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An Historic Moment for Playland

When Playland opens for its 88th season this weekend, the weather may not be as welcoming as the news was from the Westchester County Board of Legislators earlier in the week. On May 2, the Board voted 13-4 to approve a long-sought public-private partnership for the County-owned amusement park.

 

By Robin Jovanovich

 

When Playland opens for its 88th season this weekend, the weather may not be as welcoming as the news was from the Westchester County Board of Legislators earlier in the week. On May 2, the Board voted 13-4 to approve a long-sought public-private partnership for the County-owned amusement park.

 

Standard Amusement signed a 30-year management agreement with the County, and agreed to invest $30 million in the park over time. The contract calls for Standard to spend $5 million of the amount before the start of the 2017 season, $3 million of which is slated for new ride attractions, and the remaining $27 million within the first five years. Standard also agreed to make annual payments to the County starting at $300,000 and escalating 2% a year.

 

The County plays as big a role in the Park’s future. Under the terms of the contract, it agreed to authorize $32 million in bonds to repair the aged infrastructure. Among the 11 capital projects are rides, gaming and concession improvements, and shoreline rehabilitation.

 

County Executive Rob Astorino, who, six years ago, sent out a Request for Proposals to reinvent and ensure a long-term future for the 1928 park, thanked the Board of Legislators and Nicholas Singer, a partner in Standard, for their hard work in brokering a deal.

 

“Six years ago we started with a blank piece of paper for how to save Playland,” Astorino said. “Now we are taking a historic step forward. The capital, the operator, and the vision are in place to protect both taxpayers and the Dragon Coaster for years to come.”

 

Singer in turn thanked County Executive Astorino and the Board of Legislators for their vote of confidence and their partnership throughout the process. “This is a wonderful day for Westchester,” said the Harrison native.

 

Among the no voters on the 17-member Board was District 7 Legislator Catherine Parker (Rye, Mamaroneck, Larchmont, parts of New Rochelle and Harrison), whom the previous week hosted a community forum at Rye City Hall. Before inviting the public to share their final thoughts before Monday’s vote, she explained that she would not vote for its approval. Many of the Rye and neighboring residents in the Council Room expressed strong concerns about the terms of the deal, stating their view that Playland didn’t need to be turned over to a new operator as the park made money last year and attendance was up.

 

The 2015 financial information we received from the County Executive’s office this week states that revenue was $10,690,643 against expenses of $12,501,527. Of the total expense, the debt service and interest was $2,776,544. The loss or cost to taxpayers was made up by a tax levy of $1,810,844.

 

Attendance was 529,985 in 2015. According to County records, the number of visitors was 1,000,000 in 2005.

 

After the vote Legislator Parker stated, “I believe turning over the keys to one of our County’s most valuable assets without any avenue of accountability is a mistake that will cost us in the long run.  But I believe the bonds we’ve passed tonight are a strong step in the direction of saving Playland.”

 

When Playland opens for the season on Saturday, many are counting on a wonderful day for Westchester, and the beginning of a long and smooth restorative ride for the park.

 


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