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Ferncliff Manor Looking At Site Outside Greenburgh

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Ferncliff Manor has agreed to look into a site more suitable than Greenburgh's WestHELP property for its expansion.

The Westchester County Board of Legislators met with representatives from Ferncliff Manor on Tuesday to discuss whether the Grasslands Reservation would work for its new facility. Ferncliff Manor , based in Yonkers, is a private residential school for children with severe developmental disabilities.

Ferncliff representative Benjamin Zellermeir presented a list of the site's potential issues to County Legislator Alfreda Williams, who represents Greenburgh on the board. The site's construction costs and the property's size were two of Ferncliff's main concerns about the Valhalla property that lies adjacent to the Westchester Medical Center.

"What we need to do is put together a project that satisfies our need for a new campus, containing the cost as best as possible," Ferncliff representative Ed Davidson said.

Ferncliff had originally responded to lease the WestHELP property in Greenburgh, but a county law states that the site can only be used for affordable housing programs. County Executive Rob Astorino submitted a proposal to amend that law Monday. However, county legislators have said they will stay committed to keeping the WestHELP property open for affordable housing.

Davidson told Williams that, because there are already usable facilities on the WestHELP site, it would cost Ferncliff an estimated 30 percent more to build on the Grasslands site. Davidson's "ballpark number" for the WestHELP site is already set between $17.5 million and $22 million.

Were Ferncliff to use Grasslands, they'd need to send an estimate to the state education department to reimburse the construction costs.

"We understand our rates are going to go up, but we cant have them go up like $50 a day," Davidson said. "There's going to be some sort of balancing act."

The Ferncliff representatives said the facility might be able to compensate by adding more residents to its program, but it also would need to expand its residential buildings. The county will need to provide total acreage and the site's available utilities before the project goes any further.

The county board agreed to provide the site's parameters to Ferncliff by Oct. 5.

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