Gedney Association Critiques French American School of New York Revised Planning Board-approved Site Plan for Former Ridgeway Country Club

WPCNR LETTER TICKER. From the Gedney Association. November 21, 2016:

Dear John

As a follow up to last week’s Annual Meeting, our board and concerned residents have compiled some of the key points of FASNY’s new site plan proposal.  The new project elements present a different set of impacts.
 
PROJECT BASICS:

  • The entire project is now packed onto Parcel A, bounded by Ridgeway, Hathaway Lane, Gedney Esplanade, Hotel Drive and Murchison Place.
  • According to FASNY the building size decreased from 243,000 sq. ft. to 158,000 sq. ft. (35% reduction), parking spaces decreased from 348 to 248 spaces (29% reduction), the amount of students decreased from 950 to 640 (33% reduction), and vehicular trips decreased from 530 to 415 (22% reduction).
  • The main entrance to the campus will now be on Hathaway Lane, but all traffic will come off Ridgeway (previously deemed unacceptable).
  • FASNY, with the help of various city officials, is attempting to de-designate Parcel A as being environmentally sensitive.  This means a supermajority vote would no longer be required for the project approval.
  • A vote determining the de-designation will take place prior to the end of 2016 without any public input.  Essentially the project is now “fast-tracked” because the city agreed to FASNY’s Stipulation of Settlement (without negotiating anything on behalf of our city or neighborhood from the developer).

DEVELOPMENT/CONSTRUCTION

  • The current project is essentially Phase 1 from the original project, consisting of a middle school and a high school.
  • FASNY proposes that the development of the Upper School be split into two phases, 1A and 1B. 
  • Phase 1A consist of the upper school and associated driveways and parking areas. Phase 1B will include the playing fields, Performing Arts Center, playing field sheds and basketball courts. Phase 1B will be “deferred to seven years or less after the completion of Phase 1A”. The purported reason for the deferral is “…the financial constraints imposed by the student cap and expenses of the many mitigation measures required by the SEQRA Findings….”
  • Construction of the schools and parking lots is estimated to take between 18 to 24 months.
  • Athletic fields are projected to be completed within 7 years.
  • Although FASNY claims their project is now smaller, the construction period that was formerly estimated to take 3 years is now spread out over 7 years.

TRAFFIC:

  • No updated traffic studies were submitted by FASNY.  They now claim they will add 415 additional vehicular trips on Ridgeway during peak hours.  Absolutely no traffic mitigation measures (traffic lights, turning lanes) have been provided.
  • FASNY claims that their parents will not end up driving through side streets in Gedney Farms because they will have the families and students sign agreements.  (They also have a bridge they’d like to sell us!)
  • Signage will be provided on Hathaway Lane telling drivers they are not allowed to turn left out of the property.
  • The FASNY athletic fields will now be rented to outside parties in order to raise revenue when not in use.  However, the FASNY gates will be locked to outside parties on the weekends, meaning that the general public interested in renting would not be able to park on site.  Where will they park?  On neighboring streets, of course. 
  • Despite the “fastidiousness” of FASNY’s experts, the parking issue for rented athletic field use is not addressed anywhere in the document.  The document asserts that there will be no problems.  It is obvious however, that visitors will have no place to park other than our narrow neighborhood streets.
  • The 2013 Environmental Findings Resolution rejected Ridgeway as an entrance street for FASNY citing its unacceptable characteristics and its role as a local collector street.  How is Hathaway Lane any better?
  • One does not have to be a traffic engineer to realize that 415 additional left and right turns from Hathaway Lane onto Ridgeway and from Ridgeway onto Hathaway will present a huge safety issue for the public and surrounding residents.  Again: 415 vehicular trips is FASNY’s projected number for 640 students and staff, who (according to their 2013 roster) come from 3 states, 47 different municipalities and 61 different ZIP codes.
  • FASNY does not provide afternoon traffic numbers because they claim to have so many afternoon activities.  To extrapolate: departure times would vary widely throughout the week.

CONSERVANCY:

  • The conservancy has been reduced from the original 84 acres, then to 78 acres, and now to 51 acres through the elimination of Parcels B and C.  FASNY does not reveal what their new plan for these two parcels will be. 
  • The footprint of the original Lower School as well as associated parking areas from the previous site plan submission is visible on the current alternate site plan submission.  Why?
  • A partial footprint of the original North Street access roadway is also still on the plans.  Why?

CHANGES IN CITY GOVERNMENT:

  • Michael Quinn has resigned as the Chair of the Planning Board and Robert Stackpole was relieved of his duties via phone call by Tom Roach on Saturday, November 12.
  • The two vacancies were quickly filled by Justin Brasch, a NYC commercial real estate attorney, and Sarina Russell, who according to her Facebook page is an office manager, bookkeeper and waitress.
  • The Planning Board meeting held on Tuesday, November 15 with its two new members and new chairman John Ioris unanimously approved FASNY’s new site plan with very few questions asked.

Anyone interested in obtaining a digital copy of new site plan can contact us at info@gedneyfarms.net.  A .pdf version of the map below can be downloaded by clicking here: Alternative Site Layout Plan.

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