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Gedney to Hire Lawyer to Fight Proposed School

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- The Gedney neighborhood association has raised approximately $20,000 for its campaign against the French-American School of New York's plan to build a $60 million campus in the neighborhood.

Terence Guerriere, the association president, announced Wednesday night that the Gedney Association plans to use the money to hire an attorney.

"We know you're not going to wake up one morning and there's a building there," Guerriere said of the former Ridgeway Country Club property where FASNY plans to build schools for approximately 1,200 students. "We will continue to be vigilant."

Guerriere told a crowd of more than 120 people that the association wants to hire experts to monitor the various state-required environmental reviews conducted by White Plains and FASNY.

"We've interviewed about a dozen different attorneys. We went outside of the county to avoid bias," said Guerriere, who did not release the name of the firm the Gedney Association plans to work with. "The next step will be to meet with the board and solidify a contract."

A state law requires FASNY to put roughly 1 percent of the proposed project funding in an account that will later be used to reimburse White Plains for hiring consultants, according to Michael Zarin, FASNY's attorney. Zarin said concerns that lawyers hired by the city may be biased if they're paid with FASNY funds are irrelevant because that's how New York processes special permit applications.

"The whole idea is to make sure that the city has the resources to do its own peer review," said Zarin. "We'll hire our own experts to prepare massive and extensive studies in all of the environmental areas. We'll have to look at storm water and drainage, traffic, air quality, and all the substantial environmental issues. We'll make sure our analysis is good because it's our credibility that's on the line. Then we'll prepare a massive, voluminous document called an environmental impact study that will get distributed to everyone. Then the city will hire their own experts to review that data."

Fears about a lake on the southern end of the Ridgeway property overflowing prompted some Gedney residents, including Padraic Lee, 55, to attend the association meeting Wednesday.

Lee, who has lived on Hathaway Lane for 10 years, said flooding from the lake was not a concern when Ridgeway fueled its sprinkler system with water from the lake. Now, he says he's concerned because FASNY allowed water levels to rise enough to threaten the aged earthen dam on the lake's southern side during Tropical Storm Irene.

"When the hurricane was coming they could have turned on the sprinklers, but they couldn't be bothered with that. They did a secondhand pump job instead. The water was this close to the breach point after Irene," Lee, an attorney, said while stretching his hand about four inches apart. "Another overshot, and that water will go like a shotgun -- a million and a half gallons -- will go towards the gardens where loose plants and pots and equipment might be picked up as projectiles and slam into the nursery school."

Zarin said the city and department of environmental conservation have both examined the lake and small earthen burn in it.

"As far as we can tell, it's completely got its structural integrity," said Zarin, who did not specify whether FASNY intends to use a sprinkler system. "We'll continue to maintain it. We will monitor the water level. We'd like to convert the substantial bulk of the area into a really nice natural preserve. We would think everybody would help in that and we’ve been meeting with the Westchester Land Trust and Cornell [Cooperative] Extension and talking to the residents about it. We’re committing to making this a really beautiful nature preserve, and if it ultimately requires water, we’ll water it."

What are your thoughts on FASNY opening a campus on the former Ridgeway Country Club? Email thoughts to strangle@mainstreetconnect.us and we'll include responses in future coverage.

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