Playland review to resume

The Westchester County Board of Legislators will review Standard Amusements’ and Central Amusements’ renovation proposals for Rye Playland in the wake of Sustainable Playland Inc.’s withdrawal from the county’s review process. File photo

The Westchester County Board of Legislators will review Standard Amusements’ and Central Amusements’ renovation proposals for Rye Playland in the wake of Sustainable Playland Inc.’s withdrawal from the county’s review process. File photo

By CHRIS EBERHART
The Westchester County Board of Legislators will not await the conclusion of a county administration-hired outside consultant’s recommendations for Playland—scheduled to be completed in November—before continuing its vetting process.

Instead, the 17-member legislative board has opted to re-engage the other top two applicants in the initial review process of proposals submitted to the county that were aimed at reinventing the Westchester-owned amusement park.

Standard Amusements, LLC, and Central Amusements, Inc., both runner-ups in the original selection process, will be before a legislators’ subcommittee starting on Sept. 4, according to the Board of Legislators.

County Legislator Peter Ha-
rckham, a North Salem Democrat, said the goal of the Board of Legislators is to have a park operator for the 2015 season, which is why they aren’t waiting for the consultant’s November report.

County Executive Rob Astorino, a Republican, announced on June 11 he 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 construct and offer a report on how to best utilize the amusement park and surrounding space.

Biederman is receiving $20,000 a month from July to November, according to Ned McCormack, Astor-
ino’s spokesman.

“We don’t want to see another season go by without an operator, and we don’t want to see the park continue to deteriorate,” Harckham said. “We want to see a renewed energy in Playland…It has been five years since the county executive said he was going to revitalize the park, and we can’t wait any longer.”

Both Standard Amusements’ and Central Amusements’ proposals will be referred to the Board of Legislators subcommittee Labor, Parks, Planning and Housing Committee, which previously reviewed the Astorino-tapped Sustainable Playland Inc.’s plan to redevelop the park into a year-round attraction. The Rye-based nonprofit was chosen by Astorino in 2011 to modernize Playland and move the historic amusement park into the 21st century.

The group was awarded the authority to operate the park through a 10-year asset management agreement with the county.

But a bevy of obstacles quickly arose, including a legislator’s lawsuit challenging the validity of the agreement between SPI and Astorino, a turf war with the City of Rye over jurisdictional issues, backlash from neighbors of the park and criticism from the Board of Legislators. These factors led to SPI’s withdrawal on June 11, 2014.

When SPI dropped out, Astorino turned to Biederman, McCormack said in a recent interview with the Review the idea is still to turn Playland into a year-round destination, versus the current summer month operation. Biederman will be reviewing the park’s day-to-day operations to see what alterations can be made to facilitate that goal.

Harckham, who chairs the parks committee, said the Board of Legislators is open to the idea of making Playland a year-round destination, but it has to be done in a way that’s respectful to the local municipality.

According to Harckham, the parks committee’s meetings will not be scheduled solely for Playland like they were during SPI’s vetting process, but instead will take place as needed, meaning there is no concrete timeline for meetings moving forward.

He said there will most likely be a meeting with Central Amusements and Standard Amusements, a meeting with Biederman and a meeting with the Rye neighbors to see what each party envisions for Playland.

“The plan is to continue to do our due diligence, research and continue discussions with stakeholders,” Harckham said. “We want to work collaboratively with Biederman and the county executive to decide what’s best for Playland.”

Harckham said the legislators are just gathering information at this point and there is no deadline to make a decision on who to select to operate Playland. He said he doesn’t envision concrete action happening any time soon.

McCormack could not be reached for comment as of press time.

CONTACT: christopher@hometwn.com