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French-American School Files Lawsuit Against White Plains

Despite a White Plains Common Council defeat on Aug. 5, signs opposing a new French-American School remain on North Street. FASNY filed a lawsuit on Thursday against the Common Council asking the state Supreme Court to annul its 4-3 vote.
Despite a White Plains Common Council defeat on Aug. 5, signs opposing a new French-American School remain on North Street. FASNY filed a lawsuit on Thursday against the Common Council asking the state Supreme Court to annul its 4-3 vote. Photo Credit: File photo

WHITE PLAINS -- The French-American School of New York filed a lawsuit against White Plains Mayor Thomas Roach and the city Common Council on Thursday asking the state Supreme Court to annul the 4-3 vote on Aug. 5 that blocked FASNY from building a new school on the former Ridgeway Country Club.

FASNY's Article 78 petition and complaint, nearly 90 pages long, was filed by White Plains attorney Michael Zarin. Zarin called the Common Council's vote and review process "illegal, irrational, baseless and arbitrary.

The French-American School proposed merging its schools operated in Scarsdale, Larchmont and Mamaroneck into a new private campus on a 128-acre site near North Street. Several Common Council members and a unanimous White Plains Board of Education said more buses and cars traveling near White Plains High School would cause traffic and public safety risks. The international school serves more than 850 private students in nursery school through 12th grade.

After more than four years of revised site plans, the Common Council, led by Mayor Roach, cast four votes in favor of FASNY's project, and three against it. However, a "supermajority" of five votes was needed to approve the special permit to allow the new school project to proceed.

Thursday's complaint is unique because FASNY is citing the administrative record in its lawsuit. FASNY’s petition notes in December 2013, a 6-1 majority of the Common Council approved "Findings" pursuant to the State Environmental Quality Review Act. The SEQRA Findings decided that the school’s impacts could be mitigated or “cushioned” as the law requires based upon certain conditions, including the partial discontinuance of a part of Hathaway Lane.

The petition states: "The Court cannot allow the Common Council to subject an educational use, like FASNY’s School, to a Catch-22 situation, wherein, on one hand, the Council requires by a 6-1 vote a mitigation measure (i.e., the partial discontinuance of Hathaway Lane), yet, on the other, rejects the proposal based on compliance with this mitigation measure.”

The petition asks the Supreme Court to order the Common Council to approve the Special Permit and Site Plan applications.

In a press statement, Andrea Soros Colombel, chair of the FASNY Board of Trustees, said: “We regret that we are faced with this unfortunate situation, but we have a strong case with solid legal arguments."

FASNY, founded in Larchmont in 1980, currently operates four schools in rented facilities.

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