By LIZ BUTTON
Even as county officials remain unsure whether they will receive federal funding from FEMA to repair the damage to Playland Park caused by October 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, repairs to the park’s Ice Casino are poised to proceed for a spring 2014 opening, officials said.
Along with massive damage to the park’s iconic boardwalk, Playland’s Ice Casino sustained severe damage to its roof and flooding in the basement, which destroyed the building’s boiler system. Bids for a construction company to repair the Ice Casino roof at the county-owned park were due July 24.
According to County Legislator Judy Myers, a Democrat whose jurisdiction includes the park, in addition to the roof damage, the upcoming contruction project will also include installing new dehumidifiers, which attach to the roof.
The project to repair the boilers was completed last month, said Myers.
David Simpson, communications manager and assistant to the county executive, said the bidding is not a public process, and when the bids for construction companies to repair the rink are received, they are forwarded to the relevant department where they are reviewed.
“This is a project that has more of a fast track than other ones,” said Simpson, who was given a sense of the project’s timetable by the county DPW. A construction company should be selected within the next two weeks and the Ice Casino should be completely repaired by mid-2014, in time for schools’ and teams’ hockey season in winter. The Ice Casino was originally projected to re-open in September 2013 for this year’s hockey season, but repairs were pushed out to this summer after bidding for construction companies had to be restarted in April.
After Playland sustained $12 million of damage from Hurricane Sandy, the county’s Republican administration came under fire from the Democratic-led Board of Legislators, some of whom argued the Ice Casino might have been able to open on time if the administration had reported damages earlier.
Board of Legislators chairman Ken Jenkins, a Democrat, said the Astorino administration did not report damages to the board until November 2012, an entire month after the storm hit. It took another month for them to submit a request for emergency bonding for repairs, which the Board of Legislators approved in January. However, in March, county attorney Robert Meehan subsequently determined that the construction contract to repair the damage was no longer within the emergency category because of a missed deadline, which caused the bids to be rescinded and the entire bidding process to be restarted.
Despite the delays cause by these complications, the county was ultimately able to execute repairs on the boardwalk ahead of schedule, opening significant portions to the public one day before the park’s official seasonal opening day on May 11.
The county is also currently in the process of outsourcing management of the park. At the July 23 signing of an asset management agreement with Sustainable Playland Inc., a Rye-based nonprofit organization, County Executive Rob Astorino said the county was waiting for FEMA money to repair the Ice Casino.
Geoff Thompson, SPI spokesperson, said that the not-for-profit company pairing up with the county is fully aware of what has to be done in terms of repairs.
“The reason it is very complicated and they are going to take a long time is the structure of the roof,” Thompson said. “The whole ceiling almost looks like a honeycomb made of different-shaped pieces of wood.”
Playland’s Whip ride has the same type of ceiling with the same classic architectural design, Thompson said. Because of the historic nature of the buildings, which is protected by the State Historic Preservation Office, workers will have to painstakingly restore that particular design, a geodesic dome, which is very intricate and uses many individual pieces of wood.
“It’s going to be a fascinating project,” said Legislator Myers. “They’ll have to build [the roof] onsite on the ground and then lift it into place,” a process she said will likely take place in the park’s fountain area.
As repairs continue, county officials are waiting to see whether they can expect funds from FEMA for the repairs, which were sent out separately for the boardwalk and Ice Casino apart from the rest of the park.
“We don’t know when that application is going to be answered or whether it will bear any fruit. But it’s not stopping the work from going ahead,” Simpson said.