The Dragonator, the first new ride at Playland since 2008, was an instant hit with parkgoers last summer.
Judge Advises Playland and Standard to Work it Out
BY ROBIN JOVANOVICH
Since taking office in 2018, County Executive George Latimer has made no secret of his desire for the County to continue operating Playland, notwithstanding the 30-year contract with Standard Amusements signed by his predecessor, Rob Astorino, in 2016. Last April, Latimer ended the deal, calling it “unworkable” and claiming that Standard had breached the agreement by missing a payment deadline, misspending money earmarked for investment in the park, and replacing its CEO. The County Exec questioned whether Standard had the necessary funds to run the park.
Standard, in turn, charged the County with not living up to its end of the bargain in terms of needed repairs at the park, making unreasonable requests for audits and privileged legal information, and failing to come back to the table to iron out their differences. To protect the contract, their investment to date ($8.6 million through November 2019), and their goal of managing and reimagining the 1928 amusement park, Standard filed for bankruptcy.
At the summary judgment hearing January 29, federal bankruptcy judge Robert Drain said he “did not see how this rises to a breach of the contract. How does it vitiate the contract itself?
“I, for the life of me, don’t understand, given the tenuousness of these litigation arguments, why they cannot resolve their disputes if in good faith they work to do that.
“It appears clear to me that the Debtor, in a world where people were dealing with each other on both sides in good faith would sit down now with the County and the County would sit down with the Debtor, and they would go through the Debtor’s plans for the Playland, and they’d see if they have a meeting of the minds on it. It’s that simple.
“But I really strongly urge the parties to focus on what they both say they want, which is having a Playland that is developed in a way that maintains it for the future, as it was contemplated, not as some sort of just poetry and pottery park but an amusement park as well as all the other functions that it has, and that they get comfortable with each other, which may require some renegotiation on how this arrangement goes forward in the future.”
After the hearing, John Rapisardi, attorney for Standard, said, “We look forward to meeting with the County and restarting a constructive dialogue around the restoration and management of Playland.”
Mr. Latimer told the paper, “We will follow the Judge’s direction as he has mandated. As the matter is still under court control, it remains inappropriate for us to have a long explanatory conversation. We will be managing the Park for 2020.”
How and when a non-combative dialogue commences, it’s worth reporting that through a combination of improved marketing, good weather, and discounted tickets, in 2019 Playland had its highest attendance — 508,413 — in four years.
An interesting aside is that Standard Amusements is also one of several applicants that responded to Westchester County’s request for proposal seeking an operator for a new boardwalk restaurant at the former Tiki Bar site.