WPCNR COUNTY CLARION-LEDGER. By John F. Bailey. July 23, 2013 UPDATED July 25, 2013:
Westchester County Executive Robert P. Astorino signed two contracts today (Asset Management Agreements) with the holding company, Sustainable Playland, and the Westchester Childrens Museum in a news conference at Playland, without disclosing terms of the agreements. Substantial changes to the park will not be made to the park in 2014, but will be delayed for a few years, Mr. Astorino said.
The Sustainable Playland contract in Mr. Astorino’s view makes final the choice of Sustainable Playland, pending approval by the County Board of Legislators of the Sustainable Playland “Park Improvement Plan,” by January 1.
That is the deadline that Mr. Astorino set for the legislature to act on whether or not they approve of the Sustainable Playland proposal. At that point, if the Sustainable plan, which Kim Morque, president of SPI., was in the process of being finalized and submitted to the Board of Legislators.
Astorino said if the Board did not act and approve the Park Improvement Plan , Sustrainable Playland has the right to walk away from the agreement, after January 1.
Mr. Morque, the Sustainable head, (above, center) answering a question from WPCNR at the news conference as to whether Playland would be open next year and when construction would start indicated the public should not expect too much. He did say that Sustainable has commitments of major financing from Playland Sports who will build the field house; American Skating who will run the ice casino, Central Amusements International (one of the original responders seeking to run the park, in addition to Sustainable Playland.) To his right is Corinne Zola, President of Westchester Childrens Museum and, to Mr. Morque’s left, County Executive Robert P. Astorino.
Marque, responding to when work would start said, “The plan will be submitted within 30 days. It’s a plan that will also evolve. I think there’s perception on the part of the public that on October 1 bulldozers would show up for work, and that’s not the case. We’re going to be very sensitive. We understand the importance of the amusement park components and keeping a vibrant amusement park so that it’s a great amusement park on a seasonal basis and we think we can do that. We need more open space and a better integration. So we’re excited about it and will be submitting it within 30 days.”
Mr. Astorino, sounding pained, added, “I think that’s a good point. This is…come May of next year will not be a brand-new park This will evolve over several years. People will start to see the park being freshened up, new plantings, painting– all the historical aspect of this will stay. That was very important to all of us. Playland since 1928 has been an art deco feature and that’s what we want to continue. That’s what the public expects. But that doesn’t mean things can’t improve. And they must improve. The public will see some changes, but in the years to come you’ll start seeing bigger and better things happen here: The beginnings of the great lawn, moving things around a bit, maybe some of the oudoor fields. But things take time. I think the important thing is to get the management team in here the professionals in here where they can start making improvements and the county starts making some money so the taxpayers get some relief. That would be the first step. You’ll see some visible signs next year, but as we progress you’ll start to see more and more things, including restaurants being added, some new rides coming in, field house those are the kind of things that will take time.”
Astorino disclosed for the first time that the Playland Ice Casino repairs would not be completed until July of next year, meaning a another dark year for the rink. Astorino said bids for the repair would be opened this week. George Oros a member of the Astorino staff said it was due to the fact the funding was being reimbursed by federal disaster money that has taken months for the county to ascertain whether its availble. Last January the county had decided to go ahead with repairs and hope for reimbursement.
On Thursday, asked for a statement on why it has taken 7 months for the bid process to be completed and work not started, Deputy Communications Director, Donna Greene issued this statement:
“As far as why it took so long, this kind of process always takes time, the design, writing bid specs, advertising, etc.”
Greene said there was no decision on the winning bid as of late yesterday afternoon.
Kenneth Jenkins, the Chairman of the Board of Legislators, told WPCNR in an interview after the conference that the Board would not be rushed into a fast approval of the Park Improvement Plan by January 1. He vowed not to drop his lawsuit, a request for a summary judgment as to whether the County Executive entering into a 10 year licensing agreement was legal without Board of Legislators approval. He also said he was disturbed that today was the first time the administration had informed of the delay in the rink repair. Jenkins speculated the administration delayed the repairs so the skating vendor chosen by Sustainable Playland could execute the repairs the way they wanted.
He also said he liked that Central Amusements International was the Sustainable choice to do the amusement park portion of the park. Jenkins also said the Board had not received copies of the new contracts and had no idea of the financials as to how Sustainable sees their version of the park making money, what rides fees and attractions fees would be and the financial commitments of the backers.
Jenkins said Sustainable had no money of its own to invest, describing them as “a holding company” with the cost of the $34 Million coming from their “partners.” Jenkins said it was his understanding that if Sustainable does not make the money expected, the county gets nothing, and loses $15 Million a year in revenue which the park makes now.
The Children’s Museum Exective Director, Tracy Kay, told WPCNR The Childrens Museum whose contract was also signed today said the museum expected to financer some $10 Million in construction costs against fund-raising leverage to get construction started soon Kay said the museum would install $6.1 Million of heating ventilation and air conditioning equipment plus $3.8 Million for interior attractions in the museum.