NORTH STREET CIVIC ASSOCIATION LOBBIES THE MAYOR AND COMMON COUNCIL ON FASNY– DECRIES REMOVAL OF STACKPOLE AND RESIGNATION OF QUINN FROM PLANNING BOARD

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 WPCNR LETTER TICKER. Special to WPCNR From the North Street Civic Association. December 17.2016:

The North Street Civic Association has released to WPCNR the following letter urging the Mayor and Common Council to reject removing the environmentally sensitive designation from the area where  the French American School of New York wants to build its 7-buiding school complex on the former Ridgeway Country Club

 

Email To:  Mayor Roach and Each Member of the Common Council

Subject: FASNY’s Alternative Plan Application

Date:  December 14, 2016

The Board of the North Street Area Civic Association would like to add its support to the statements and concerns expressed by the Gedney Association in its letters of December 1, 2016 (with accompanying legal letter and environmental expert report) and November 21, 2016 with respect to the Alternative Plan Application submitted by FASNY on November 2, 2016.

 

As we all know, the Alternate Plan is essentially Phase 1 of the “Original Plan” with all access to the school coming off of Ridgeway.  While FASNY’s attorneys say the Plan now includes only FASNY’s “Upper School,” in reality it includes what FASNY describes — on its own website — as its Upper School AND its Middle School (i.e., grades 6-8), all on the single Parcel A.

 

We start by stating unequivocally that NSACA is no less troubled by the Alternative Plain with the entrance on Ridgeway than it was when the entrance was on North Street, given the traffic and safety concerns for pedestrians and bikers, especially school children who walk or ride to and from Ridgeway Elementary School, Our Lady of Sorrows School and White Plains and Archbishop Stepinac High Schools, and for drivers navigating the increased traffic.

As it is, westbound traffic on Ridgeway between the hours of 4:00 and 6:00 PM is already a significant problem.  Traffic backs up from Mamaroneck Avenue to Westchester Hills and the former Ridgeway country clubs by around a quarter of a mile.  Adding 400+ automobile trips during AM and PM peak hours in the morning and afternoon is a genuine threat to our schoolchildren and others, and it will no doubt exacerbate a traffic problem that needs to be fixed even before any FASNY plan is allowed to proceed. The Common Council already determined that the Ridgeway entrance is unacceptable. None other than John Kirkpatrick said “We can’t allow this school if we have traffic off of Ridgeway. The traffic is just too intense, it’s too great.” The south end of the City will face gridlock that will seriously affect the safety of our neighborhoods.

 

We are appalled at the suggestion that the Council should “issue a determination that no supplemental environmental review is required”. If the Council determined once through a full SEQRA process that the Ridgeway entrance was unacceptable, how can it now determine otherwise, especially without going through a full SEQRA process with public input. That process would allow (and should encourage) comment by the towns and municipalities that might be affected by environmental consequences of the development.

 

We would like to focus here on FASNY’s attempt, apparently supported by various city officials, to remove the “environmentally sensitive” designation from Parcel A.  We are all aware that reversal of this designation would mean that a supermajority vote would no longer be required for the project to be approved.

 

As detailed in the legal letter submitted by Gedney Association, the Common Council determined on August 1, 2011 and in its Findings Statement adopted pursuant to SEQRA (which according to the Stipulation is part of the full Administrative Record required to be part of the Alternative Plan Application) that “The Property which is the subject of the Application is an environmentally sensitive site (ESS) with multiple environmentally sensitive features including a New York State registered wetland”. Specifically, Finding B-1 stated “The entire Project Site is an environmentally sensitive site.  Significant potential stormwater impacts could result from the development of the site unless mitigated through properly designed and constructed stormwater management techniques and infrastructure.”  As summarized by Gedney Association’s lawyers, Finding B-1 is “dispositive of the issue”; the entire Project Site is an ESS. As far as we know, a reversal of a parcel’s “environmentally sensitive” designation would be unprecedented.

 

We strongly believe the Council cannot legally remove the environmentally sensitive designation of Parcel A, especially by a simple majority vote and without a full environmental review. Even if it would be legal, to do so would be irresponsible and an abdication of the duty of the Mayor and Council Members to the public. It certainly should not be done in this case, where the effect would be to remove the supermajority requirement and quite possibly result in approval of a project that would not be approved if the supermajority requirement applies.  There is a reason why White Plains law requires a supermajority to approve development on an environmentally site and it subverts the intent of that law to reverse the designation and approve the development with a simple majority.

 

We were encouraged by the Mayor’s statement (at last night’s meeting of the Council of Neighborhood Associations) that he has not yet concluded that Parcel A is not an ESS but we are perplexed as to why this is even under consideration, as the Common Council already determined, pursuant to the SEQRA process, that the entire FASNY property is an ESS. 

Although the Findings Statement stated that the “environmentally sensitive features of the Project Site are located primarily on two of the four parcels, Parcels C and D”, the same findings acknowledge that “there are portions of the Project Site on all parcels that have steep slopes and portions that experience impacts from storm water run off that must be managed”.

We believe that the papers submitted by the Gedney Association clearly show that Parcel A, by itself, is an ESS, and we submit that, even if the City’s experts come to a different conclusion, the Council cannot legally reverse its finding and determine that Parcel A is not an ESS, at least not without going through the processes required by SEQRA, including the public input required by statute.

To bypass the super majority requirement in this way would be a miscarriage of justice which will have legal as well as political consequences.

We conclude by noting our surprise and dismay to hear about the sudden resignation of Michael Quinn as the Chair and the removal of Robert Stackpole as a member of the Planning Board just three days before the Planning Board’s vote on FASNY’s proposal. Our Board had a very strong and positive working relationship with Messrs. Quinn and Stackpole and we believe the City is ill-served by their departures.

 

Thank you.

 

Respectfully,

North Street Area Civic Association

 

Board Members:

Allen Flissler, President

Alan Himmelstein – Vice President

Bob Friscia – Secretary

Pat Bernstein – Treasurer

Carry Kyzivat

Stuart Pearlman

Shelia O‘Brien

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