Appellate Court Finds in Favor of City of White Plains in Gedney Association Suit Contending City Violated Open Meetings Law

WPCNR WHITE PLAINS LAW JOURNAL From the French American School of New York February 16, 2017:

For the fourth consecutive time, the Courts of the State of New York have rejected attempts by the Gedney Association (GA) to obstruct construction of a School for the French-American School of New York (FASNY) on a portion of the former Ridgeway Country Club in White Plains.

In a decision filed yesterday, a four-judge panel of the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court unanimously upheld a Supreme Court ruling that that there was no basis to the Gedney Association’s claim that the White Plains Common Council’s December 2013 vote violated the State’s Open Meetings Law.  The Council voted 6-1 in December 2013 to issue a findings statement under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) in favor of the FASNY School proposal.

In a two-page ruling, the Appellate Court stated that the vote on December 19, 2013 by the Common Council to adopt the positive environmental findings statement for the planned School was “publicly voted upon. Accordingly, no violation of the Open Meetings Law occurred.”

The Appellate Court also ordered the Gedney Association to pay FASNY and the City for the costs of bringing their failed legal action.

John Botti, a member of the FASNY Board of Trustees who is overseeing the planning for the new School and Park said:  “Once again the Gedney Association leadership has brought frivolous and ill-conceived litigation that is a complete waste of time, energy, and money – the City’s taxpayers’ money, and their own members’ money.  The Gedney Association is 0 for 4 in Court.”  The Honorable Joan Lefkowitz previously described efforts to block the School as “a war of attrition.”

Botti continued:  “This was an absurd claim from the beginning.  Clearly, the City followed a process and had been fully transparent in its discussions and voting on the Environmental Findings.  For the Gedney Association to file their initial lawsuit and then, even after being admonished by the Supreme Court, to file a costly appeal, is simply a continuation of the legal harassment the Gedney leaders have resorted to in a misguided effort to obstruct and delay the School’s legal rights.  FASNY is pleased with yesterday’s Appellate Court victory and remains confident in the merits of our application.  We’re fully committed to our School and Park and to becoming a vital part of the White Plains community.”

Earlier attempts by the Gedney leadership to overturn actions taken by the City to allow the project to move forward have been soundly rejected by the Courts.  Indeed, Judge Lefkowitz would not even allow the Gedney Association to intervene in FASNY’s suit against the Council’s actions in August 2015, finding that its participation would only “unduly delay” the matter.

With the latest ruling against the Gedney Association, Botti, a White Plains resident, said “Hopefully this will bring an end to the Gedney Association’s pointless and obstructive lawsuits and the Common Council will abide by the Stipulation and approve the reduced plan for the School as outlined in the Settlement Agreement.”  The reduced plan includes the Middle and High Schools and limits development to only the 28-acre portion of the property where the former country club buildings and parking lots are located.  Under the Settlement Agreement, FASNY further reduced the traffic by 42% and reduced the number of students from the original 1200 to 640 students.  FASNY has also placed a Conservation Easement on 51 acres of the property, which was recorded with Westchester County in August 2016. The publicly accessible Park will feature over 2 miles of walking and biking trails and be fully open to the public and maintained by FASNY at no cost to the City’s taxpayers.

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