Although the article is 4 months old it is worth noting that Rye Playland was mired in turmoil all summer.
Two years ago the Westchester County negotiated to have Standard Amusements operate the park for 30 years. You can read below that Westchester County alleges they are owed money by Standard Amusements and that Standard Amusement never replaced Jacob Falfas with another experience amusement park operator to lead the park.
Report calls for re-evaluation of Playland agreement with Standard Amusements By Ryan Deffenbaugh - May 8, 2018
Westchester County Executive George Latimer said the county will invest millions of dollars and get little in return under the terms of a contract negotiated by former County Executive Rob Astorino’s administration to privatize management of the Playland amusement park in Rye.
Latimer’s office released the findings of a new report on the park management deal to the media on May 7. At a news conference, Latimer criticized several provisions of the contract that Astorino signed with Standard Amusements LLC to operate the park.
Latimer said the deal was evidence the prior administration viewed the 30-year contract more as a way to get the amusement park off the county books, rather than improve Playland.
“I think it is fair to say that there are individuals serving in the last administration who have said publicly … they didn’t believe that we should have an amusement park,” Latimer said. “I think the lack of commitment to looking at Playland as an asset is what undermines this overall arrangement. You will negotiate the deal very differently if you see this facility as I do, which is, this is the jewel of our park system.”
The deal between the county and Standard Amusements, a company backed by a Manhattan hedge fund, calls for the county to spend $33 million in capital investment, along with pool reconstruction costs of $9.5 million. Standard Amusements, meanwhile, is responsible for $27.5 million in investment, $14 million of which is earmarked for rides. The county is also required to make additional investments for the maintenance of the park.
The county’s Board of Legislators approved the deal in May 2016.
After Latimer took office at the start of this year, the county board called on his administration to review the deal. The report was led by Latimer’s Director of Operations Joan McDonald and County Attorney John Nonna. Among the complaints alleged in the investigation:
Standard Amusements still owes $1.25 million out of a $2.25 million upfront payment on the contract. The Astorino administration allowed for five extensions on payments Standard Amusements owed to the county under the deal without prior approval from the Board of Legislators. Neither the county nor Standard Amusements undertook a detailed assessment of the renovations needed to be done at Playland. The county estimates the park needs $125 million worth of renovations, which the report said could require the county to pay out between $65 million and $95 million beyond its initial commitments. The county will not receive a share of the profits until Standard Amusements has fully recouped its initial payments of $2.25 million and capital investment of $27.5 million. By Standard Amusement’s calculations, noted in the report, that means the county would not receive any profit share until at least 11 years after Standard Amusements takes over Playland management. Standard Amusements is in default on a material term of the contract: that the company provide an experienced amusement park operator to lead the park. The person the company originally named, Jacob Falfas, has apparently left the company and has not been replaced. The agreement with Standard Amusements covers 100 percent of the salary for the 30 county employees at the park, but only 30 percent of fringe benefits.
At the news conference, McDonald expressed concern with another provision that requires Standard Amusements to make its capital investment only after the county has made half of its promised investment.
“When the private entity doesn’t have skin in the game in the beginning, that’s not a great thing,” McDonald said.
Nonna said there are three main legal issues the county must address regarding the deal. First, has Standard Amusements met its financial obligations to this point, and can the company meet all future obligations?
Second, if the contract is not beneficial to taxpayers, can it be renegotiated?
“And finally, if we can’t renegotiate, can we terminate the agreement?” he said. “Is that more beneficial for the taxpayers? What is best for the taxpayers is our responsibility – and that is the way we have to look at the legal issues.”
Latimer said the report was delivered to Standard Amusements and its attorneys. His office also plans to reach out to the company for a meeting.
Asked to respond to the report, Standard Amusements Partner Nicholas Singer provided a short statement by email through a spokesperson.
“We are pleased Westchester County has completed its review and look forward to engaging with the county to resolve any concerns as expeditiously as possible,” Singer said.
As usual, my analysis is free of charge! Original enough to not steal someone else's quote as a signature
Playland plan includes new coaster, restaurants — but will it happen? Mark Lungariello, Rockland/Westchester Journal News Published 6:00 a.m. ET Jan. 30, 2019
RYE - The company under contract to manage Playland has plans to add at least six new restaurants and resurrect a roller coaster knocked down 62 years ago.
But the plans for the amusement park face an uncertain future as Westchester County Executive George Latimer’s administration pushes to renegotiate the terms of a 2016 contract with Standard Amusements.
“We initially presented our fully financed plan to preserve Playland’s ecological, historical and cultural integrity to the administration in August 2018 and have received no formal response,” Nathaniel Garnick, a Standard spokesman, said in a statement. “This plan, which was carefully crafted over three years, will revitalize Playland’s aging infrastructure, attractions, concessions and amenities, ensuring it is a world class, safe entertainment destination for families.”
A map showing Standard Amusement’s ideas for the park started making the rounds on social media last weekend after it was shared with members of an advisory group formed by the company. It was the first time parts of the group’s “master plan” were made public.
Catherine Cioffi, a spokeswoman for the county executive, said Standard had provided the administration with a map of "indefinite changes" and not a comprehensive plan of action.
"During the meeting they spoke generally about changes, but with no concrete plan and no timetable," Cioffi said. "The conversation was so general, and the map so indistinct that it would be impossible to respond. There simply are not enough details."
The company said it had acted in accordance with the contract and said the county "misrepresented the nature of the engagement."
The plans, as outlined in the map and discussions, call for:
Building a new version of the Airplane coaster, also called the Aeroplane. It isn’t clear what the new version, to be built within 10 years, will cost or if it would be wooden like the original ride, which was taken down in 1957 and is still remembered fondly by coaster enthusiasts. Eliminating a charge for beach access. The plan would add seasonal water activities and an outdoor fitness center. Building five new signature rides within the first three years, as well as nine new Kiddyland rides. Upgrading and modernizing the old Zombie Castle ride within five years. Adding at least six new restaurants on the boardwalk, fountain plaza and within the amusement park. The miniature golf at the plaza would be removed, with a new course built at the south end of the boardwalk near Rye Town Park. Planting approximately 500 new trees around the park. Restoring the colonnades around the park.
Steve Vasko, a member of the advisory group, posted Standard's map to his Facebook group “Save Rye Playland.” He said it showed a huge amount of investment he didn’t think the county would put into the park on its own.
“The county is in budget crisis and there are a whole bunch of things that are going to get priority over that and we all know that,” he said. “Unless they let Standard Amusements in to do some of that stuff, the park is going to continue to deteriorate.”
Standard, which received a 30-year contract to manage the park in May 2016, is required to invest at least $27.5 million into the park while Westchester must invest another $30 million. The price-tag for needed repairs has been estimated to be much higher than the totals, and Standard’s master plan could inflate its own costs.
A new Airplane coaster alone can be a significant investment, Vasko said, but even without that classic ride, he believed the plan balanced preservation with an eye toward the new.
“I want to see new life breathed into the park,” he said. “My family has been going to the park since the early 1930s, generations of my family. I feel like if it doesn’t get this type of investment and restoration now it’s going to go down the drain.” Clashes behind the scenes
Standard, a group backed by a hedge fund, was chosen after an extended process under former County Executive Rob Astorino, a Republican who said he believed the county should get out of the business of managing an amusement park. The group put in a bid to run the park a decade ago, and was chosen as the winner in 2015 after a false start with another would-be operator.
But after the changeover in administrations, the county and company have clashed behind the scenes over terms of the deal. The Journal News/lohud reported that the county had formally accused the company of breach of contract and the company fired back in a letter saying the county was the party in breach, possibly setting up a legal standoff after administration officials have publicly said they want to renegotiate the deal.
Some critics have said the agreement is lopsided in favor of the company, which will pay annual payments starting at $300,000. The company pays Westchester a percentage of net income up to 12 percent after it recoups its initial investment.
Deirdre Curran, founder of the group Friends of Playland, was against its signing. She has said the county should run the park and re-establish a long-defunct commission overseeing Playland operations.
“An artist’s rendering showing everything people think they would like to see at the park is nice,” she said. “But people need to look at that contract and they need to look at how much money it’s going to cost the taxpayers — because the terms of the contract are disastrous.”
Curran helped put together a community forum on the park with the county executive earlier this month. She said even if the county opted to move forward with a private operator, Westchester should put out a new request for proposals based on the information available today.
But John Testa, the county legislature's Republican minority leader, called the plan "intriguing."
“In the interest of transparency, I would like an opportunity to go through the plan with Standard in a committee meeting where legislators would have an opportunity to ask questions and hear more details from our private partner," Testa said.
Legislature Chairman Ben Boykin didn’t return calls. A spokesman for Standard said company representatives hadn’t been invited to speak with lawmakers but would “welcome the opportunity.”
As usual, my analysis is free of charge! Original enough to not steal someone else's quote as a signature
Westchester looks to add new ride to Playland by Fourth of July Mark Lungariello, Rockland/Westchester Journal News Published 12:08 p.m. ET Feb. 15, 2019 | Updated 2:48 p.m. ET Feb. 15, 2019
Westchester County is looking to add a new ride to Playland amusement park in time for Independence Day. It'd be the first new ride in more than a decade.
The county parks department put out a request for bids dated Wednesday asking for an individual or company to add one “new or recently used thrill ride.” Bids are due to the county by March 15 and the agreement is expected to run up to five years.
Catherine Cioffi, a spokeswoman for Westchester County Executive George Latimer, said the 2019 season would be "filled with fun and excitement" at the park.
"We look forward to seeing the proposals and we are looking forward to welcoming a new ride to Playland in 2019," Cioffi said. "The people of Westchester, and those who enjoy that park, deserve a new ride and we are going to work to make that happen."
The last time the park saw new rides was in 2008, when the Music Express and Playland YoYo opened. The county's request for proposals said the county won't accept any "rebuilt, refurbished or modified" rides.
“The ride must have good advertising potential, and the chosen vendor is expected to deliver, supervise and directly assist with installation, provide operational, maintenance and safety training and have the ride operating and open to the public no later than July 3, 2019,” the request for proposals states.
The winning bidder must have at least five years experience in the amusement park industry. An evaluation committee will decide the winning bid, the document says.
The area where the new ride would be installed is near the Playland Plunge ride, according to the county.
The county also took action Thursday to pursue an agreement with the Metro-North railroad to co-sponsor a discount package that includes a rail fare, round-trip MetroCard, Playland ride admission and a beach/pool coupon.
That agreement, which will run from May 1 through Sept. 8, will net the county revenue of $23 per adult package or $20 per disabled, senior citizen or children package, according to Westchester estimates.
Westchester owns and manages Playland, the historical park on Rye’s Long Island Sound Shore. Management of the park has been a focus of recent debate between the county and a company under contract to take over the day to day operations of Playland starting in November.
A 30-year management deal approved by lawmakers under former County Executive Rob Astorino has faced scrutiny since Latimer replaced him in 2018. Latimer has criticized terms of the contract as favoring the company over Westchester taxpayers. Each side has claimed the other is in breach of the contract.
Standard has said the county hasn’t made any proposals to modify the contract, while Latimer has said after expressing his concerns over terms of the deal the company is the party that needs to step up and pitch any changes.
Nathaniel Garnick, a spokesman for Standard, responded to the county's plan in an emailed statement.
“It is unclear to Standard Amusements how this (request for proposals) is going to interact with our carefully developed master plan which was presented to the Director of Operations, several County Commissioners, and numerous employees of DPW and Parks on August 2nd, 2018," the email said. "It is perplexing the County would rush to do this when the Park has so many other immediate needs, such as the fully funded fire suppression project.”
Last edited by larrygator on Sat Feb 16, 2019 2:20 pm.
As usual, my analysis is free of charge! Original enough to not steal someone else's quote as a signature
One more update that looks like good news for Rye Playland; an appeals court has upheld the dismissal of the city of Rye's lawsuit against Westchester County. This is regarding the lawsuit where the city claimed that the country government did not have the right to make the contract with Standard Amusements.
RYE – The city lost an appeal in a lawsuit over Playland that pitted Rye against Westchester County government over big changes planned at the amusement park.
Rye’s lawsuit was dismissed in New York State Supreme Court in 2017 and a state appellate court upheld the dismissal on Wednesday.
Westchester County Executive George Latimer, a Democrat, said he was pleased with the decision but said the county would be a “good neighbor” to Rye. Latimer once served on the Rye City Council and lives near the park, which is owned by the county but located within the city.
Westchester County cancels contract with new Rye Playland management company
RYE, Westchester County (WABC) -- Westchester County is canceling its contract with the company that was set to manage Rye Playland.
It comes nearly a year after county Executive George Latimer released a report criticizing the terms of the contract with Standard Amusements.
The deal was a marquee initiative of his predecessor.
Latimer gave 30 days' notice of the termination.
Latimer says his administration wants to see Playland "succeed and thrive," but he says he does not see that happening under the current arrangement.
Standard Amusements says the move improperly terminates the contract and could lead to a lawsuit, and that the administration has been negotiating in bad faith. The company called the decision "deeply disappointing and devastatingly false" and said "it exposes taxpayers to hundreds of millions of dollars in losses from Playland's extensive capital needs and needless litigation."
Latimer said the decision was made to protect taxpayers and came after an extended review and discussion of the provisions of the agreement made by the prior administration three years ago, and more recently, after extended negotiations between counsel for the county and Standard Amusements.
He said the election to terminate is based on Standard Amusements' failure to cure its various material defaults under the contract that were laid out in the county's letter to Standard Amusements on December 7, 2018.
Latimer alleges Standard Amusements has improperly claimed millions of dollars as part of its contractually defined Manager's Investment obligation, which is supposed to represent capital improvements at Playland, and that the company claimed it invested over $5.7 million in the park when an audit showed that money was spent on salaries, meals, travel, advertisements, marketing, consulting fees, and legal fees.
Full text of Latimer's statement:
"We are unhappy with the way this has all turned out. We never wanted this kind of conflict. However, we are simply not satisfied with what we have been seeing. We wanted to see the energy, excitement and drive in Standard Amusements' vision for Playland. We didn't want just a real estate deal. This Administration believes in Playland and its future; we are not looking to liquidate the park as a liability, as some feel. We want what is best for Playland - to see it succeed and thrive. At the heart of that assessment is whether this arrangement developed three years ago, under different decision makers and that ends county management of the park, will somehow deliver that energy and excitement. After 16 months, we believe this arrangement will not deliver a better tomorrow for Playland. The county has been negotiating with Standard Amusements in good faith, seeking to recast our arrangement into a different focus, one where Standard's professed commitment to the park's future would be manifest by its ability to help shape a management and marketing commitment, not primarily a capital commitment, followed by management of the park. We are unhappy that instead, we have seen leaks of false information to the press; the hiring of a high-priced public relations firm and the hiring of a legal firm committed to defending the company's corporate interests rather than spending those resources delivering a detailed marketing plan. The energy spent by Standard to influence lawmakers to defend their original agreement could have been better spent in a more wide ranging effort to win over those in the community that did not want to see a corporate entity take over a public park facility. But, at the core of the county's election to terminate isn't emotion - it is the fact that Standard Amusements is in material breach of our contract. Standard Amusements has improperly claimed that it invested money in Playland, when in reality that money was not spent on purposes allowed under the agreement. Standard Amusements is wasting taxpayer dollars at the end of the day.
"This agreement has Westchester taxpayers on the hook for $125 million dollars with Standard committed for $27.5 million. My job is to make sure Westchester taxpayers come first. The county's relationship with Standard Amusements must come to a close. We cannot have confidence in Standard Amusements based on its actions. The company has not proven it has been serious about Playland succeeding. While there have been claims by Standard Amusements that the county has been in breach of the contract, the reality is the county has performed under the agreement and done everything it reasonably could. As the county has explained to Standard Amusements, the company's interference in the design process and underestimation of the costs of capital improvements, upon which the county relied, directly caused the county not to timely meet its required level of capital investment. Furthermore, the county has never indicated to Standard Amusements that it intended not to meet its obligations under the contract. As required under the agreement, the county is giving Standard Amusements 30 days' written notice. May 28, 2019 has been selected as the date the agreement will terminate in all respects."
We want what is best for Playland - to see it succeed and thrive. At the heart of that assessment is whether this arrangement developed three years ago, under different decision makers and that ends county management of the park, will somehow deliver that energy and excitement.
Something tells me that the bolded part above is the only reason this plan fell through.
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