The Sidewalks of White Plains


German School now owns 800 North Street.

Null: Subdivision concept pending as is cap increase and transformation of Kempner mansion into administrative offices.

North Street neighbors concern expressed in Civic Association meeting with over 50 persons present.

By John F. Bailey


June 18, 2001 -- Education House & WPCNR NewsPhone

The German School has purchased the Kempner property at 800 North Street, executing an agreement to purchase they have held for approximately two years.

According to the City of White Plains Assessor's Office, The German School, located in the Havilands Manor Neighborhood, purchased the 800 North Street estate from the Kempner family on March 2 for $2 million.

William Null, of Cuddy & Feder & Worby, the legal counsel to The German School, told WPCNR Monday that the completion of the purchase was "consistent with (the school's) rezoning request." The dual-edged request calls for building administrative offices in the former Kempner mansion, and increasing the German School enrollment cap to 500 students (which is now limited to 375 students).

Null said such a request was subject to approval by the Zoning Board of Appeals, a matter that has been before the ZBA for approximately two and a half years, according to WPCNR tracking.

Null said the city Planning and Zoning Boards were in the process of reviewing the Draft Environmental Impact Statements submitted by the German School, and that the school was "trying to keep information coming to the city as they request it, responding to comments from the Planning Board."

Null added that the city's boards were considering an alternative use for the Kempner property, where The German School would subdivide the property into five homes with a cul-de-sac, complete with access leading into the German School parking lot. The object of the subdivision plan is to provide German School traffic with a North Street access to the school, relieving traffic through the residential Havilands Manor neighborhood which currently carries all the German School traffic.

WPCNR had learned that the Planning Board had advised the Zoning Board that they recommended denying the request for rezoning and cap increase as inconsistent with the neighborhood. Now, the subdivision request that was advanced in response to the zoning board's own expressed willingness to see the property kept residential, which they expressed in the fall of 2000, appears to be putting the Planning Department in a tough position. If the Planning Department recommends denial of the rezoning of the property for administrative offices, they could run into problems by denying the school developing the property as of right.

The Traffic Department is another department under pressure. If the school proposes to develop with a street that accesses the German School from North Street, the Traffic Department will have to make the "call" as to whether the traffic flow is acceptable, and with an election this fall, it puts the city departments in the middle of a hot neighborhood issue.

At the North Street Civic Association meeting Wednesday evening last week, the proposals, both the original rezoning, and now all-too-real threat of subdivision, caused much consternation among residents in light of the completed purchase. A horde of over 50 persons descended on Education House. Part of this was the lure of the Democratic Mayoral and Council slate. However, a WPCNR observer reported that the main focus of the meeting was alarm over the completed German School purpose and the traffic impact of both Hutchinson River Parkway congestion in the late afternoons combined with the German School traffic.

The WPCNR observer said residents expressed concern over alleged classes being held on Saturdays at the school, which they claim had not been approved by the city. Our contact also advised that the school is exploring other revenue streams by scheduling activities and services off hours on the weekends and after school that are adding to the traffic concerns.

The original German School proposal for converting the former Kempner home to administrative offices and parking with school access and an increase in the enrollment cap is due to be before the Zoning Board of Appeals at their Thursday, July 5 meeting.

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