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Westchester County Legislators Approve Revised Agreement For Playland

(Rye) Playland Park
Courtesy of Playland Park

The Westchester County Board of Legislators has approved a bankruptcy court settlement regarding the management of Playland. Legislators who support the revised agreement say it not only leaves the county amusement park in Westchester’s hands, but improves county controls and financial terms.

The approved agreement will replace a 2016 agreement reached under then Republican Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino. Westchester Budget and Appropriations Chair Democrat Catherine Borgia:

“This is not a situation where we’re deciding for the first time what to do with Playland,” Borgia says. “This is a, is this contract better than the contract negotiated by the Astorino administration.”

She and several other legislators believe the revised contract is much better, though not ideal. The 17-member Board of Legislators has 16 Democrats and one Conservative. Democratic Legislator Nancy Barr chairs the Law and Major Contracts Committee and calls Playland a crown jewel in the county parks department. She says the agreement gives the county significantly improved terms compared with the 2016 agreement, which had become the subject of the dispute in Standard Amusement's bankruptcy reorganization filing. Under the settlement, Standard Amusements will operate Westchester County-owned Playland in Rye. Barr outlines portions of the revised contract.

“Increased oversight over Standard’s operation of the park, controls that were not in the 2016 agreement, including the power to approve Standard’s construction plans, new rides, new and more financial reporting requirements for Standard and county approval of an annual operating plan for the park,” says Barr. “There are also better financial terms for the county. There are additional protections for the county’s workers. There’s a promise to use union workers for major construction. All of this is new.”

Legislator Catherine Parker is one of four legislators, all Democrats, who voted against the new agreement.

“This is rushed,” Parker says. “We haven’t taken into account even new information that we heard today and process is the reason why I will be voting no.”

Board of Legislators Chair Ben Boykin defended the process, saying it was not rushed.

“The bottom line is that this agreement is better for the taxpayers of Westchester County,” Boykin says. “With investments being made by the county and Standard, Playland, as a prized part of the Sound Shore, will be preserved and protected for us and future generations.”

Legislator Damon Maher also voted no. Prior to the vote, he made a motion to adjourn the meeting, yet with no second, his motion failed. Maher also made a motion to amend the agreement, which also failed.

“The rush to cut off the debate here, I don’t understand. This has been pending for seven years. They’re not taking over, under this agreement, until December 1. Time is not of the essence,” says Maher. “Certainly, two weeks to hear more of the Rye community, I don’t understand.”

Maher spoke much longer than other legislators before the vote, nearly half an hour. He grew emotional toward the end, saying he and his four siblings had worked at Playland, and he has fond memories with his grandparents. Maher hopes it will be an accessible park for his potential grandchildren.

“The expression is you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear,” Maher says. “I think the people of Westchester deserve a silk purse in terms of Playland.”

Board of Legislators Majority Leader MaryJane Shimsky says the new agreement is better for park-goers, taxpayers and the park’s workers.

“We didn’t alienate parkland. We are not throwing our park to the wolves or the people in it,” Shimsky says. “It’s still a county park with county control with county oversight over things like admission fees and many, many more items. If you go through the contract item by item, you could see all the places where the county has this kind of control. And it still exists for the benefit of people who live in the county and who visit here.”

Prior to the vote, the bankruptcy court agreed on the terms of the new contract.

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