Rye Playland meeting draws hundreds; contract with bidder likely by end of month

Eric DeGraw, center, of Playland Sports, a unit

Eric DeGraw, center, of Playland Sports, a unit of Sustainable Playland, explains the nonprofit organization's plan for the county-owned amusement park in Rye. (Feb. 13, 2013) (Credit: John Dyer)

Boosters of the nonprofit organization chosen by Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino to manage Rye Playland turned out in droves to attend a public meeting on the future of the county-owned amusement park.

Among the more than 200 people at the meeting sponsored by the Board of Legislators at the County Center in White Plains, about one-third carried signs supporting the Rye-based nonprofit organization Sustainable Playland.

Many of the supporters said Sustainable Playland's proposal was the most likely to preserve the beloved but aging park's unique character.

"I am very concerned about overcommercialization," said Rye resident Rebecca Brooks.

Central Amusements International, Standard Amusements and Legoland also presented their proposals.

They were among the front-runners in a competitive bidding process Astorino concluded in 2012, with the county executive choosing Sustainable Playland's $33.5 million plan to refurbish the park.

Legis. Catherine Borgia (D-Ossining) said the board convened the meeting to shed light on Astorino's bidding process.

"We really needed to open up this process to the public," Borgia said.

Democrats who control the board often have criticized the Republican county executive for bypassing legislators in choosing Sustainable Playland.

Astorino claims the public had significant input into the bidding process and that he has legal authority to grant the organization a management agreement to run the park.

Astorino's communications director, Ned McCormack, said the county executive likely would sign a contract with Sustainable Playland by the end of the month.

People at the meeting asked questions, including how the companies would protect Long Island Sound and a nearby bird sanctuary, whether the companies would increase parking and whether they would keep the Ice Casino, which was swamped with seawater during superstorm Sandy.

But by far most attendants were concerned about a private entity altering Playland's identity.

"I'm a Playland fan," said Keith Iorio, a White Plains resident. "I want to see it remain a traditionally aesthetic amusement park."

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