The City Council may have endorsed the Sustainable Playland Inc. plan for the reinvention of Playland 7-0, but that was nearly two years ago.
By Robin Jovanovich
The City Council may have endorsed the Sustainable Playland Inc. plan for the reinvention of Playland 7-0, but that was nearly two years ago. Since that time, as the Playland Improvement Plan has unfolded and gone through the requisite review process, opposition to specifics of the plan has grown from a hum to a roar.
On March 20, the County Attorney received a letter from Michael Gerrard, an attorney with the Manhattan firm of Arnold & Porter, who wrote that he has been retained as special environmental counsel to the City of Rye. Under the City Code, Rye has site development plan approval of non-residential structures greater than 1,000 square feet of gross floor or land area, notes Mr. Gerrard. Further, he states that the field house does not fall within the permitted uses in the Waterfront Recreation zone.
In conclusion, the attorney writes, “The City Council currently intends to designate itself as the lead agency in view of the fact that PIP falls entirely within the City’s borders and its impacts are primarily of local significance. If the County declares itself the lead agency, as we understand to be its plan … and a lead agency cannot be agreed upon … the Council would ask the State Commissioner of Environmental Conservation to designate it as the lead agency.”
SPI President Kim Morque followed with a letter dated March 31 to County Executive Rob Astorino and copied to County Board of Legislators Chair Michael Kaplowitz and Peter Harckmam, who chairs the Legislature’s committee reviewing the PIP. The letter expressed SPI’s deep concern that the new position taken by the City, in addition to the unresolved lawsuit brought by former Board of Legislator Ken Jenkins against the County Executive and SPI in January, “throw into question the County’s entire approval process and we cannot continue with the PIP review until these issues are resolved.”
Mr. Morque commented that the current process for moving forward does not reflect a public-private partnership either in spirit or actuality.
“We are a group of citizens who came together with a civic mission to preserve one of the County’s greatest assets. As such, it is neither realistic nor feasible to expect that SPI can remain committed to the project indefinitely.
We are asking the County Executive to use his office to see if the current uncertainty regarding the approval process can be removed. We remain committed to our vision and the goals of renewing and restoring the park.”
In a phone interview on Wednesday, Ned McCormack, the County Executive’s senior advisor, said the County’s position has two boundaries on this matter: “The status quo is not an option. Playland is really losing $4 to $5 million a year and it needs fresh capital to go forward. Two, the County has to maintain approval authority of its own property.”