Mayor and Two Councilpersons Raise First Questions About Pending FASNY APPROVAL LEGISLATION AFTER 4-1/2 YEARS

WPCNR COMMON COUNCIL-CHRONICLE EXAMINER.By John F. Bailey JUNE 29, 2015:

In discussion last night that began with the city consultant and advisor Susan Habel, former City Planning Commissioner in attendance,  three Councilpersons,Council President John Martin, Councilwoman Nadine Hunt-Robinson and Mayor Roach himself, in addition to Councilpersons Milagros Lecuona and Dennis Krolian expressed doubts about the project that their analysis of the 200 page document raised.

The process to resolve those questions to the Council satisfaction, including Mayor Tom Roach could involve another question and answer session either behind closed doors or in public. 

Corporation Counsel John Callahan told WPCNR it was up to the Common Council to decide on how they wanted to proceed to get the answers to those questions whether from FASNY or the city legal counsel on the project.

Councilwoman Milagros Lecuona,  steady opponent of the efficacy of The French American School of New York proposal to build a school campus on the grounds of the former Ridgeway Golf Club, raised the issue of whether the school had the financial resources to build the project, given extensive revisions to the Storm Water drainage system required by the new storm water plan approved by former Commissioner of Public Works, Joseph Nicoletti.

She told WPCNR after the meeting, the delay in approval of the storm water plan was due to new environmental storm water regulations promulgated last fall, which the administration she told me did not tell the Common Council. Lecuona strongly disagreed with Councilman John Kirkpatrick who said it was time to move on and that change has to come. She bluntly turned to him and said though Kirkpatrick said the city had gotten a lot from FASNY through the plan changes already negotiated, she did not believe FASNY had given up enough. ” We got bigger buildings.Less open space. I would have liked to seen the buildings smaller. The proposal has not been mitigated enough.” 

Lecuona in addition said that the amount of money FASNY was going to pay for the taking of a portion of Hathaway Lane was not spelled out and it should be. She added that she has yet to see a model or rendering of the plan in detail that gave her a good idea of the sightlines and what the project would actually look like in proportion and location. She mocked Kirkpatrick’s expressing the city could lose litigation if they did not approve the projec. She said “We need to ask what we think is right.

Councilman Dennis Krolian declined to ask any questons of the city legal consultant or Ms. Habel. He told WPCNR that he did not want to ask his legal counsel on the project legal opinion in a public televised meeting, since this would be giving up future right to attorney-client privilege. He said the original intent of this meeting was to enable the council to ask questions of the legal counsel and Ms. Habel. He felt the meeting should not have been public.

Council President John Martin had what he called technical questions.  His main concern was the length of time before the EMERGENCY entrance off Ridgeway (not North Street as previously reported )proposed by the plan was completed was too long. He expressed safety concerns about the emergency entrance for public safety vehicles off Ridgeway. He pointed out that the amount of time the new emergency entrance off Ridgeway would be open to the public should be 6 AM to 6 PM, 365 days a year from the Hathaway Lane side and Ridgeway, in an email clarifying his comment, he wrote WPCNR:  ”All of the comments you noted I made were in relation to the petition to close a portion of Hathaway. My 6am to 6pm request is for opening their Emergency Access Driveway (generally the Hathaway access area) to the public on all 365 days of the year. I have no preference as to when anybody visits the Conservancy!”

Councilwoman Beth Smayda who did not arrive until 6: 15 P.M. (meeting beganat 5:30), had very brief comments that could not be picked up by this reporter because the chamber was not adequately microphoned. 

Councilwoman Nadine Hunt-Robinson said she was not sure that the safety concerns had been fully answered and fit the parameters of a decision in a case involving Cornell University that spelled out that safety concerns had to be  more than adequately mitigated, that any project could not be less safe than it was before the project was built.

Queried about this fine line of mitigation by Councilman Krolian, as to whether she felt the FASNY legislation and mitigation steps met this standard,Councilwoman Hunt-Robinson said, “My feeling is it has not.” 

The Mayor, in a surprise,  expressed doubts as to how the project could proceed without impacting the neighborhood adversely for years. He felt that four years of construction for the first phase was too long especially with a second phase to follow.

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