not introduce roadway features that would contribute to safety issues” (see FEIS at page 3.11-2). The FEIS also evaluated conditions along North Street, specifically at Club Pointe Drive where residents have expressed problems exiting Club Pointe Drive. The FEIS determined that “sufficient sight distance is not currently adequate for vehicles exiting and entering Club Pointe Drive from North Street. The limited sight distance at this driveway is due primarily to the landscaping and stonewalls at the Club Pointe entrance. The additional Project-generated traffic is not anticipated to change conditions at this intersection” (see FEIS at page 3.11-3).

Finally, the provision of the bike and pedestrian paths through the FASNY Property will provide a safer route to the White Plains High School than currently exists for residents of the Gedney neighborhood. These three miles of paths will provide enhanced bicycle and pedestrian access between Ridgeway, Bryant Avenue, and North Street opposite the High School.

 

FASNY Continues to Coordinate with Army Corps of Engineers

Contrary to various statements by some, FASNY has been in contact with the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) regarding on-Site wetlands since 2011. We have provided the Council with copies of all written correspondence (including e-mails) with USACE. We are currently revising drawings per the USACE specifications, and hope to coordinate a site visit with USACE personnel prior to the next Council Work Session to confirm the wetland delineation prepared by FASNY. FASNY has designed the Campus and Conservancy to avoid all potential USACE-regulated wetlands, all NYSDEC-regulated wetlands and buffers, and all City of White Plains-regulated wetlands and buffers.

FASNY very much appreciates the exchange of ideas and concerns at the Council’s last Work Session. We trust that Council Members will appreciate the significant and substantial changes to the Site Plan and Special Permit Applications included in this Submission.  Frankly, some of the changes asked of FASNY were very difficult for the School and its community to accept from a financial and programmatic perspective.

FASNY certainly believes that it has done everything asked of it in good faith to meet the challenges of its School, and the public review process. It trusts that a favorable determination on its Applications will occur in the very near future.

Respectfully submitted,

ZARIN & STEINMETZ

 

 

By: _____________________

Michael D. Zarin

 

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