A judge has rejected a legal claim made by opponents of the French-American School of New York’s proposed White Plains campus that the mayor and Common Council violated the state Open Meetings Law.
State Supreme Court Judge Joan Lefkowitz dismissed the single remaining claim of the FASNY opponents, which alleged the mayor and Common Council members violated the Open Meetings Law by discussing possible changes to a findings statement in private rather than at an open meeting, in an order filed Nov. 3.
Lefkowitz in June dismissed 11 other claims filed by the Gedney Association neighborhood group and residents of the area surrounding the former Ridgeway Country Club – the planned site of the school – for not being “legally ripe.” The judge ruled that since the Common Council had yet to reach a decision on the FASNY application, the legal challenge rested on an event that had not occurred.
In dismissing the remaining claim, Lefkowitz said the FASNY opponents failed to show any supporting evidence. The judge noted that the Open Meetings Law “encompasses private meetings, attended by a quorum of members of a public entity, at which the matters for discussion and eventual decision are such as would otherwise arise at a public meeting.” Lefkowitz ordered that because the FASNY opponents’ filings in the case did not point to any evidence indicating the Common Council met in secret over the FASNY application, the claim must be dismissed.
Reached by phone, Gedney Association President John Sheehan told the Business Journal that his group and the neighborhood residents who joined the suit plan to appeal.
Attorney Dennis Lynch, who represented the Gedney Association and the neighborhood residents in the case, said, “We believe this is something that an appellate court should take a look at. … It’s in the public’s interest that issues like this are discussed publicly, and we believe in this case they weren’t.”
Lynch said the Gedney Association and the neighborhood residents have 30 days from the date of Lefkowitz’s order to file a notice of appeal, and then six months to file the actual appeal with the Second Judicial Department of the state Supreme Court Appellate Division in Brooklyn.
Residents in the neighborhood surrounding the former golf club have voiced opposition to FASNY’s plan since the school purchased the property nearly four years ago. The plan, which would build a school campus near the former clubhouse while turning the remainder of the golf course property into a conservancy, would consolidate FASNY’s operations onto a single campus. Currently, the French-American School of New York has students from nursery school to 12th grade spread across three campuses in Scarsdale, Larchmont and Mamaroneck.