FASNY's Conservancy Changes Aims To Improve Connectivity In White Plains

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A rendering of the proposed conservancy.
A rendering of the proposed conservancy. Photo Credit: GreentoGreen.org
Claudia Jaffe opposes the French-American School of New York site plan.
Claudia Jaffe opposes the French-American School of New York site plan. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly

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.

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Comments (10)

Hughes O’Csay is FASNY's athletic director. Why pretend he is a mere White Plains resident who happens to be in favor of this sham conservancy?

Wow, what a one sided article Brian. You really should be ashamed of this article. Have you bothered to read FASNY's the Declaration of Covenants in the Site Plan before you wrote this article. FASNY can terminate the Conservancy when ever they want to. The Conservancy is for FASNY's use and they have sole discretion as to who can enter. If they feel at any time any part of the Conservancy is "unsafe" and this is solely up to FASNY's discretion, then FASNY can shut it down to outside use. White Plains has absolutely no control over anything. This is FASNY's Conservancy period. So its OK to destroy an entire neighborhood with traffic, pollution, noise, etc. etc??? I notice also how you only quote the few who spoke for the project. You should have also put their affiliation to FASNY

Sandra is confused on so many points that it's hard to begin to address them all. She starts out with a class warfare assault however she got the players mixed up. She should be upset about the FASNY investment bankers who want to destroy an award-winning WP neighborhood, Gedney Farms.

When the property values decline ( they already have) in Gedney and her taxes go up as they will in domino effect throughout WP. Remember, FASNY will not pay a nickel in property taxes, they are tax-exempt. She seems angry with the development and density in her neighborhood, rightfully so. Was she involved in trying to stop the developments that she was opposed to? Yet, she rails against concerned citizens from all over WP that have been working tirelessly to stop this ill-conceived massive FASNY (equivalent in size to 5 Super Stop& Shops) development, poring over documents, attending crowded public hearings, meeting with Common Council members and attending FASNY 'informational' sessions.

Since, she is well versed in how ecologically sensitive this property is for the entire regional watershed, it's hard to believe she could support this. The conservancy is a TROJAN HORSE that will not provide a significant benefit and will compound the harm that the development will cause.

As far as the landscaper from Irvington goes, several respected WP landscape and architectural landscape designers have come out squarely against this development. What FASNY says they will do if they get the funds is not natural. The habitat of Westchester is woodlands not meadows. The amount of the herbicide, Roundup, that would be used to create this FASNY Fantasy Fiasco has not been studied. I want to look very critically at this 'gift horse' in the mouth.

It's more than just investment bankers, it's international investment bankers and the French government as well who are supporting FASNY. There is nothing local about this project. Even the architecture firm is not local. It is headquartered in Canada. Will the jobs for local workers really materialize? This project just keeps growing. The enrollment size was reduced by WP from 1200 to 950. You would think that the size of the school buildings would be reduced proportionately. Instead, the size has been increased by over 30,000 sq. ft. Why? When asked, FASNY experts gave answers than don't stand the smell test. As far as FASNY is concerned, residents who will be damaged if this project is approved are just road kill.

So because Rob Pace wants to make it easier for people to walk to his church, people with homes adjacent to the FASNY property should have their lives upended and their property devalued. He doesn't even live in the neighborhood and his daughter attends FASNY in Larchmont. How self-serving. John Botti recently bought a home in White Plains which is nowhere near the proposed campus. Why didn't he move into Gedney Farms if he thinks it will be so great to live near the school? He talks up the value of the Conservancy. FASNY has total ownership. It can alter its Conservancy plan if it wants to. It can choose not to make any of the proposed improvements if it wants to. To quote FASNY, they are "aspirational." Most of them are planned far into the future and depend on whether FASNY has the funds. FASNY can't be forced to raise the funds and could put the improvements on the back burner forever. Where is the value to White Plains for environmentally sensitive and wet land with a 24 foot wide, 3,000 foot driveway (that is more than one-half mile long) cutting through the largest and most visible part of the Conservancy? And public access is not the primary use. FASNY says the Conservancy is part of its Educational Mission. That comes first. As for Mr. O'Casy, who wants to organize races, he forgot to mention that he works for FASNY as an athletic director. Just a slight oversight and again, self-serving. As for daddyo55, who commented on this article, opponents of this project have widespread support across the city both from residents and neighborhood associations. Also, about 40 single homes could be built on useable land and White Plains would gain from the property taxes paid. FASNY is exempt from paying property and sales taxes. And please stop spreading FASNY scare propaganda that if it doesn't build, the land could be used for affordable housing. That would not happen. White Plains has plenty of affordable housing and is not targeted by HUD.

My wife and I will both be retiring in the next couple of years and look forward to a space like that proposed by FASNY to be able to take walks in a natural setting, and we know others in our age group who feel the same. Ms. Jaffe, with all due respect to her concerns, is not in touch with the majority of White Plains residents who do not share her hostility to this project.

I've seen recent comments from FASNY opponents who say they would like to see this tract used for housing. If ms. Jaffe were correct, and the majority of the rest of the tract were wetlands, then that would make this a rather infeasible idea. From what I have seen having walked the property I believe Mr. Botti's assessment far more.

So if by some chance the idea of single family homes on the tract came to pass (and of course there is the mere detail that FASNY owns the land) what that would do would be to add more homes to a market where supply still outpaces demand and lower the values of our homes. Of course if the tract would be used for affordable housing for poor and working people that might be different, but if I were a betting man, I wouldn't give good odds that the opponents would support that idea.

Oh, the old "affordable housing" canard. Fear mongering at its best. Retiring in We$tche$ter county? Good luck.

Oh, the old "affordable housing" canard. Fear mongering at its best. Retiring in We$tche$ter county? Good luck.

Great comments and I think FASNY would be a great fit to the area if they do what they propose. These property owners have the same say as the rest of the citizens in the city. We all get one vote and getting nasty to those who don't agree is just "undemocratic." In my area, traffic is horrible and I live up the street from Eastview. When I moved into Franklin there was no Stop & Shop, The Westchester or the City Center. Who said no to these and the other big construction areas. We now have a really bad wind problem with the tall buildings. Streets have been closed and others have been created all through WP's history. I have little sympathy for people when they talk about traffic and someone who is going to take an extra minute and a half to get around FASNY I am sure when they shop in my area, they don't stop for peds, but litter and speed. For the FASY site, I would like to see permeable walkways/bike paths and a gated entrance during the schools busiest hours to only allow staff and buses in. This would be the only way to enforce busing. By the way, the whole area including where the houses and other structures are all in the Mamaroneck River watershed that is about 17.5 sq miles. Large sections of the Mamaroneck River is underground along with the other wetland areas that used to be in the city. I did a lot of research about the city and had a hard time finding the remnants of our wetlands due to all the development in the city. Much of the developments on the east and west side of Mamaroneck Ave and then Bloomingdale Rd have parts of the West branch of the river as well as unnamed streams and ponds. The Cassaway/Causeway goes from Burke to NY Hospital grounds as well as to the street across but much of this area is developed. There is not much left of an area where lots of streams once flowed. The more one develops the more flooding will occur when it rains heavily. This is when the watershed resurfaces. All the people living in Gedney Farms are in the wetland area but I don't know of any houses or roads sinking. Many of the homes have basements especially the older ones cause environmental concerns were not thought of when White Plains was being developed. I wrote a book about the city and have a section about the wetlands. Did you know that a stream ran through the Highlands and a pond was where the WP Hospital is today? Davis Ave gets its name from the brook that now runs under the streets and only comes up at the intersection with the Bronx River. White Plains has to go through the process with every developer and it has been going on for yrs now. I am sure the school will eventually get approved but they are not asking for a zone change. A permit I believe has to be abided by or it can be later denied. If it was a city park, these people should see how poorly the city maintains their parks. These people against the project should have bought the land and develop it as they saw fit. Instead of buying signs that litter the area making it look horrible, they should have bought out the property.

Stop and Shop and the WESTCHESTER are located in a business district, NOT residential. Sorry you are angry about your position but don't look to destroy other neighborhoods at the same time