Rye Playland deal delayed another week

Rye Playland celebrates the opening of its new Rye Playland celebrates the opening of its new season in Rye. (May 12, 2012) Photo Credit: John Meore

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Westchester County's agreement with the nonprofit organization tapped to manage Rye Playland won't be approved until at least next week.

On Thursday, Board of Legislators chairman Ken Jenkins (D-Yonkers) delayed consideration of the agreement with Sustainable Playland at the Board of Acquisition and Contract meeting until it meets again April 18.

"The Board of Legislators' vetting of the proposals has generated a number of important questions about Astorino's choice of Sustainable Playland, and whether the not-for-profit organization will deliver the best financial deal for Westchester taxpayers," Jenkins said in a statement.

Jenkins is one of three members of the board. Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino and budget director Lawrence Soule, an Astorino appointee, are the other members. Each member has the prerogative of delaying contracts for a week.

Though not a major delay, Jenkins' move is yet another slowdown in the county's long-running process of finding a private manager who will invest in the beloved but aging and unprofitable park.

Sustainable Playland initially hoped to take over the park this summer, but damages wrought by superstorm Sandy and negotiations over legal questions in the agreement pushed the handover back to October.

Astorino's communications director, Ned McCormack, said Jenkins' postponement was expected.

"It's almost inevitable that when something comes to the Board of Acquisition and Contract that it will be held over," he said.

Under the 10-year agreement, which Astorino unveiled last week, Sustainable Playland would invest $34 million in the 1920s-era, county-owned amusement park on Long Island Sound. The Rye-based nonprofit organization would give the county $4 million in an upfront payment and pay $1.2 million in annual rent, money that would pay off millions in debt associated with the park.

Jenkins' decision doesn't significantly alter Sustainable Playland's schedule, said Geoff Thompson, a spokesman for the nonprofit.

The agreement calls for Sustainable Playland to present a plan to Astorino on major changes to the park within 30 days after Board of Acquisition and Contract approval. If Astorino approves the plan, legislators then must approve it before the end of the year or Sustainable Playland has a right to terminate the deal.

"We are working to meet the timetable laid out by the county executive," said Geoff Thompson, a spokesman for Sustainable Playland. "We look forward to continuing to work cooperatively with the board going forward."

Legislators have been critical of Astorino and Sustainable Playland's proposal. In his statement, Jenkins included questions that are sure to be debated in the coming weeks.

Among the questions were who would pay the $4.4 million of so-called interdepartmental costs now incurred annually at Playland. Those costs include different county departments performing work in Playland that isn't part of the amusement park's regular budget, like the Public Works Department repairing a damaged road on the property.

Astorino was in the process of preparing answers to Jenkins' questions, McCormack said.

"We will work with the board to get them all the information they seek," he said.

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