Commentary on Mayor Thomas Roach’s Appearance at the Council of Neighborhood Associations

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Dear Mayor,                                                                                                                                      
We appreciate your passion and commitment to improve the White Plains downtown area. . .and are amazed with the number of projects that are already in motion. . .as well as those you would like to get done with the new Transportation Center study.
Our concern is whether this City Administration has the capability to effectively oversee all of these individual projects, most of which require zoning changes. . .or whether the project oversight will just be turned over to the individual developers. . .which may result in the inclusion of more developer-friendly elements than resident-friendly ones.
For example, you mentioned that you are opposed to the current developer plan for the old Good Council property and we know a number of nearby residents to this property are also unhappy with this developer’s plan. . .so why then does this developer plan seem to be progressing along like business as usual?
On a personal note, as fellow members of the Democrat Party, we would like to share with you what we learned from the recent Presidential Election process.  We believe voters across the country expressed the feeling that they like to be asked by their elected officials how they feel, then listened to and in the end see that their concerns and priorities are being addressed.
Citizens don’t like being told by their elected officials what elected officials believe is good for the voters if the elected officials have not listened in the first place . . .which seems to be the pattern with some of our elected officials in White Plains.
While we like your passion for making White Plains better. . . to us and other residents whom to you may seem frustrated. . .you appear to be more focused on the interests of large developers than current residents and their neighborhoods as you move forward in your vision for the future of White Plains.
Here’s some specific feedback:
1.  At the meeting you mentioned that the MTA higher-ups are telling you that there are available seats on their trains for all the occupants of the new apartments that you are planning to build downtown. . .not true based on our knowledge.  You asked for specifics and we can report that right now In the AM the 7:37, 7:42 and 7:52 trains are full each day forcing some people to stand all the way to NYC.  And the MTA higher-ups when commenting on their trains can’t include the middle seat of the 3-seaters as open. . .when the MTA’s 3-seaters, unlike airplanes, have no individual separations. . .so if an MTA train has 2 plus-sized or sleeping passengers in a 3-seat space there is little room or desire for another passenger to squeeze in between.
Looking over the City’s list of the Transportation Task Force Members in the glossy brochure that was handed out. . .few on this Task Force appear to be every-day train commuters.  Our suggestion is instead of relying on the MTA higher-ups and the Task Force for factual input. . .maybe have some of your City Staff drive to the train station, park and then travel to NYC and back for a week or so to give the City a hands-on and different perspective.
Personally we are looking forward to learning more about the new proposed changes for passenger pick-ups at the train station. . .because with the MTA’s evening train return times from NYC operating about as much on schedule as airport plane arrivals. . .our own train station pick-up experiences is a continuing reminder of our frustrations involved in picking up family members at NY area airports.
So we’re looking forward to the City Staff’s solutions to the train station’s current passenger pick-up problems.
And strangely enough the new Transportation Center study seems to be more focused on attracting large developers for the downtown area. . .than providing improvements for making the every-day train commuting experience more efficient and enjoyable for the residents of White Plains.  We’re not surprised that resident interests are not first!
In addition there is a more immediate problem at the train station that your Task Force Members must find a solution for. . .the homeless in our City are using the stairs leading up to the train platforms as personal urinals and are sleeping in the only heated indoor room up on the platform. . .it is not a pleasant experience for current or future every-day train commuters nor is this the correct treatment of our City’s  homeless.  While planning for the future is important. . .unfortunately this is the reality of the City we live in today.
2.  Regarding bike lanes. . .right now few people in the morning commute by bike to the train station. . .primarily because it’s just not safe riding on our streets.
A few weeks ago when the weather was warmer. . .out of 14 bike stations at the train station we counted only 2 being used.  Just because City Staff employees paint bike lanes on a street. . . this does not make traveling by bike on that street safe, particularly in the AM rush periods.
And it is not just downtown as in our Gedney Farms neighborhood traveling by bike on Mamaroneck, Bryant, North Street and Ridgeway is just not safe right now.  Bike lanes are great in concept. . .however its implementation has to insure resident safety, particularly for children. . .and we say bike lane safety is below where it should be right now in White Plains.
In the last 5 years or so we are seeing a lot more cars, trucks, buses and cut-through Traffic on all of our White Plains streets. . .and this is before considering FASNY’s massive incremental Traffic.  Residents from the CarHart Association are also expressing concern about increased Traffic flow on Maple Avenue from development projects in their neighborhood.
It would be nice if our City Staff Traffic experts overseeing all of the many developer projects listen to resident concerns and incorporate this information into their evaluations. . .particularly with FASNY’s plans where in the absence of input from the City Traffic experts. . .the Gedney Association had to pay for their own expert Traffic Studies in order to provide real facts and truthful information.
3.  The list of downtown projects and companies relocating into White Plains are quite impressive and will certainly transform the City. . .and we hope when these projects are completed that there will be seats on the trains and room on our streets for all the additional Traffic these new residents will bring.  Is someone on the City Staff monitoring and incorporating all these potential increases into a master Traffic and Transportation plan?
It is interesting that all these major development projects appear to require changes to White Plains zoning regulations. . .which to us means the City is either not following our Comprehensive Plan or our Comprehensive Plan is out of date.
Our understanding is that our Comprehensive Plan is in place to serve as a vision and guide going forward for citizens, the City Administration and for developers.  So does that mean that with so many zoning changes and exceptions this City Administration is granting now. . .that this City Administration is more comfortable granting exceptions. . .than allowing White Plains citizens to participate again in the revising and updating the Comprehensive Plan?
 4.  Also at the meeting you mentioned that the City had to give the FASNY project more review time because it involved building a school rather than an office building on the old golf course.  Isn’t the real reason this FASNY project has dragged on for so long. . .is that FASNY itself has submitted so many flawed plans where many of the problems with their plans were first exposed by residents rather than the City Staff.  And that this City Administration has allowed FASNY to put forth many plans that are in conflict with the City’s Comprehensive Plan and current R1-30 zoning for the old golf course property.
While most citizens are in favor of Open Space. . .residents are not interested in a Conservancy if it involves the tradeoff of agreeing to a massive development which would make Parcel A looks like a over-built downtown section of the City.
As you know the old golf course property is comprised of 4 Parcels of land each separated by Public streets. . .and each Parcel is zoned R1-30, a low density designation established to preserve Open Space and conform to the surrounding residential community.
Somehow over the years either this City Administration went out of their way to help FASNY or were out-negotiated by the FASNY lawyers. . .to allow over-building on Parcel A’s in violation of Parcel A’s own zoning. . .in return for agreeing to a Conservancy on some of FASNY’s other Parcels of land.  All this against residents’ interests, wishes and the individual Parcel A’s R1-30 zoning
All of this seems strange because in other communities the elected officials join together with residents to restrain and control developer plans. . .while in White Plains this City Administration works with developers. . .to change zoning and with FASNY to allow incomplete and factual inaccurate plans that in the end would destroy resident personal property and neighborhoods.
5.  It’s nice that you mentioned that you are taking seriously the findings of the Gedney Association’s expert’s report on potential Environmental problems on FASNY’s Parcel  A property.
However this City Administration should have required FASNY to do this and more Environmental studies long ago. . .as it’s part of the City’s responsibility of protecting zoning, safeguarding resident home values and avoiding potential water and flooding problems that could arise from the FASNY Construction.
In addition we are still awaiting FASNY’s submission of an up-to-date map identifying where all of the underground streams on the old golf course are located. . . so that FASNY’s massive building development on Parcel A can be accurately accessed from an Environmental viewpoint.
Just another example of this City Administration not being tough on the developer FASNY. . .and forcing residents to spend their own money on expert Environmental studies that FASNY should have performed themselves in their own due diligence and multiple plan submissions.
If this City Administration over the past 6 years has had trouble understanding, evaluating and uncovering truthful facts from the developer FASNY. . .why should citizens have any faith that all of the proposed new developer projects coming forward in our City will be successfully managed?
We have to wonder what happened to those long-time White Plains Democratic Party campaign priorities. . .of Protecting the Environment, Neighborhoods and Open Space while Caring more about the People of our City. . .all the things you ran on the last time you campaigned.
Thanks again for bringing us up-to-date all the big developer projects. . .please forgive us if we remain skeptical and concerned.
Happy holidays and a great New Year,
Your Truth Police, Team Rhodes
Marie and Ron Rhodes
(Editor’s Note: based on the Strategic Plan presented last week, the city plans to move shuttle pickups to separate area on the White Plains Parking just south of Main Street, adjacent the elevated tracks; Move the Passenger drop off and pick up area adjacent the current entrance to the station, and moving taxi pick up and drop off adjacent to the drop off and pick up area, reversing what exists now. See the diagrams in the WPCNR story published one week ago at

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