Westchester Legislators Chairman Jenkins Asks Court to Block Astorino’s Playland Contract

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 23, 2013

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

Westchester Legislators Chairman Jenkins Asks Court to Block Astorino’s Playland Contract

White Plains, NY – Westchester County Board of Legislators (BOL) Chairman Ken Jenkins (D-Yonkers) filed today in New York Supreme Court a legal challenge to County Executive Rob Astorino’s so-called “management agreement” with Sustainable Playland, Inc. (SPI) regarding the County’s historic 280-acre amusement park and recreation facility.

The lawsuit filed by Jenkins seeks to annul the County’s Board of Acquisition and Contract (A&C) vote on April 18, 2013 to approve a ten-year “Asset Management Agreement” between the County and SPI, as Astorino’s and Budget Director Lawrence Soule’s A&C votes were “in excess” of their jurisdictional duties and contrary to the laws specified in the County Charter. Jenkins had voted against the A&C Resolution and stated then there would be legal action to challenge the vote.

“The ten-year agreement that the County Executive wants to sign with Sustainable Playland is just a lease by another name, and he knows well enough that leases involving the County for more than five years need approval from the Board of Legislators,” said Jenkins. “It is another unfortunate attempt by the Astorino Administration to circumvent the authority of the Board of Legislators. The purported agreement tries to put the cart before the horse. I am confident that a court of law will agree with me on this.”

Jenkins noted that he did not seek a temporary restraining order.

However, given the lack of statutory authority of either the County’s Department of Parks or Public Works commissioners to manage or operate Playland Park, such authority falls upon the County Board, “the governing body of the county,” said Jenkins.

As for the “Asset Management Agreement,” Jenkins counters that it is a lease under New York State law as it “contains many provisions typical of a lease and conferring rights well beyond those of a licensee or holder of a mere temporary privilege.”

Consequently, Astorino and Soule’s votes approving this agreement were cast without or in excess of their jurisdictions, as lease agreements “may be made only by local law adopted by the affirmative vote of two-thirds of all members of the Board of Legislators.”

Playland is specifically controlled by the BOL in accordance with the County Charter since the dissolution of the Playland Commission in 1980. Last October, Astorino signed a letter of intent for SPI. Since then, the BOL Government Operations Committee, chaired by Legislator Catherine Borgia (D-Ossining), has been involved in an open and transparent process of evaluating the four finalists with proposals to reinvent Playland.

“The rush to cement this agreement without a full review involving the Board of Legislators simply is not right for Westchester,” concluded Jenkins.

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=Bazzo 05/24/13

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