Renderings of a reimagined Fountain Plaza and one of two Games Rows
Courtesy of Standard Amusements
LET’S UNMAKE AN HISTORIC DEAL
By Robin Jovanovich
For the past two months, rumors that the County Executive was terminating the agreement with Standard Amusements, which was set to take over operation of Playland Park this fall, have been swirling. When we contacted County Executive George Latimer’s office for verification of the facts, we were emphatically told, “Anyone saying we are not meeting with Standard is a liar. The details are being worked out by our attorneys and theirs, and we are not going to involve the media in the process.”
Meanwhile, Standard Amusements representatives told us that the County Executive had not returned phone calls from principal Nicholas Singer since November of last year. “We are being stonewalled.”
Indeed, at a press conference April 29, Latimer announced that he was cancelling the deal, because of Standard’s “lack of vision”, for one, and the fact that the County is “not satisfied with what we’ve been seeing. We didn’t just want a real estate deal.”
After the announcement, Singer told the paper, “As someone who is watching their last decade of work arbitrarily go down the drain, this is a very sad day.”
Standard Amusements has a contract, signed in 2016, two years before Latimer came into office. The company agreed to make an initial investment of $27 million and pay the County an annual fee of $300,000 in exchange for a 30-year agreement.
The County claims that the original agreement was unfairly modified in December 2017.
On May 1, before Latimer met with the County Board of Legislators to discuss his actions, Standard released their own statement. “We have done everything within our power to have a positive dialogue with the Latimer Administration to improve Playland. We identified issues of public concern, committed more money to resolve them, presented a highly detailed plan of our vision, and supplied detailed answers to a never-ending list of insincere concerns.” They asserted that they had even offered to increase their investment to $50 million to ensure that they would actually become the operator in November after a nine-year effort.
Standard went on to say that there are “serious and urgent safety concerns” which they have tried unsuccessfully to discuss with the Administration over the last 16 months.
In their response to questions from the paper this week, Standard stated that while they have been “unable to move forward with a majority of repairs due to roadblocks by the Latimer Administration, and the need to sequence repairs and new construction in a logical manner”, they have invested $10 million in extensive initial work “to understand structural issues with the park, and understand where repairs most need to be made and hired architects to complete plans for the park and historical preservationists to ensure the historical character of the park is maintained, amidst capital spending.”
At his press conference May 1, Latimer attacked Standard for making false assertions, assured residents and parkgoers that Playland would open on schedule May 11, and outlined a new marketing plan.
Does Standard Amusements lack vision for the historic park? Not if their 130-page master plan is any indication. It is brimming with new attractions, welcoming spaces, and innovative designs.
The biggest question on Rye taxpayers’ minds may not be the minutiae of the public/private agreement, but how the County alone will pay for the infrastructure improvements at Playland — estimated by Latimer earlier as upwards of $65 million, and at today’s meeting potentially up to $125 million. At the most recent City Council meeting, in a report from Gordon Daring, managing director of VHB, Inc., the firm hired to provide the City with a pavement management study, the roads in the worst condition, Theodore Fremd and Midland avenues, were County-owned roads.
With Playland attendance down 58% from its high of 1.1 million in 1999 to 460,200 in 2018, annual debt service of $3.5 million, and fewer Westchester residents among the visitors, do County taxpayers have an appetite to pay their share for the needed improvements?
The County Executive did not find time to respond to this and a number of other questions from the paper before press time.