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Westchester Board Of Legislators Awaits Consultant's Report On Playland

A mother and her two children leave Playland on opening weekend in May 2014. Photo Credit: Jon Craig
Dragon Coaster enthusiasts round the top bend on opening weekend at Rye Playland last year. Photo Credit: Jon Craig
Dragon Coaster fans on their "way up" the historic ride at Rye Playland. Attendance was up 20 percent in 2014 over the prior season. Photo Credit: Jon Craig

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- With Rye Playland Amusement Park poised to begin its 87th season on Saturday, May 9, the Westchester County Board of Legislators is eager to hear a consultant's report on who should operate it in future years.

County Executive Rob Astorino hired consultant Dan Biederman last year at a cost of $100,000 to study options for private management and possible year-round uses. But with the report already four months overdue, legislators prepared subpoenas last week to force its release.

On Wednesday, Deputy County Executive Kevin Plunkett promised to deliver the report to legislators by April 15.

Legislators remain concerned about annual operating losses of up to $4 million, despite revenues of $14 million, according to Board of Legislators Chairman Michael Kaplowitz, D-Somers.

However, Kaplowitz told Daily Voice in a video interview the park generates another $27 million-a-year in economic activity at restaurants, gas stations, sales taxes and income taxes from those who work there.

About $2.2 million in hourly wages are paid to hundreds of young people hired for summer employment, Kaplowitz said, adding: "The economic multiplier says you want to keep Playland going."

"It's really time for (Astorino) to help give us some recommendations,'' Kaplowitz told Daily Voice. "We'd like to close the tax levy loss. At the same time, we want to make sure it's run pro?perly."

Playland enjoyed a 20 percent increase in attendance last summer over 2013, attracting nearly 470,000 visitors -- including more people from surrounding counties like Putnam and Fairfield, Conn., according to Legislator Catherine Parker, D-Rye, and county park officials.

Parker said, “Many of my constituents, especially those who live near Playland, share the frustration of my colleagues and I at the lack of information on Playland’s future. Previous proposals for things like a massive field house and the diminution of parking . . .have created serious concerns for local residents. I hope that the plan we are currently awaiting from the Astorino administration allows for the involvement of not just the Board of Legislators but the City of Rye and Playland’s neighbors.”

Legislator Peter Harckham, D-North Salem, chair of the Labor, Parks, Planning and Housing Committee, said Astorino's representatives and the Parks Department agreed to meet at 9 a.m. on April 15 to discuss Playland's fate.

After Wednesday's committee meeting, Harckham said, "It is unfortunate that we will not have a private operator in place for the 2015 season, but my colleagues and I look forward to getting to work on the approval process for a new operator as soon as the County Executive presents one to us.”

* For a video interview with Board of Legislators Chairman Michael Kaplowitz on Playland, click here.

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