Withdrawal of Sustainable Playland Proposal Surprises County Legislators. Legislator Approval of Consultant, Suggested Ice Rink Operator are needed

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WPCNR has learned from Matt Richter, spokesperson for the Chair of the Westchester County Board of Legislators, Mike Kaplowitz, that the County Board of Legislators was not expecting that Sustainable Playland would withdraw its plan from the Playland Review Process today.

Richter said with Sustainable Playland making a request to cancel Monday’s Playland Review meeting, (announced by Majority Leader of the Board of Legislators, Catherine Borgia on WVOX Radio Tuesday morning), legislators felt Sustainable would be continuing the process of review when it was ready.

Asked if the County Board would have to approve contracts with Biederman Redevelopment Ventures to consult and recommend most profitable practices after observing Playland 2014 operations, Mr. Richter said the board would have to approve the contract the payments and terms of the arrangement with Dan Biederman.

The terms under which  Biederman would be engaged were not announced in County Executive Robert Astorino’s news release defining the Sustainable Playland new role as fundraiser for Playland, and Biederman being brought on as a consultant and analyst of Playland operations.

Richter told WPCNR  to his knowledge Sustainable Playland would not be paid to raise funds for Playland, that they would be operating on their own and contributing to Playland as they wished.

Suggested terms of a contract with American Skating Entertainment Centers, the organization that runs Westchester Skating Academy in Elmsford, to run the Playland Ice Casino were announced in the County Executive press release (see previous WPCNR story). That contract, too would need Board of Legislators’s approval, Richter said.

Various legislators have reacted to Mr. Astorino’s announcement early this afternoon:

Westchester Legislator Pete Harckham (D-North Salem), chair of the Westchester County Board of Legislators’ Labor, Parks, Planning & Housing Committee and Orchestrator of the Playland Review reacted to Mr. Astorino’s announcement:

“While the withdrawal of SPI’s Playland Improvement Plan from consideration certainly represents a setback for the goal of revitalizing Playland, it does afford the Administration and new consultant an opportunity to move forward with the lessons learned from this process: the amusement park must remain the focal point; the impacts to the environment and the neighboring community must be thoroughly vetted and the numbers need to add up and be realistic.

“In the meantime, the Board of Legislators’ Committee on Labor, Parks, Housing & Planning will focus on making Playland as successful as it can be for this season. It is an iconic destination and there is no reason for people not to flock to the park this year.”

MaryJane Shimsky (D-Hastings-on-Hudson), chair of the Westchester County Board of Legislators’ Infrastructure Committee issued this statement to media:

“For me, the main test of any entity seeking to operate Playland is its ability to make a success of the County’s amusement park operation.  It has been clear for some time the SPI lacked the expertise, the resources and the desire to do so.  Therefore, I am relieved that SPI has been assigned a more appropriate role in Playland’s future.

“However, I am deeply concerned that the  (Robert Astorino) Administration seems more interested in buying time than in helping the park.  There are already two vendors with amusement park experience that answered the Playland RFP, and both are still interested in operating the park.  Immediately negotiating with one or both of these entities would make much more sense than wasting time and taxpayer dollars on a consultant.  It is also the only way to make improvements to the park before the 2015 season.

“Moreover, I am concerned about the continued use of Mr. Biederman, who will need to translate his experience—which to date has been focused on dismantling the amusement park—to helping provide the amusement park a path to success. These and other concerns about Mr. Biederman’s continued involvement need to be addressed as quickly as possible, in an open meeting of the appropriate legislative committee.

“Most Westchester residents want a successful amusement park at Playland. The filled-to-capacity parking lot on Memorial Day weekend testifies to the continued potential of an amusement park at the site—even an amusement park that has been so starved of resources for so long.

“If the County Executive truly wants what most Westchester residents want—a successful amusement park at Playland—he would begin negotiations with Central Amusements and Standard Amusements without delay.”

Legislator Catherine Parker (D-Rye), chair of the Westchester County Board of Legislators’ Environment & Energy Committee:

“I have long admired the work of Dan Biederman in revitalizing public space and parks in New York City. However, I certainly hope Mr. Biederman does not resurrect the notion of a field house among his recommendations for Playland. The community has shown that to be a non-starter.

I encourage Mr. Biederman to avail himself of the plentiful opinions in Rye and incorporate the concerns of our residents and others into his vision. I want to believe that this new turn of events will not end up prolonging the uncertainty over how to revitalize Playland, but each day that passes without a good plan in place diminishes the possibility of a fresh start at Playland for 2015.”



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