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Editorial: Roller-coaster politics at Rye Playland

Bill Ryan (D-White Plains) speaks at a press

Bill Ryan (D-White Plains) speaks at a press conference as Democratic members of the Westchester County Board of Legislatures discuss the future of the Rye Playland amusement park. (Aug. 10, 2012) Photo Credit: John Meore

If there were any hopes that political infighting was taking an August holiday in Westchester County, Democrats on the Board of Legislators dashed them when they launched some not-so-amusing salvos at County Executive Rob Astorino over his handling of Playland Amusement Park in Rye.

After a relatively quiet summer, three Democrats on Friday stood in front of Kiddyland -- not far from the Flying Dragons and Kiddy Whip -- and attacked Astorino's "lack of leadership" on one of the first-term Republican's key campaign initiatives: revamping the 280-acre park on the waterfront that has been losing attendance and millions of dollars for years.

They accused the Astorino administration of providing inconsistent information on revenues and attendance and called for an independent audit of the county park, saying he's withholding data on items such as revenues from parking, concessions and miniature golf. [See correction below.] And since they feel left out of talks on a possible turnaround of the National Historic Landmark, they want to take it over.

That's not only unnecessary, but counterproductive. It would basically require a do-over on a bidding process that resulted in a citizens advisory group choosing three proposals -- all with amusement-park themes -- that should show results in September.

Unfortunately, a wedge between the legislature and the executive that at times seems as wide as Long Island Sound is a recurring theme and one not isolated to Playland. It infuses many budget, capital and policy debates and this power struggle is at the core of so many matters that have landed in the courts. We've seen it played out over day care, housing, contracts and appointments.

Though frustrations are, at times, understandable, Playland shouldn't become the next legal drama hitting a Westchester courtroom. But that's where things may be heading if Republicans and Democrats don't do a better job working together on basics like sharing information and keeping tabs on the numbers.

The park's challenges are well documented -- a $3-million taxpayer subsidy and a 75,000 drop in attendance in 2011, as well as ongoing safety concerns -- but none are insurmountable. Both the executive and legislative branches have a role in directing the future of this Westchester gem.

Astorino and the board need to play together. This unpleasant ride can't continue.

[Correction: A Republican legislator characterized statements by Democrats on Playland Amusement Park as “cooking the books” on statistics about revenue and attendance. A  previous version of this editorial mistakenly attributed the statement to Democrats.] 


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