Sunday, December 12, 2010

BIB BIG NEWS for the FASNY French-American School of New York


Dear Parents, Colleagues, Students, Alumni, Parents and Grandparents of Alumni, Former Trustees, and Friends:

We are thrilled and proud to announce that the 30-year old dream of giving our beloved School its own home has just taken a quantum leap toward reality.

On December 7, 2010, FASNY signed a contract to purchase the Ridgeway Country Club in White Plains. This property contains 128 acres, ample space to house all four of our divisions and our administration, with plenty of room for playgrounds, fields, other athletic facilities, and considerable open space. It also holds a clubhouse, which can be retrofitted to house at least one division as well as most of our administrative offices. Everyone involved in this process shares the view that this is by far the best real estate opportunity the School has seen or is likely to see.

The accepted purchase price is $8.5 million, with a bonus of $2.5 million to be paid to RCC if FASNY obtains the necessary permits from the City of White Plains within three years. The closing is due to take place on January 20, 2011.

Thanks to prudent financial management and to generous gifts made by many members of our community over the years, the School has the money to execute this purchase. Retrofitting the existing building and constructing the new ones necessary to house the divisions that would eventually move to White Plains will be a multi-year process, depending on the time required to obtain the relevant permits and also to raise the necessary funds.

We anticipate at least two years before we can begin retrofitting the clubhouse. We would not have committed the School’s resources to this purchase if we were not confident of eventual success. This estimate is based on several considerations. As a school with an international reputation for its high quality, FASNY is an excellent buyer for this property, far more attractive than a condominium development or other similar alternatives. The School has always enhanced its surrounding communities, and we will take concrete measures to assure the White Plains authorities and the residents on all sides of the Ridgeway Country Club that we intend to act in the best interests of all stake-holders involved in this project. Finally, we have assembled a first-rate team of advisors, including our counsel, our architect, and our engineering and environmental consultants, who, while giving us a realistic assessment of the tasks and timing, also predict a successful outcome. All these considerations fill us with strong optimism.

However, the process of obtaining permits from a municipality for an ambitious, high visibility project like ours, especially in Westchester, is traditionally time-consuming, laborious and sometimes contentious. This one will likely be no different. There may also be times during the public review process when FASNY is characterized in the media in a way you do not recognize, and when our motives and plans are challenged. We promise you that FASNY will proceed at all times during this process with the integrity and openness which characterize our School. We will also endeavor to keep you informed throughout the process.

The capital needed for the development of this property will be raised from both debt financing and capital campaigns. We believe that we can obtain the necessary financing from lenders and trust that our community will answer the appeal to fund this project in an overwhelmingly positive manner. As it always has, the Board will endeavor to keep tuition costs affordable.

The move to our new home will necessarily take place in phases over a multi-year period. We hope that after obtaining the permits, raising money, and completing construction/renovation, we will be able to begin the first phase within three to five years. Decisions regarding subsequent phases of the move will depend on finances and other considerations. Predicting a precise timetable with concrete details is premature at this time. For the moment, we anticipate retaining a FASNY presence of some sort in Larchmont, for both historic and practical reasons. As the situation becomes clearer, we will of course keep the FASNY community informed and involved on a regular basis.

This purchase represents the essential first step in a qualitatively transformational development for FASNY. Much remains to be done over the coming weeks, months, and years. But owning land capable of housing our entire operation is a vital strategic breakthrough promising that the children and grandchildren of the students currently enrolled at the School, along with many who are here today, will eventually receive this marvelous education on a first-rate campus that belongs to us.

We take justifiable pride in our School’s history, values, and achievements. We can now envision a long-range future of perpetuating this FASNY legacy in the facilities our students, faculty, staff, and community deserve. We are delighted that the Annual State of the School Dinner coincides with the January 20 date for closing on the Ridgeway property, and we eagerly look forward to updating you then and throughout the exciting times that lie ahead.
With thanks in advance for your loyal support.
Mischa Zabotin Bob Leonhardt

Chair, Board of Trustees Head of School

Note: Since FASNY will not own the Ridgeway property until January 20, we ask that all members of our community restrain their understandable curiosity and refrain from visiting the club. The club members and board are entitled to have their privacy respected until the sale has been completed, and we should not disturb them. Thanks for your understanding.

Source: email from FASNY

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