By Jon Craig
About 200 people jammed White Plains City Hall on Monday night, about one-fifth of them planning to speak for or against a proposal by the French American School of New York to build a regional educational campus at the former Ridgeway Country Club.
City Council chambers exceeded its 125-person capacity, so another 70 people sat in a sweltering hot downstairs lobby where a large-screen television was set up to show the live hearing. A second large-screen TV was set up outside the Council chambers where at least 30 more people sat while others stood.
First, those interested in the FASNY proposal had to wait about 90 minutes for other City Council business – including a hearing on proposed new regulations for cabaret licenses. The Council voted Monday to extend a moratorium on approving cabaret licenses by four months while city regulations are updated. Applications will continue to be taken, officials said.
City Council President John Martin said, “Our cabaret regulations are outdated and in need of review.”
And Mayor Tom Roach warned others in the audience who accused the City Council of leaning one way or the other on the fate of new cabaret licenses said, “I think we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves.”
Meanwhile, both sides of the FASNY issue expressed dismay over how the first of three planned hearings was handled. A FASNY supporter said a hearing just for the proposed school project could have been held the following night. A FASNY opponent wondered why the White Plains Performing Arts Center, with its larger capacity, wasn’t reserved for the big turnout.
The first of the FASNY public hearings focused on the closing of the southern portion of Hathaway Lane. People commenting addressed the FASNY proposal at large as well as Hathaway Lane. By 10:40 p.m. the first hearing was adjourned to August 4 and the public hearing on the FASNY proposal was opened. Mayor Roach indicated he wanted to try to close the night’s meeting by 11:30 p.m.
By 11:15 p.m. everyone who had signed up to speak and was still present had spoken and the FASNY Special Permit hearing was adjourned to August 4. As people noisily left Council chambers, the monthly meeting continued through the remainder of the agenda items.
At least 20 people, many of them wearing green “yes” stickers, signed up to speak Monday night in support of FASNY, and another 20 people had signed up to speak out against the project. But as time passed and the temperature rose inside City Hall, at least a dozen people left early.
Dan Seidel, an attorney opposed to the FASNY project, said he planned to ask Mayor Roach and Councilman John Kirkpatrick why they have not recused from participating in the project review when they have taken campaign contributions from those associated with FASNY or its site design. Campaign contributions to Roach totaling at least $2,434 came from those tied to FASNY, according to Seidel, including from FASNY attorney Michael Zarin’s law firm, Zarin & Steinmetz, and architect Graham Trelstad.
“Recuse yourself immediately,” Seidel said. “It’s dirty money.”
Charles Morgan, who is running for city council, said about the three-year long process, “This whole thing is being rushed through city government.”