Playland in Rye, NY could become a $200 million Legoland, a renewed version of its current self or a large seaside public park with less focus on amusement rides and games.
About 200 people concerned about which one of these visions will become reality attended a public information session hosted by the Westchester County Board of Legislators (BOL) last week.
During the Feb. 13 session, four groups the BOL has chosen as finalists presented their proposals for the 280-acre, 85-year-old park (read summaries below.)
The county has also hired a law firm to conduct an audit of current operations and of the proposals, said Legislator Catherine Borgia (D-Ossining), chair of the Government Operations Committee.
Democratic members of the BOL say they will need to make the final decision on which group the county will sign a management agreement with and wanted to include the public in the process.
However, County Executive Rob Astorino says he does not need BOL approval and has already been working on an agreement with Sustainable Playland Inc., a non-profit organization he chose in October 2012 without consulting the BOL on the final decision.
SPI is one of the four finalists the BOL chose and SPI supporters made up about one-third of Wednesday night’s crowd and took advantage of the information session to demonstrate their support by carrying “Support SPI” signs.
The other two-thirds of the crowd were not supporting any one group, but were there to learn more and ask questions. Many of the questions fielded by the representatives of the four proposals dealt with economic viability, maintaining Playland’s amusement offerings, environmental protections, public access and projected attendance figures. You can view the four proposals here.
A group of about 15 Playland employees and members of the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) Local 9200 applauded the presenters who said they would keep all employees at Playland and add more jobs as well (each of the four groups intend to add jobs).
The union members understand they will need to deal with whatever the county decides, but do not feel that any grand proposal is necessarily the best, according to a 32-year Playland employee who wished to remain anonymous because of his job with the county.
“We want it to stay the way it is,” he said, adding that the county needs new management for Playland, but does not necessarily need to turn management over to a new company or organization.
“We have a lot of time invested and we know what Playland could and should be…we talk about it all the time,” he said of his co-workers. He explained that the park is struggling, some concessions have left and it has been difficult for the county to get new ones while the park is in a state of flux.
Of the four plans, the Playland worker said he felt Standard Amusements and Central Amusements were the two that would revitalize and improve Playland without changing its current traditional amusement park character.
“SPI would cut it in half and it would be just a park. Families in New Rochelle, Yonkers and up north won’t come to just walk around a park,” he said.
County Legislator Alfreda Williams (D-Greenburgh) chatted with the employee for a while about Playland’s history and shared some of his sentiments.
“The iconic nature of the park is that it is an amusement park,” Williams said. “If the people who live around the park don’t like it and don’t like who is coming to the park then why did they move near it?” Playland has been open for the last 85 years.
Williams questioned how plans like SPI would make money for the park.
“I am interested in the tax payers getting top notch for their dollars and we want a safe, clean and up-to-date park.”
The BOL Government Operations Committee will continue to discuss the four proposals and plans to meet with the county administration, Borgia said.
“I’m very pleased that so many people turned out for this information session,” Borgia said. “It was important for our evaluation process to give members of the public an opportunity to see the four proposals side by side and discern the differences between them. That’s the level of openness and transparency to the decision-making process regarding the future of Playland rightfully deserves.”
Borgia and democratic legislators maintain that they will need to provide the final approval in order for a management agreement to be signed.
Astorino’s office has said that only the County Board of Acquisitions and Contract must approve the agreement, not the entire BOL.
In today’s meeting of the County’s Acquisition and Contract Board, BOL Chairman Jenkins (D-Yonkers) provided for the record prior legislation showing that in 1980 the BOL had approved the management agreement with Marriott to operate Playland.
Read summaries of each of the four proposals below. Links to each of the Playland proposal presentation can be found on the Government Operations Committee page on the BOL website: http://westchesterlegislators.com/committees.html?id=2029
Central Amusements International
Central Amusements International wants to “Keep Playland Fun.” Their plan would offer free admission, interactive rides, balloon rides, a water playground, adventure golf, a children’s’ entertainment center in the south bathhouse and food service by CulinArts that has healthy offerings. They would spend $26,418,000 over the first five years and designate five percent of revenue to historic preservation of the park .
Visit keepitplayland.com for more and view their presentation here.
Standard Amusements emphasized they have cash on hand to fund their proposal, which is a $25 million investment, and that they are “not looking to radically alter the park.”
“It needs to be cleaned up so it is a place people actually want to go,” said Nick Singer, president of Standard General firm in New York City, which would pay for the project. “We want to restore it to its former grandeur,” Singer said. Standard would offer traditional games, three new rides, a water park, an enhanced focus on safety and security and high quality food. They would also add four play fields in the back parking lot and keep all current employees, Singer said. Standard would develop seasonally themed shows geared towards children for the off season holidays like Thanksgiving and winter.
View their presentation here.
Legoland would be geared exclusively towards two to 12 year old children and is the company proposing to spend the most money on the park, around $150 to 200 million. Lego themed parks are focused on fun and education for the children.
View their presentation here.
Sustainable Playland Inc. (SPI)
SPI’s plan is to create a “seaside public park to provide clean wholesome recreation for the public.” They are focused on a large park plan with an amusement park in it, rather than a plan to run an amusement park. They would operate with a “portfolio model,” where different operators for various park zones would bring their own capitol and be responsible for their own success. The various sections would include four playing fields in the back parking lot, a beach and water park, a great lawn (open space), the Ice Casino, the amusement zone, and event and restaurant space.
View their presentation here.