By CHRIS EBERHART
Westchester County Legislator Ken Jenkins, a Yonkers Democrat, recently introduced legislation in a memo that would create a 10-year lease with Central Amusements, Inc., and Standard Amusements, LLC to manage Rye Playland, but the president of Central Amusements said the company has no interest in teaming up with a competitor.
“I want to run Playland by myself,” Vallerio Ferrari, president of Central Amusements, told the Review in a recent interview. “We have enough money to run it without any help. We’ve invested over $40 million in Coney Island over the last five years, and we can do whatever is necessary in Rye Playland.”
Both Central Amusements and Standard Amusements sent proposals to the county in 2011 to renovate Playland, but finished as runners-up during the selection process to the Rye-based nonprofit Sustainable Playland, Inc.
On July 23, 2013, SPI and County Executive Rob Astorino, a Republican, signed a 10-year asset management agreement that officially allowed SPI to run and renovate the iconic amusement park. But a landslide of obstacles—including a Jenkins lawsuit challenging the validity of the asset management agreement, a turf war with the City of Rye over jurisdiction, backlash from the amusement park’s neighbors and criticism from the Board of Legislators—blocked SPI from carrying out its vision and led the group to withdraw its proposal on June 11, 2014.
With SPI’s collapse, Westchester County will continue to operate and manage Playland while the search for a new operator to take over the amusement park continues.
But that search has led the county executive and the Democratic-led Board of Legislators down parallel tracks since SPI withdrew.
On June 11, Astorino hired Dan Biederman, a renowned developer known largely for his redevelopment of Bryant Park in New York City, as a consultant to review the park in its current configuration and produce a report in November on how to best utilize the amusement park and surrounding space. Biederman was part of the original SPI team but became too expensive for a citizen, non-profit organization to retain.
But the Board of Legislators said it won’t wait for Biederman’s report to do its own due diligence. Instead, the board has opted to reengage Central Amusements, who was picked by SPI to run the “amusement zone,” or the amusement park portion of SPI’s plan, and Standard Amusements in a review process of their respective proposals to renovate Playland. That review is expected to begin starting Sept. 4.
Jenkins then took things a step further and introduced new a bill memo at the Aug. 4 Board of Legislators meeting that would lease Playland for 10 years to a partnership comprised of Central Amusements and Standard Amusements.
“Central Amusements, Inc., was selected by the administration to run the ‘amusement zone.’ Standard Amusements provided documentation to support their $25 million investment. This proposed law would wrap the best of both proposals to develop a lease agreement that would be in the best interests of the county,” Jenkins wrote in his memorandum of legislation.
In response to Vallerio’s comments, Jenkins said it would be better for the county if the two companies joined a partnership, but if they can’t agree then they can “give their dog and pony show on Sept.4 and we’ll go with either
vendor A or B.”
His proposal was held over to the Sept. 8 County Board of Legislators meeting by John Testa, a Peekskill Republican, who called Jenkins’s proposal “a waste of time.”
“It’s political theater,” Testa said. “This is just a memo with no basis. It’s a way to muddy the waters and delay a reasonable resolution to the Playland issue.”
Jenkins disagreed, saying, “None of this is political theater. We have to get a deal in place, and we would’ve had a deal if the county executive didn’t hire this fictitious
group [SPI] with no financial backing.”
Playland’s 2014 operational year comes to a close on Sept. 1 without changes, but Vallerio said further delays at the county level in resolving the Playland saga could threaten the 2015 year.
“We needed to know yesterday,” Vallerio said. “We’ve been working on [Playland’s proposal] since 2010, and we have new ideas and new rides, but if we find out [Central Amusements will be running Playland] in the spring we won’t have time to make changes.”
Calls to Standard Amu-sements seeking comment were not returned as of press time.