WPCNR THE LETTER TICKER. September 27, 2015:
Dear Mr. Bailey:
We write with respect to the French American School of New York’s lawsuit against the City of White Plains. FASNY’s claim that its suit will result in the approval of its proposed campus is completely without merit. The Common Council’s decision not to close Hathaway lane for the benefit of this private developer was appropriate, and the Court will not disturb this sound decision.
It is important to put the Council’s decision in proper context. The Council did not reject the FASNY project, as FASNY claims. Rather, the Council decided a narrow issue -– whether a critical portion of 90-year-old public road should be permanently closed to enable a private developer to facilitate its site plan.
FASNY sought to close Hathaway Lane to facilitate its ill-conceived plan to access its proposed campus from North Street, directly across the street from White Plains High School. The extraordinary nature of a street closure was shown when White Plains traffic official Thomas Soyk stated during the review process that he could not recall a street being closed in a residential neighborhood in over thirty years!
The law permits the closure of a public street only when it is in the interest of the public. Here, the Council determined that the proposed street closure caused severe negative impacts on the public safety and welfare that outweighed any benefits that FASNY might bring. These negative impacts included harm to the safety and operations of White Plains High School, decreased first responder response time to dozens of families in the contiguous neighborhood, and loss of a critical traffic route within the neighborhood.
The standard of review for a court is whether the decision was supported by evidence on the public records or was arbitrary and capricious. Substantial evidence exists to support the decision to deny closure of Hathaway Lane, including reports of the School Board, Conservation Board and Planning Board, and the reports of fire safety and traffic experts that the Gedney Association was forced to retain due to the failures of FASNY and City staff to properly analyze these issues. The record contains overwhelming evidence supporting the rejection of FASNY’s request to close Hathaway Lane, and showing that this decision was based upon sound reasoning.
FASNY’s lawsuit is but the latest example of a reckless course of conduct dating back to its decision to build a massive regional educational complex in a residential neighborhood. FASNY bought the former Ridgeway Golf Club without performing adequate due diligence and with full knowledge that it required a special permit to build. FASNY initially planned to access the property via Ridgeway, and after the City did not approve this unworkable plan, FASNY chose a worse alternative access plan at North Street. This plan required an entrance that directly interferes with the operations of White Plains High School, the purchase of a home on North Street to facilitate this entrance, and the extraordinary step of closing a public street. FASNY engaged in one ill-conceived action after another in its quixotic quest to fulfill its “dream”, and this meritless lawsuit is but another of such actions.
Finally, believe that the three Council members that voted to deny FASNY’s request — Nadine Hunt-Robinson, Milagros Lecuona and Dennis Krolian — are to be commended for carefully weighing the evidence and the law, for protecting the safety and welfare of the public.
Joseph L. DeMarzo and Denise Liotta DeMarzo