Playland Opens with a Bang;
Standard Deal May Not Be on the Horizon
By Robin Jovanovich
Playland had its best opening weekend in seven years on May 11 and on a clear day, the 1928 amusement park remains one of the best family destinations around. Stroll the Boardwalk, bring the youngest children and grandchildren to Kiddyland, and drop the teens off at the Arcade.
What’s not clear is who will be operating the County-owned National Landmark park at the end of 2019.
Late last month County Executive George Latimer announced he was terminating the agreement with Standard Amusements. This week he told the paper why.
“In the deal struck with Standard by my predecessor, a massive amount of debt falls on the County,” Latimer explained. “I have seen Standard’s master plan draft, which is beautifully presented, but I’ve yet to see where the money is coming from to do what’s in the plan. The plan includes light shows in the fountain but how long will it take to put a plan like they’ve presented in place? Eight to ten years? And who are their investors?”
Latimer made a strong case for the County continuing to run the park. “Playland was not well marketed or maintained under Astorino the last few years of his term because his view was that a public/private partnership was the solution. My view is that the County should be able to work in concert with the operator on pricing, special County events.” He added, “My interest is running the park effectively and raising the quality. If we can show demonstrable improvement, attendance will rise accordingly.”
We were among the members of the press who toured the park just before it reopened. “This is a safe and sound park,” Latimer stated at the outset. “I want to dispel any notions that the food prep areas are unclean and the attractions unsafe. The park has passed every health and safety inspection.”
Last weekend, we attended a three-hour meeting with dozens of community members at which Standard principal Nick Singer, along with a number of his engineers and landscape architects, who bring with them long experience and impressive credentials, laid out their vision. They answered a range of questions from residents who have a long attachment to the park but would also like to see significant upgrades and greater access to the water.
On May 28, unless a miraculous meeting of the minds occurs, the agreement signed by Standard and the County in 2017 will end. A lawsuit seems inevitable. Why would Standard walk away after investing nearly ten years negotiating a deal?