At this week’s Westchester County BOL weekly Labor/Parks/Planning & Housing Committee meeting that had Playland and ONLY Playland as the agenda item, several interesting things came to light.
SPI Board member Bruce McLeod was in attendance along with SPI Legal Counsel Joe Carlucci and Bill Mooney from the County Executive’s office to make an updated presentation on updates to their updated plan for Playland – the “PIP”. Ever “evolving” this thing is. Hmmmmmmm…..
Apparently, they’re listening - just not quite hard enough.
What was revealed by Mssrs. Mooney and McLeod at the Tuesday March 11th, 2014 9am meeting is that SPI went to Playland Sports after the two contentious meetings in Rye where multiple residents raised multiple concerns about the enormous Field House proposed for the SPI “Field Zone”- to be located in the middle of Playland’s parking lot -and told them to revamp things.
As of September 2013 the size of the Field House had grown inexplicably from 78,000 sq. feet (which was bad enough) to an even more shocking 95,000 sq. foot behemoth – almost the size of Home Depot in Port Chester (which, by the way, many years ago a number of concerned Rye Citizens filed multiple law suits to try and stop the construction of, led by then-Mayor Ted Dunn. But I digress).
On Tuesday March 11th, 2014 SPI announced that this new revision to the revised plan reduces the Field House down from 95,000 sq. feet to just a mere 82,000 sq. feet, still 4,000 sq. feet larger than the original which (did I mention?) was already way too big. They also took out one of the two outdoor playing fields and brought down the acreage of the parking lot that will be consumed, bringing the amount lost from ten acres to five. Oh boy! We're only going to lose FIVE acres of parking? Gee, that sounds just SWELL!
I guess we are supposed to be happy with this revised “gift”.
This is all pretty much right up front at the beginning of the meeting (because I think Mooney and SPI were pretty excited about getting us this great news!) around minute marker 10:00. McLeod also mentions that this is as low as the Operator (ie: Playland Sports & Pinnacle Sports) is willing to go in size – because otherwise it won’t be financially worth it to them to do. So, I guess this is their “best offer” (as if they're still holding all the cards...).
Let’s all just chew on that cud for a moment while we review the OTHER significant info that came out of this meeting:
Around minute marker 40:00 the Aqua Zone comes up. Now, for those of you that didn’t know, SPI’s plan had called for replacing the beautiful, iconic grand entrance public swimming pool with a rinky dink joke of a water park. Just like the colossal new sports building being proposed, that visual was truly (not) in keeping with their “historic preservation” theme. Sounds like the Aqua Zone Water Park is (thankfully) dead in the water (pun mostly intended) and they are going to keep the pool, as they should. Now if they could just use their clout and their much bally-hooed "not for profit" status to get some hefty donations from local Philanthropists and corporations to fix the major and terribly expensive repairs/restoration needed on the pool, we’re moving in the right direction there.
The other point of note that I caught was around minute marker 1:27. Catherine Parker starts a discussion on the ‘Shore Zone’ – and one of my questions finally gets answered: WHO is going to run this zone? When SPI brought Central Amusements on board last summer, they put them in charge of the Amusement Zone, Beach and Pool. Turns out, CAI is also going to be in charge of running the Shore Zone. So…now we just have to pin down who the “operator” under the SPI umbrella is going to be for the “Fountain Zone”. Is that also going to be CAI? What ever happened to Beiderman? Remember Dan Beiderman, their big selling point up until last summer when they listened to public outcry and nixed the idea to nix the Amusement Park? Haven’t heard a word about him since July. Is he still involved? Has he been bumped down to just being in charge of the “Fountain Zone”? Is that going to be prestigious enough to keep him on board (that is, if he hasn’t already quietly jumped ship)?
Seems to me that if you take out the completely un-necessary ‘Field Zone’ - which at this meeting they essentially admit isn’t going to put any money back into the park for capital improvements such as replacement of the colonnades because Playland Sports will be too busy recouping their $12 million construction project investment, covering operating expenses and making their own profit - you’ve got an operator for the Ice Rink and then Central Amusements running the rest of the place. All of which begs the question: Why is it that we even need SPI involved at all other than to provide a the murky cloak of a non-profit LLC shell company to umbrella over their friends’ Field Zone endeavor in order to get them access to public park land for their private, for-profit commercial venture and the very nice tax breaks that come with that sweetheart deal?
If SPI is truly looking to cover the best interests of the park and the community, both Rye and the larger community of Westchester who all jointly own this beloved public park, if SPI and the Playland Sports principals truly care about the community they call home and truly care about all their friends sitting on the City Council who may ultimately be pushed to file law suits against them, if they don't want to rip this little town apart at the seams with the brou-ha-ha that is only going to get bigger and uglier should they continue to pursue this "Field Zone" concept, if they want to avoid all of that, they will eliminate the Field Zone altogether and concentrate on historic park restoration, revitalization and preservation of the neglected gem we already have there. If you still want fields, they can restore the two up in the back next to Edith Read Sanctuary that many of us played on years ago. If you need an indoor, year round, state of the art climate controlled soccer field for your seven year old’s birthday party, you need to find someone who had the good sense to build that puppy in a more appropriate commercially zoned location, not on public parkland in the middle of a residential neighborhood and a FEMA Flood Zone.
Keep listening SPI: No permanent construction in that parking lot is going to be acceptable. Period.
County Legislator Pete Harckham is the Chair of the Labor, Parks, Planning & Housing Committee which is the primary of three committees tasked with the scrutiny of this Playland/SPI issue before it gets voted on later this Spring by the entire BOL. Contact his office directly with questions or concerns.
This committee has set forth a schedule of weekly meetings every Tuesday at 9am on the 8th floor of the County Office Building in White Plains. These meetings are open to the public, although they are working committee meetings and do not allow time for any public questions or comments. On Saturday March 22nd, there is an “on-site” meeting planned AT Playland with the BOL members so that residents of the community can walk around and talk to them about their concerns. If you want to attend the public on-site meeting the Legislators are having at Playland with SPI, that one will be on Tues. 3/18/14 from 9am to 11am.
As always, if you are opposed to this ridiculousness, visit the link below to sign the online petition: