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Hudson Valley News

Legoland Proposal For Goshen Is Unveiled Publicly

The public has gotten its first taste of what a planned Legoland New York would look like. The English company behind the proposed theme park for Orange County delivered a presentation Tuesday night to the Goshen Town Board and an overflow audience.

Merlin Entertainments is ready to invest half-a-billion dollars into the development of and first five years of Legoland New York, with plans to build on 123 acres of a 523-acre site off Route 17 in Goshen. Senior Divisional Director of Legoland Development John Ussher says he expects the community to have concerns about traffic, noise, and community fit and is optimistic such concerns can be allayed. Ussher says the low-key nature of Legoland does not create a lot of noise.

“We don’t have triple roller coasters with loops. We don’t have screaming teenagers. We don’t do rock concerts. We close at 8 o’clock,” says Ussher. “The ambient noise of highway 17 will be louder than Legoland.”

The proposed Legoland will be geared towards families with children ages 2 to 12. As for traffic, Usher says Route 17 does not require additional improvements and the sign for Legoland would be posted at Exit 124. Goshen Town Councilman George Lyons raised concerns.

“I just must say that I think it’s woefully inadequate what you’re proposing here,” says Lyons.

He adds:

“And I think a lot of these things can be mitigated. I’m not just throwing cold water on the whole project, but I think your traffic people really have to look at this very, very carefully,” Lyons says.

He also expressed concern about access for emergency vehicles. Ussher said the company would consider this. As for the few negative shout-outs from the audience during the presentation, Ussher says:

“We hope to have everybody as a fan of Legoland parks and the Lego brand,” says Ussher. “And we hope that through this open and transparent process that people come around to seeing the benefit of the park for the local area, for the village and for the town.”

Several supporters attended, including union members who stood holding letters that spelled out “Lego, yes.”  Ussher says the theme park, which would be the third Legoland in the U.S., joining parks in California and Florida, would create 800 construction jobs, along with 500 full-time, 300 part-time, and 500 seasonal jobs. Alan Faust, who is a Town of Goshen police officer, attended the presentation as a private citizen.

“I think it’s great for the community. I know it’s for children. It’s not going to be a lot of teenagers,” says Faust. “It can only help the community. They’ll work out some traffic issues, the tax revenue, it’ll be wonderful.”

Ussher says that if necessary approvals come though by January 2017, the Goshen site could be under construction by April 2017 and open two years later. He says while the 250-room Legoland hotel would be open year round, the theme park would be open from April 1 through the end of October.

Merlin’s selection of Goshen comes after months of scoping the Northeast for a site and having been rejected by the Town of Haverstraw in Rockland County. Ussher says Legoland needs town planning and zoning approval; water and sewer in the Village of Goshen; and county support for roads and infrastructure in partnership with the state. Plus, says Ussher:

“This project will not happen without state incentives and we’re working with the state very closely on that now,” says Ussher.

He says there is already $3 million in state incentives, but his company is looking for significantly more. Goshen resident Marilyn D’Andrea says she has mixed feelings, but sees adding jobs and economic development to the area as positives.

“So I don’t know. I’m leaning towards a yes on it but I’m still, like I said, processing it,” says D’Andrea. “I still feel there’s a lot of things they need to work out with the traffic.”

She does not want to see her commute go from nearly 10 minutes to 45 minutes.

“But my grandchildren, my five grandchildren, are jumping for joy over Legoland,” D’Andrea says.

Legoland New York would feature 50 rides, shows and attractions and eventually a Sea Life aquarium, but not a water park. Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus welcomes the prospect.

“I think that something like this is just a gem and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

He sees a lot of support for Legoland but also has a concern.

“There’s some concern. This is the first time people are seeing this in Goshen. So they’re concerned about traffic. That is literally my number-one concern is traffic, but that is their job to address it,” says Neuhaus. “And this project will not move forward until that is addressed properly, but I think that there’s a way to make it work.”

Ussher says Legoland would attract one-third tourists, one-third day trippers, and one-third local residents. He expects opening year attendance to be in line with other Legoland parks at between 1.5 and 2.5 million visitors. Kenneth Newbold is deputy town supervisor in Goshen.

“I want to hear what the residents feel about it. That’s who I work for. They don’t work for me, I work for them,” says Newbold. “They’ll let me know how they feel and that’s the way I’m going to vote.”

The presentation allowed for questions from town board members, not the public. Public input will be welcome later in the year, on a zoning change to local law and a draft environmental impact statement. A public open house is scheduled for July 7 to provide the community with an opportunity to see the proposed park’s preliminary design. Legoland also intends to open a storefront in Goshen.