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Democrats to Astorino: Give Children's Museum keys to Playland

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino addresses Playland Park

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino addresses Playland Park guests as the park celebrates the opening of its new season in Rye. Playland first opened on May 26, 1928. (May 12, 2012) Photo Credit: John Meore

Democrats on the Westchester County Board of Legislators called Republican County Executive Rob Astorino an obstructionist on Thursday because he won't allow the Westchester Children's Museum to begin renovations for its proposed new location in Rye Playland.

"This wonderful museum will help transform Playland into a year-round destination," said Legis. Judy Myers (D-Larchmont) at a late morning news conference in front of the North Bathhouse at the county-owned amusement park. "It's time for the Astorino administration to follow the law -- unshackle the museum and let them begin building, bring in jobs and bring in revenue."

Museum representatives say they can muster more than $6 million for its eventual move to the park's North Bathhouse, including $200,000 raised at a May 10 fundraiser and $350,000 awarded in state grants, the museum said in a statement.

At present, the museum runs educational programs throughout the county but has no building for exhibits.

"There is a unanimous consensus that Westchester Children's Museum would be an anchor in Playland's redevelopment and an integral part of the park for years to come," said museum president Corinne Zola. "We are ready to build; we just want the key."

Astorino has said he supports the museum moving into the county-owned amusement park. But the county executive doesn't want the museum to begin work on the property until the Rye nonprofit he's tapped to manage the park, Sustainable Playland, formally takes control of the park in early October, as an agreement between the county and nonprofit stipulates.

"That is just common sense and good business practice," said Ned McCormack, Astorino's communications director.

Democratic legislators granted the museum a lease last year at around the same time Astorino designated Sustainable Playland as his chosen operator for the beloved but unprofitable amusement park on Long Island Sound. Astorino questioned whether they had the authority to give the nonprofit a lease, but has since said he won't oppose the museum locating to the park.

Sustainable Playland plans to invest around $34 million into Rye Playland, including major renovations that have yet to be approved by lawmakers.

Democratic legislators have questioned whether Sustainable Playland's plan is tantamount to privatizing and dismantling the park. Legis. Bill Ryan (D-White Plains) said he would vote against the group's plan because he felt it would fulfill Astorino's goal of somehow separating county government from Rye Playland entirely.

"You've got this one guy standing there claiming that he supports it but once again he's foot dragging and delaying anything that is positive," said Ryan, referring to Astorino. "He's not a fan of the park. He's got the thing on a program to fail. You can't allow good, positive things to happen there when your intent is to see Playland fail."

McCormack rejected Ryan's comments, saying Astorino had been meeting with museum representatives in order to nail down details about them eventually moving onto the site.

"This group has been operating in its own parallel universe of hyperpartisan attacks for so long, they seem to have forgotten what partnership, progress and the best interests of county residents look like," he said.

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