White Plains, NY – Democratic members of the Westchester County Board of Legislators (BOL) outlined today the requirements for a review of County Executive Robert P. Astorino’s proposed plan to turn over Playland to a not-for-profit organization and demanded that the Administration share all of the details of the County park and recreation facility’s “re-invention,” which have been so far been withheld from the public and BOL.
After the Astorino Administration conducted its private review of the Request for Proposal (RFP) finalists, the BOL is now ready to conduct its Charter-mandated activities in an open and transparent process. The BOL will analyze the proposal announced by the Administration once the details are presented to the BOL. The BOL will also await the review of its independent financial audit Playland revenue and expenses, which will not be completed until later this year. Additionally, the BOL is hoping to receive public presentations from the all of the Playland RFP finalists wishing.
“The Astorino Administration knows that it must have the approval of the Board of Legislators for the transfer of County possessions and duties” said BOL Chairman Ken Jenkins (D-Yonkers). “Instead of collaborating and working together with the Board of Legislators on the future of Playland and many other issues, County Executive Astorino repeatedly chooses to look for political battles that are unfair to the people wanting to work with Westchester County.”
Playland has been specifically controlled by the BOL in accordance with the County Charter since the dissolution of the Playland Commission.
“Based on the plan that the County Executive has unveiled, he is proposing a ten-year lease between the County and Sustainable Playland, regardless of what the Administration calls it,” said BOL Vice Chair Lyndon Williams (D-Mount Vernon). “The fact that the Administration may write ‘Management Agreement’ on the face of it, makes it no less a lease. A lease is a term of years for the use of property. The lessee pays compensation to the lessor for the use and occupancy of the property. There is general exclusivity of possession by the lessee. The lessee pays the expenses and operating cost of the property. The lessor has the right to recover possession after the term of years ends. That’s a lease, and that’s what is being proposed to re-invent Playland.”
Williams noted that the County Charter explicitly calls for BOL approval of any lease agreement exceeding 5 years involving the County, including the ten-year lease announced for the historic Jay property last week.
Democratic legislators also had more questions about the deal with Sustainable Playland, and continue to worry County taxpayers will still need to pay off each year about $2.5 million of debt beginning in 2014 under the proposed agreement. This year, Playland will come close to breaking even while serving over $3.5 million in debt and generating revenue for other County departments.
Legislator Catherine Borgia (D-Ossining), chair of the BOL’s Government Operations Committee, said: “Serious financial questions must be answered dealing with insurance liability, parking issues and utility costs. Also, Playland provides hundreds of part-time jobs for young Westchester residents. The nitty-gritty of this proposal needs to be looked at closely and evaluated carefully in regard to the best interests of our taxpayers and businesses.”
“The details of this proposed agreement with Sustainable Playland to re-design and manage the park need to be in front of the Board of Legislators as soon as possible for the plan to move forward,” said Legislator Bill Ryan (D-White Plains). “County residents expect the Board to make a careful and thorough review of the plan before any deal is signed that will determine the park’s future. To fast-track this arrangement without Board oversight and public comment would be the wrong way to go. Let’s follow the proper process and work together so we make the right decision for County residents and taxpayers.”