By Julianne Cuba
Five years have passed since the French-American School Of New York’s (FASNY) application to close Hathaway Lane, located in the Gedney Farms Section of White Plains, fell into the hands of the White Plains Common Council. On the night of Wednesday, August 5, at City Hall, a final 3-4 vote rejecting the school’s proposal was announced.
The international school fell just one vote short of the 5-2 supermajority needed to grant the closure of Hathaway Lane in order to build a FASNY regional campus, which would sit on 131 acres of what used to be the Ridgeway Country Club.
The final roll call was met with the applause of White Plains residents, many of which had to sit out in the hallway and watch what was happening during the meeting from a live-stream.
Like the majority of those present at City Hall, White Plains resident Terri Gomez said she was very happy with the outcome of the vote.
Mayor Roach and Common Council Members deliberate FASNY’s proposal. Photo by Julianne Cuba
“It was a bad proposal from the get-go,” Gomez said. “It had environmental impacts that would never have been mitigated by anything that they proposed. The fact that emergency vehicles would not be able to get through, that’s huge.”
FASNY’s plan has faced intense opposition from White Plains residents, especially Gedney Farms residents, where the public and heavily utilized street, Hathaway Lane, resides.
Councilwoman Nadine Hunt-Robinson, whose opinion was interrupted by audience members’ clapping, was among those who voted “no.”
“In my judgment, increased fire response time, noted by the White Plains Department of Public Safety, is not reasonable to the Gedney residents,” said Hunt-Robinson. “When your home is burning down, seconds count.”
Councilwoman Milagros Lecuona also voted “no,” but not before she commended both the school and the city for their continuous efforts throughout the long process. Lecuona also noted that she believes FASNY is an “excellent and highly respectable educational institution.”
Councilman Dennis Krolian was the third and final “no,” prohibiting the closure of Hathaway Lane and FASNY from building its regional campus.
Those who voted in favor of FASNY’s application were council members Beth Smayda and John Kirkpatrick, council president John Martin, and White Plains Mayor Thomas Roach.
Unlike Hunt-Robinson, Mayor Roach was interrupted multiple times by the audience’s audible disagreement and frustration. The Mayor said he felt a FASNY regional campus in White Plains would be in the best interest of the city.
Though the final outcome of the vote stops the closure of Hathaway Lane, it’s been made clear by FASNY Board of Trustee members that this will not be the end-all: the school has leveled threats of a lawsuit should the vote not end in its favor.
“We are deeply disappointed and disturbed by the outcome of tonight’s vote by the White Plains Common Council. We believe this decision is unsustainable on many grounds. As a result, we will immediately commence legal action in New York State, as well as possibly Federal Court, seeking an overturning of the City Council’s Decision and potential millions of dollars in damages,” read a news statement released by FASNY following the City Council vote last Wednesday. “We have the support of hundreds of neighborhood residents, environmental organizations and the leading business organizations in Westchester County. White Plains has a well-deserved reputation as a center for schools and education, and diversity. We remain confident that the Court will uphold our plan, and that our school will become an important part of this rich community of White Plains soon.”
Now that the vote has been asserted in opposition of FASNY, White Plains Mayor Thomas Roach stated, “We will vigorously and zealously defend the interest of the city should we be sued.”
View the French-American School of New York’s proposal here.