By CHRIS EBERHART
Sustainable Playland, Inc., the Rye-based nonprofit chosen by the county administration to renovate Rye Playland, announced a reduction in the size of its controversial proposed field house by 12,500 square-feet and a reduction in the footprint of the field zone by 50 percent in an effort to appease the amusement park’s protesting neighbors at a Tuesday meeting in White Plains.
But Rye City Mayor Joe Sack, a Republican, said the reduction is not going to resolve the issues brought forward by residents of his city.
SPI’s proposal calls for the field house, which is the essential, money-making part of the overall plan to redevelop the park, to be built in Playland’s parking lot, which is also a FEMA-designated flood zone, and be located just yards away from a residential Rye neighborhood. Residents around the amusement park say the overflow of floodwaters and traffic will pour into their streets.
But the most scrutinized aspect of SPI’s proposal is the size of the field house, which has fluctuated since SPI responded to Republican County Executive Rob Astorino’s request for proposals to alter the park in early 2011.
Astorino first took office in 2010 and quickly identified revitalizing Playland as a priority of his administration.
Originally, the size of the field house was proposed at 72,000 square-feet, according to SPI’s RFP response in March 2011. The project then jumped to 95,000 square-feet to make it “economically feasible,” according to SPI spokesperson Geoff Thompson.
However, Thompson was never able to confirm when the jump in proposed size was made.
Over the past week, the number changed again, but this time the size was reduced to meet the demands of the neighbors, according to SPI officials.
On March 10, SPI submitted an amendment to its Playland Improvement Plan, which details SPI’s renovation proposals to the county. The plan calls for a downscaling of the field house from 95,000 square-feet to 82,500 square-feet with an overall reduction of the field zone by more than 50 percent from 10.16 acres to 4.86 acres.
That’s where SPI drew the line in the sand.
“I want to reiterate; [82,500 square-feet] is the minimum size we can go in order for the field house to be economically feasible,” Thompson said.
By reducing the field zone’s footprint, SPI was able to address the lack-of-parking criticism leveled by the park’s neighbors by adding 100 more spaces to the main Playland parking lot, which will replace an access road for park maintenance between the proposed site of the field zone and the maintenance sheds, which brings the total number of parking spots to 1,460 in the main lot, according to the updated plan, provided by SPI.
With the additional 100 spaces, there still remains a loss of approximately 34 percent of the existing parking spaces in the main lot if the proposed field house comes to fruition.
“SPI has made a lot of changes in response to public complaints, which are all legit,” Thompson said. “The plan is fluid and ever-changing, but the overall vision has not changed.”
Sack isn’t convinced reducing the size of the field house or the field zone will remedy the issues of flooding and traffic overflow area neighbors have raised.
“I look forward to seeing the revised plan, but the truth is that the size of it is still such that the same questions remain in terms of the possible environmental impacts,” Sack said.
Rye resident Mack Cunningham, a former Rye City councilman who has been an outspoken opponent of the field house, said the reduction will actually create more issues for the park’s neighbors because of the location of the added parking spots.
“The changes raise safety issues with the drop-off at the outdoor fields and pedestrians moving from the field house to the outdoor field zones,” Cunningham said. “This will also further quality of life issues [for Playland’s neighbors] because parents will want to avoid the field zone congestion and drop their kids at the Sanford [Street] and Roosevelt [Avenue] gate entrance.” Cunningham said this will increase traffic and illegal parking in the Rye neighborhood abutting the amusement park.
Despite the reduction, Sack said the Rye City Council is taking steps to address the field house. It has hired law firm Arnold and Potter at a starting amount of $10,000. Sack said Arnold and Potter will comb through the PIP and look into finding a way to have the city’s interests recognized and look at legal issues related to the city’s interests.
“We would like to ensure that we’re doing everything we can do to handle the matter and handle it appropriately,” Sack said.
-With reporting by Liz Button