WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Two years after reaching an agreement that was supposed to turn its money-losing Playland amusement park into a profitable enterprise, Westchester County has scrapped the plan.
County Executive Rob Astorino announced Wednesday that his deal with Sustainable Playland Inc. to reimagine and operate the park was being allowed to lapse “by mutual agreement.”
“It’s not a setback,” Astorino told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond. “It’s sort of a change of course a little bit because of the realities of politics, unfortunately.”
The county will continue to operate the park itself for the foreseeable future, Astorino said. Playland, an Art Deco landmark that was included in the Tom Hanks movie “Big,” is the largest government-run amusement park in the country.
It lost $4.3 million in 2013, including debt service. Attendance has dropped from 1 million in 2005 to 390,000 last year. The park is a family-oriented collection of modest rides, some of them historic, rather than a thrill-seeker’s dream.
Sustainable had planned to make Playland a year-round attraction, in part by adding athletic fields and a field house. But that ran into opposition in the county Legislature and in some neighborhoods of Rye, where the park is located. Some lawsuits were filed, others were threatened, and the agreement never got past the planning stage.
Astorino, now the Republican candidate for governor, said Wednesday that he still believes “the long-term financial viability of Playland depends on finding ways to make the park a year-round destination.”
“We’re making progress,” he told Diamond. “What we will not let happen is the status quo, where the taxpayers lose three to five million dollars every year at Playland.”
Astorino also said he is retaining Sustainable Playland as a fundraiser for historic preservation and environmental conservation at the park.
The county executive said he has hired a consultant — Dan Biederman, who was affiliated with the Sustainable group and helped restore Bryant Park in New York City — to analyze park operations and finances.
“The Bryant Park process took nine years to take it from a drug-infested hell hole to what it is today. It’s a beautiful park,” Astorino said.
Astorino has also contracted with American Skating Entertainment Centers to refurbish and operate the park’s Ice Casino skating rink.
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