WPCNR COUNTY CLARION-LEDGER. From the Westchester County Democratic Caucus. March 31, 2017:
After hearing from Astorino Administration officials and outside consultants, 8 Democrats on the Board of Legislators will not support the County Executive’s proposed ice skating rink project at Kensico Dam Plaza.
“The financial impact to taxpayers of this $24.7 million plus project is too high a price for Westchester County taxpayers to pay for a luxury item,” said Majority Leader Catherine Borgia (D-Ossining). “The County Executive’s most recent budgets have put our County’s financial and physical welfare in serious jeopardy.”
To date, various vital County needs which were included in the 2017 budget have been left unfunded.
“Each day our County roads continue to crumble while a massive backlog of capital projects grows, non-profits that thousands of Westchester taxpayers rely on for essential services have not received their contracts, and most of the police officers who were supposed to be hired have not been. In spite of all this, the County Executive is insisting that all of those priorities take a back seat to an ice rink.
We must be the adults in the room and show the difference between ‘nice to have’ and ‘need to have.’ This is the wrong move for Westchester County and we, as representatives sent here by the taxpayers, cannot in good conscience vote for it,” added Borgia.
“It was a struggle to get information on the project from the Administration and when we did it was clear the project had serious flaws. The County Executive’s handpicked consultants’ report said the County could expect an initial annual operating loss of approximately $400 thousand with varying levels of loss in perpetuity – and that is based on the best case attendance scenario,” said Legislator Ben Boykin (D-White Plains) “After preliminary projections of operating debt, the annual cost to the county per skater may range as high as $108, while the per-skater revenue will be closer to $14. With projected losses on a project that is financed through bonding and with repayment estimates ranging from 15 to 25 years, this rink is clearly not in best interests of Westchester taxpayers,” concluded Boykin.
“I am very happy we were able to save the County taxpayers from another of County Executive Astorino’s bad deals. Why would Westchester County decide to compete against itself in the ice skating business? Playland’s ice skating operation already has its own problems, this rink would only serve to exacerbate them while itself would be a money loser,” said Legislator Ken Jenkins (D-Yonkers).
“Westchester County has a host of more important priorities. We are slashing services every year, leaving our parks unpatrolled, and other capital projects like Sprain Ridge Pool are still left unfinished. Nearly $25M for a luxury ice rink is a bad deal for Westchester taxpayers,” added Jenkins.
“As with every development I reviewed this proposal based on a cost versus benefit analysis,” said Chairman Michael Kaplowitz (D-Somers) “In this case the cost is not commensurate to the benefit and so I can’t support the plan as currently proposed.”
A spokesman for the Democratic Caucus said 7 Democrats opposed the issue, along with Mr. Kaplowitz. The spokesman said that it was unlikely the rink proposal could come to a vote because 12 votes were needed for approval and if the 8 Democratics objecting held firm this would leave the County Executive proposal 4 votes short of approval.