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EF Academy Proposes Additional Faculty Housing at Thornwood Campus

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A proposal to add another 10 housing units at EF Academy in Thornwood for faculty members and their families generated some skepticism from the Mount Pleasant Planning Board last week.

Representatives for the international boarding high school appeared before the board last Thursday with plans to add additional modular homes of less than 2,000 square feet each to match similar units that were erected in October 2020. If the second group of 10 units were added that would meet the previously established limit of 20 residences that the school would be allowed to have at the site, said attorney William Null, representing EF Academy.

Six of the additional homes would be 1,430 square feet, with one story while the other four would have two stories and measure 1,980 square feet, he said. Null mentioned that because many of the faculty members have families it is an attractive amenity to offer rather than a dormitory situation.

“They’re an important component to recruiting faculty and staff,” Null said. “A lot of the people that come to this location would not be able to afford housing nearby. Certainly, they’d be commuting a distance to be in an apartment.”

Board Chairman Michael McLaughlin said he was hesitant about adding the extra units until a number of questions are answered by the applicant. Information should include where the children who would be living there would go to school, whether the residents are citizens and vote as well as additional demographic information.

McLaughlin also said he has a problem with company-owned housing. Despite the best of intentions, the employer has built-in leverage over the people who work for them and would live in the housing.

“People are people, and although this has nothing to do with Planning Board criteria, it has me troubled because people are people and management, if it has a Sword of Damocles, has the ability to throw people out,” McLaughlin said. “The resident has little recourse.”

He also questioned why people who teach at EF Academy, a pricey private school, wouldn’t be able to afford a place to live within reasonable commuting distance. According to its website, the Thornwood school charges a $42,000 annual tuition with an additional $20,000 for room and board for a full school year with accommodations for seven days a week.

Null said the board will be provided with the answers to the questions that the chairman posed, but said the first 10 units have created very pleasant surroundings for the people who live there. Currently, those residences are home to 25 adults and 10 children.

“It’s been a very successful neighborhood that’s been provided there,” Null said. “It’s provided them with a place where they can be outside, where they can have a life in a house instead of a dorm.”

However, another board member, John Piazza, said he was disturbed that a sidewalk, which had been promised to be built from the site down to Columbus Avenue so the students would be able to safely walk to the nearby Rose Hill Shopping Center, had not yet been installed.

Westchester County was supposed to build the sidewalks, but it was not known why that had not been done, Null said.

“You’re the guy doing this job,” Piazza said. “We’re not asking for the parting of the Red Sea; we’re asking for a sidewalk to the shopping center.”

The board denied a request from the applicant to schedule a public hearing, preferring to wait until they returned with the additional information sought from the school.

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