Gedney Farms Neighborhood is Rocked by Potential Sale of the Ridgeway Golf Club

Hartsdale NY - East Hartsdale Ave
Hartsdale NY – Housing and Market Statistics for First Quarter 2009
May 13, 2009
Village Views - Scarsdale NY 10583
Scarsdale NY – Housing and Market Statistics for First Quarter 2009
May 24, 2009

These days when New Yorkers think of White Plains NY, they think of high-rise luxury living at the Ritz Carlton or Trump Tower. However, White Plains has a softer more residential side concentrated at the southern end of the city. The dichotomy between the residential and urban ends of the city is actually quite politically charged. Locals often describe these conflicts as “north end” vs. “south end.”

Gedney Farms is one of the premier high-end single-family neighborhoods at the southern tip of the city. The lots are large – generally over over a third of an acre. The homes are elegant and graceful with many striking pre-war Tudors and Colonials gracing the winding streets. Dominating the scene are golf course views enjoyed by many residents – courtesy of the Ridgeway Golf Club. The neighborhood of Gedney Farms was rocked by the news that the golf course views that are such a dominating feature of the neighborhood might be a mere memory in a few years.

History of the Ridgeway Golf Course and Current Status:

The Golf course itself has been around since 1914 and was initially part of the famous Gedney Farms Hotel which burned down in 1924. The golf course was taken over by Ridgeway about 60 years ago. This recession has known no economic barrier and some Country Clubs have been hit hard. Ridgeway has been no exception. At an open meeting of Gedney residents on May 6, Henry Shyer, the president of the Ridgeway golf club laid the shaky finances of the golf club on the line. They need 65 new members at $15,000 a year to make up their budget shortfall.While seeking new membership, the 114 acre golf course has also been put on the market for $20 million. A provision of the sale is that the golf course remain a golf course for the next five years.

White Plains NY – the land of white fog…

Beyond the aesthetics to the neighborhood and the loss of open space, lies the issue of whether the land is buildable to begin with. The Indians apparently named White Plains for the white mists that rose from the ground. The fact is that White Plains is largely built on swampy wetlands. High water tables prevail throughout the city. The Gedney area is no exception and much of the golf course lies on low ground. I grew up in Gedney in home that had a golf course view and having spent my childhood taking walks on that marshy land, I can attest to the fact that most of it is wetlands. After major rain storms temporary “lakes.” would form and attracting a few geese, ducks and of course kids. Many estimate that most of the land under consideration is indeed wetlands so the question arises as to how much – if any – of this large parcel can or should be developed. The golf course floods regularly and much of it – if not most of it is undoubtedly wetlands.

Flooding in “downstream towns” such as Mamaroneck complicates the issue…

Mayor Kathleen Savolt of Mamaroneck has already put the interests of the nearest neighboring town on the line. Mamaroneck has had severe flooding issues in the past and the fact is that several tributaries of the Mamaroneck river run under the golf course. In a letter to the Journal News she described the effects on Mamaroneck as potentially “devastating,” stating that the flooding issue is a regional issue – requiring regional solutions. “The people who live and work in the Village of Mamaroneck beg everyone involved to always keep the bigger picture in mind and do what you can to preserve the open land and control excess storm water and flooding.”

The Westchester Land Trust sees four possible ways to save the golf course from major development…

Tom Anderson of the Westchester Land Trust attended the meeting and saw four ways that the golf course might be saved from development: The comments in italics are from Mr. Anderson, the commentary below is my own.

  1. The city could rezone the entire area as a recreational zone. The Town of Mamaroneck accomplished something similar with the Bonnie Briar Country Club. Unfortunately, the current administration has an abysmal record where it comes to open space preservation – so such an act would probably require a new mayor and new administration.
  2. Either the city or the county could purchase the golf course and run it as a public course. Neither the county or the city seem to have any inclination to take on running a large golf course. Golf courses are expensive to run and in the face of a sea of red ink – this is not a likely prospect. The commissioner of planning for Westchester is already on record as saying he is not interested in operating another golf course. White Plains has said point-blank that it doesn’t have the funds. Whether either entity would consider preserving the land as public open space is another issue. Once again, I have to sight the current Administration’s dreadful record on these issues. The County, however, might be more open to such a discussion.
  3. The Land Trust could negotiate a purchase of the development rights. A definite possibility that Gedney residents and White Plains residents in general should climb on board and support.
  4. The city could negotiate with the developer that purchases the golf club to create a conservation type development that spares most of the land. Mr. Anderson added that the Land Trust had been successful in the past with such negotiations. Although the current administration has been largely unresponsive to open space issues – this is an election year and we can hope that whoever is elected will be more environmentally sensitive to the issues of overbuilding and the impact of flooding issues in White Plains as well as Mamaroneck and Scarsdale which are “downstream” of us.

The White Plains Gedney Association isn’t waiting for outside help…

Robert Stackpole, who recently ran for city council is heading up a sub-committe to that will examine all of the options and attempt to save the golf course from development. Collectively, Gedney residents carry considerable clout at the local level. Despite the fact that “south-end” issues have largely been ignored by the current administration, an election year may pose an opportunity to bring those issues to the forefront. This sub-committee should be taken very seriously by all mayoral and council candidates.

Large development can be healthy for a city, but urban areas require BALANCE. The current administration has not done a good job in this area. They’ve ignored the need for open space, they’ve ignored the flooding issues and have catered to development that will bring in the bucks. A good place to start restoring said balance could be in preserving the Ridgeway golf course as open space. Maybe not as a golf course, but as open land that can be enjoyed by the public while it acts like a sponge for the serious water issues White Plains and neighboring communities face.


Ridgeway Golf Course White Plains - Robinhood Rd.

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