Democratic Westchester Legislators Not Ready to Support Sustainable Playland Deal

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 4, 2013

Contact: Tom Staudter | ThomasS@westchesterlegislators.com | 914-995-2819 (office) | 914-815-4462 (cell)

Democratic Westchester Legislators

Not Ready to Support Sustainable Playland Deal

White Plains, NY – Several members of the Democratic caucus of the Westchester County Board of Legislators (BOL) stated today that they are not ready to support County Executive Rob Astorino’s proposed asset management agreement with Sustainable Playland, Inc. (SPI) to run Playland, the County’s 280-acre amusement park and recreational facility.

First, the BOL Democratic caucus has yet to receive a copy of the asset management agreement from the Astorino Administration, even though the document delineates the “role” of the BOL in the approval process necessary to reshape Playland. As a result, the caucus members refrained from commenting directly on the details of the agreement.

What troubles the Democratic BOL caucus, however, is that the legal issues regarding whether an “asset management agreement” between Sustainable Playland and County Executive Astorino is valid under the County Charter. An upcoming meeting of the BOL’s Committee of the Whole will continue to address this.

In the meantime, the BOL is still in the midst of its due diligence of the four top proposals. Legislator Catherine Borgia (D-Ossining), chair of the BOL Government Operations Committee, has been holding a series of meetings regarding the different merits and problems associated with the top four proposals made to “reinvent” Playland. Also, an audit of the four proposals is soon forthcoming.

“The Astorino Administration said its goal was to stop losing money at Playland, but Sustainable is not the way,” said BOL Majority Leader Pete Harckham (D-Katonah). “From what we have seen and heard during numerous committee meetings held on the subject, Sustainable is the least competitive financially. But most importantly, this agreement essentially privatizes County parkland, and so residents will be charged to use ball fields. If ball fields are the goal, our parks department has built ball fields all over the county. We should not be privatizing this process and allow a private company to charge residents to use public parkland.”

“I’ll support new and innovative ideas to Playland, but I’m worried that Sustainable Playland will not adequately protect Westchester taxpayers,” said Legislator Catherine Borgia. “Sustainable’s proposed plan has the riskiest financial and marketing plan of the four we have examined, and its potential for failure cannot be overlooked, especially since it has the least amount of secure financial backing.”

“The deal with Sustainable is a bad one for a simple reason: It will destroy Playland rather than enhance it,” said Legislator Alfreda Williams (D-Greenburgh). “I’m not opposed to an outside group investing in and running Playland. But I cannot support any proposed agreement that throws away decades of taxpayer dollars as it tears down County assets, removes rides and replaces parking spaces with ball fields. This won’t improve the quality of life here in Westchester at all. In addition, this group cannot substantiate whether it can maintain any management agreement they sign.”

“It is obvious that Sustainable Playland is more interested in turning this historic, fun amusement park for kids and families into an exclusive club for the well-connected,” said BOL Vice Chair Lyndon Williams (D-Mount Vernon). “Also, the fact that this proposed agreement will eliminate more than half the rides means that hundreds of summer jobs for county youth will be lost as well. I cannot support this, especially at a time when youth unemployment is reaching dire levels.”

“To do what is right for Westchester at Playland, we must, first, make sure the park is on solid financial footing, both operationally and in terms of capital investment; and two, maintain it as a destination that everyone in Westchester County can visit and enjoy,” said Legislator MaryJane Shimsky (D-Hastings-on-Hudson). “I have grave doubts about Sustainable Playland’s ability to guarantee either. Their proposal is financially risky, and instead of signing this management agreement, the County Executive should begin serious negotiations with one of the other Playland finalists, all of whom have experience in running amusement parks and cash on hand for massive investments in the park’s future.”

“At this point, I’m not at all convinced that Sustainable’s weak financial proposal and its plan to tear down a large part of Playland are in the best interests of County residents and taxpayers,” said Legislator Bill Ryan (D-White Plains). “I’m disappointed the County Executive is determined to force through this very questionable arrangement. No one should kid themselves: What the County Executive wants will be the beginning of the end to our historic Playland Amusement Park as we have known and enjoyed it over the years.”

“The best course of action is to ensure that a complete solution at Playland is developed,” said BOL Chairman Ken Jenkins (D-Yonkers). “Right now, the proposed agreement with Sustainable is premature.”

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=Bazzo 04/05/13

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