WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – The changes to the French-American School of New York’s (FASNY) proposal for a 130-acre campus include more trails and paths to improve north-south and east-west connectivity, which White Plains resident Rob Pace said will improve access to an adjacent church.
Pace, president and trustee at Memorial United Methodist Church, said many have trouble getting to their Bryant Avenue location without a car.
The proposed 78-acre conservancy that will be open to public use, along with the addition three miles of walking paths and bike paths FASNY has added to the plan, would make the trip easier for those without a car, according to Pace, whose daughter will enter third grade at FASNY's Larchmont site in the fall.
FASNY opponents question how much use the public would get from the conservancy.
“It’s not going to be a publicly enjoyed space in which most people would benefit, it’s going to be for the purpose of FASNY,” said Claudia Jaffe, whose home abuts the FASNY property. “And to talk about the conservancy as God’s greatest gift since sliced bread ...“You can’t build on it because it’s wetlands. It’s not a gift to us because you couldn’t use it in the first place.”
John Botti, a member of FASNY’s facilities, development and Ridgeway Steering committees, said only 15 acres of the proposed conservancy are wetlands. This leaves 63-acres that FASNY plans to turn into a natural habitat.
“Bottom line is this has tremendous value in the millions of dollars,” he said. The value of the land that’s offered to the city and given an easement shouldn’t be forgotten.”
Many in favor of the FASNY plan, which would unite its three schools in one campus on the former Ridgway Golf Club, say the conservancy is something that cannot be passed up.
“To actually convert a golf course into a natural environment is an unprecedented thing that has occurred in one other place in the United States,” said Ann Acheson, a landscape designer from Irvington who worked at Nables Nursery in White Plains before it closed. “And this is something that will be followed and noted and will be something that White Plains will become known for.”
Instead of turf grass, isolated trees and collapsing sand traps, residents will see wildlife habitats, shrub land, meadows and ponds, Acheson said.
In addition to added connectivity, Alden Road resident Hughes O’Csay said the conservancy will benefit neighboring schools and could be a site for the type of races he organizes in Central Park and the Bronx.
“I think the project will be welcome by so many runners and so many people in our community,” he said.