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Playland Sold; Moving To Albany

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WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
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What some feared was the end of a 62-year tradition is having a new beginning. Hoffman's Playland, a suburban fixture that fell victim to development, is getting a new lease on life — in the heart of Albany’s gritty warehouse district. 

With the iconic miniature railroad train as a backdrop, Albany County Executive Dan McCoy was jubilant that his office was able to help keep Playland alive. The news came just weeks after families crammed the Latham park for one last visit.    "I'm happy! Very happy to announce that this partnership today between Huck Finn and the Hoffman family is a reality," McCoy exclaimed.

McCoy worked for months assisting in negotiations between the Hoffman and Sperber families to make the much-hoped for transition see light of day. The Albany Business Review reports it was a "complex, multi-layered deal,"  a $1.8 million deal, to be exact, which will transplant the park to land bordering Huck Finn's Furniture Store along Erie Boulevard in Albany's warehouse district.   $650,000 will come from grants.  $250,000 from National Grid; $250,000 from Empire State Development, the state's economic development arm, plus $150,000 from the  Albany County Industrial Development Agency.

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Credit WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
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Albany County Executive Dan McCoy looks on as Huck Finn's president Jeff Sperber addresses the crowd at Hoffman's Playland.

IDA chairman county legislator Gary Domalewicz:   "This project is going to be funded by fees that we've earned from private sector dollars for financing projects throughout the county. And that's how we earn our fees. In this particular project, the 150 thousand that we're gonna get 'em, I fully expect we'll get back within two years, just in sales tax revenue alone from the park itself."

Albany’s waterfront was once home to similar amusement parks a century ago.   Recalling her own youth, Mayor Kathy Sheehan sees the park as a ray of hope for impoverished kids in North Albany.    "We are so looking forward to partnering with Huck Finn, to take young people who are in our Summer Youth Employment Program, those 14 and 15 year olds, who we're molding, who we're helping to get those life skills and those job skills that they need to succeed to then be able to get a summer job, great hours, some money in the pocket. I have fond memories of my first job, in an amusement park, and look where I am today!"

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Credit WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
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Recalling her own youth, Mayor Kathy Sheehan sees the park as a ray of hope for impoverished kids in North Albany.

The project is expected to create 150 seasonal jobs. Besides relocation of the amusement park, there are infrastructure upgrades scheduled to be installed at the new site. The Albany Water Department-owned land is already being cleared. It is expected that Huck Finn's Playland will be up and running in time to open for the 2015 season.

In the words of Huck Finn's president Jeff Sperber:    "Playland will live on."

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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