After hearing a sizable amount of negative input from the Rye community, Sustainable Playland Inc. submitted an amended plan to the County Executive’s Office, which was in turn sent to the County Board of Legislators (BOL), March 12.
By Robin Jovanovich
After hearing a sizable amount of negative input from the Rye community, Sustainable Playland Inc. submitted an amended plan to the County Executive’s Office, which was in turn sent to the County Board of Legislators (BOL), March 12. In the revised portion, the field house has been cut back from 95,000 square feet to 82,500 square feet, a 13 percent reduction. With this change, another 100 parking spaces can be added to the Field Zone.
Playland Sports, the owner/operator of the proposed Field Zone in the park, emphasized 82,500 square feet is the “minimum size required for the Field House to be economically viable.” To reduce the size, they trimmed spectator and common areas. At this point, the total Field Zone acreage is 50 percent smaller — 4.86 acres, not 10.16 acres — than initially planned. The Field House, however, continues to loom large as a neighborhood issue.
While SPI’s original plan included a sizable field house adjacent to the maintenance buildings on the western end of the park, it wasn’t until Rye residents began to closely examine the plan that more and more expressed doubts about the big changes coming with the “reinvention” of Playland.
When BOL members toured the park March 18, SPI board members and operators fielded a lot of questions on project timelines and whose profit center will pay for various infrastructure improvements. SPI President Kim Morque, who led the tour, stated, “Zone operators are responsible for their respective areas.”
Playland Sports plans to make all of its $11 million investment in the first year. They estimate the construction will take six months. Central Amusement International, which will operate the Amusement Zone, is responsible for removing the mini golf (where more outdoor amenities will be added) and restoring the colonnades. When asked which rides will be restored or replaced first, the company president, Valerio Ferrari, said they will “study what’s best for next spring over the summer.”
As the group moved through the park and stopped in the parking lot close to the proposed Field Zone, Morque stated that they are replacing 2.87 acres of existing parking with pervious artificial turf and proposing 3.26 acres of new pervious surface.
After the tour, which lasted 90 minutes, Legislator Catherine Parker sat down with the paper to share her thoughts about the project.
“I represent the Rye community, and we’re a community divided,” said Parker. “The support base for the project has slipped since it was selected in October 2012 by the County to reinvent Playland. Many of SPI’s original proponents are still in favor of the public/private model — the most valuable part of the SPI component is private investment — but are saying ‘this is not the plan we supported.’”
The vision was to open up the park to more year-round use, to create more opportunities for waterfront and recreational enjoyment. SPI maintains they have stayed true to the vision while coming up with a practical plan to revitalize the 1928 attractions and buildings.
Legislator Parker said she has spoken with at least 400 Rye residents — 200 are staunchly in favor and 200 staunchly opposed. “I’d like to hear from more Rye residents on specific issues, like traffic, because I have a difficult decision to make along with the rest of the Board this spring.” (Parker welcomes community input at parker@westchester legislators.com.)
On Wednesday night, many residents from Rye and beyond attended the BOL public hearing in White Plains. Close to 40 spoke, for and against the project, and submitted comments for the record. Legislator Pete Harckham, who chairs the Labor/ Parks/Planning/ Housing Committee, said he was pleased that a number of residents attended this public hearing tonight, at this early point in the Board of Legislators’ evaluation of the Playland Improvement Plan.”
The BOL’s next committee meeting is Tuesday, March 25, 9 a.m. A second public hearing will be held in Rye in April at a date and time to be announced.