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Playland’s Upcoming Rollercoaster Ride

Newish Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino may be the real dragon if you are a fan of Rye's Playland Amusement Park.

A long-time money loser owned by the county, many have debated the fate of Playland over the years. Bring your Playland fun card and all aboard for a ride to determine the fate of this historic park on the shores on Rye City.

In comments to the editorial board of the Journal News and reported by Gerald McKinstry in LoHud.com, Astorino told the paper:

""I am convinced Playland is never going to make money… "The county has run out of excuses. The model is broken and we've got to fix it," he said, adding that revenues are down 15 percent this year on its roughly $16 million operating budget despite the relatively good weather compared with last year. "The question going forward is 'How do we utilize that parkland?' We have to look at our options."…

And while Astorino doesn't "want to see condos" at the Playland site, he reiterated his longstanding view that officials need to take a fresh look at what to do with the National Historic Landmark built in the 1920s — and perhaps privatize its operations or reconsider its current use altogether. Astorino said his administration is preparing requests for proposals, or RFPs, to be sent out in several weeks, to see what can be done with the place."

Will former Rye Corporation Counsel Kevin Plunkett – now Astorino's #2 – play the ghoulish part of Playland hatchet man?

Will Playland go the way of the Durland Scout Center–a public resource sold off and replaced with high priced homes? Will it be privatized–creating the worry that some have had in the past of many more cars and maybe a massive parking deck structure to support all the park visitors required to run a profitable operation? Or is the ghost of Edith Read hoping the Dragon Coaster gets sold off to the highest bidder and the entire property is turned into a passive park?

Also at risk, reported LoHud.com, is the planned Westchester Children's Museum that is being built on the boardwalk in the renovated bathhouses.

"In looking to the private sector, the county executive also "put a hold" on signing a possible $1 a year lease with The Westchester County Children's Museum to occupy the historic bathhouses, which are undergoing $8.8 million in renovations at taxpayers' expense.

Astorino compared the location to Park Avenue on the Monopoly board because "it's right there on the boardwalk."

"We owe it to ourselves to see what we should do with the entire property before we divide it up for different causes," Astorino said."

What do you think should be done with Playland? Keep the park as is? Privatize it? Knock it down? Make a massive Edith Read-Playland-Marshlands-Jay Heritage park?

MyRye.com wants to know. Leave a comment below with your thoughts.

28 COMMENTS

  1. We must find a way to keep Playland as an amusement park. We cannot keep losing a piece of Rye’s history. And it’s wonderful for the children. Get the government out and someone who knows what they are doing ‘in’ to keep Playland as it is.

  2. No Rob – it will never MAKE money – your goal should be to see it doesn’t lose money. There’s a deep recession currently that is impacting the revenues despite the favorable weather. And what are the results of the customer surveys you’ve been running – are the break points for rides vs. no ride admissions too high or too low? What are the attendees telling us? You’ll only get political spin if you walk down the hall and speak with you know who or his acolytes. He’s likely got some hungry outside interests salivating for this plum to be dropped in their laps. That’s not the legacy your constituents want. You’re smarter than Spano by a mile – find a way.

  3. As a Rye resident and living right across the Playland Parking lot, for me and my family this area became a great way to walk, see animals, ride the bike and just enjoy the park. I would not like to see condos or high end single family houses. This area is made for recreation and there a lot of possibilities here to create a recreational area for residents not only Rye also Westchester fellows. I am not sure if just can knock it down because part of the area is landmarked

  4. I think it’s time to shut it down, make it a different kind of park. Why should the government be in the business of running an amusement park at a significant loss, with poor operations resulting in several deaths over the years (exposing the county to lawsuits), all to keep from “losing history”. Let’s face it, Rye is not a museum, and we can’t expect the government to keep buying, maintaining and operating old dilapidated structures like the Quaker Meeting House, the Bird House and Playland on the taxpayer’s dime. There are few, if any, amusement parks that make money – they’re extremely capital intensive and carry large insurance premiums. In order to attract the necessary crowds, they resort to creating new rides, which are expensive to design and build, adding to the capital burden.
    The county might sell it to developers (adding to our tax base), keeping only the boardwalk and the lake for strollers. Better yet, it could convert the area to athletic fields. Imagine how many playing fields could be added by replacing the parking lot with grass fields. It already has lighting in place. I think we’d have enough soccer, football, lacrosse, field hockey fields, baseball diamonds and tennis courts to satisfy every team.
    The biggest mistake would be to continue to pretend that operating it is in the best interests of the taxpayers.

  5. I support Rob Astorino’s proposal for an alternative use for historical Playland Park. We don’t have leaders possessing the financial skills required to keep Playland solvent at this time. Playland was kept open during the Great Depression but today is different. After almost 80 years we must face the facts that our current society just doesn’t have the creativity to profitably run Playland. It’s nothing to be ashamed about, we’re just smarter in other ways. We possess newer skills better suited to tearing down places of historical significance and replacing them with strip malls. Nothing wrong with that, it’s how progress keeps moving forward. Playland is overhead. So are gov’t buildings and gov’t workers. We’re just forced to make choices between quality governments or amusement park experiences. I know which one I would choose, quality gov’t, especially if teamed with gaudy strip malls. Additionally, as time passes, the memories we all have of Playland seem to get better but in reality the time we all spent there as kids wasn’t as good as we remember it. In fact, the time we spent there was most likely pretty dismal. As we get older our brains have a way of blocking out the bad memories and replacing them with good memories that never happened. Tearing Playland down would spare our youth the dismal experiences we now fondly look back upon. What I would like to see constructed on Playland’s site is a steam powered alternative energy plant . The salt water pumped in from the Sound would be heated creating steam to fuel the turbines. The hot water used by the turbines could later be pumped into Playland Lake were we could farm tropical fish to be sold at local seafood markets. The Tiki Bar and Sea Side Johnny’s could boast the only restaurants in the tri-state area with freshly caught Grouper! Imagine the profit potential. Another possibility for the hot water is hot saltwater Roman baths that admission could be charged. The source of heat used to create the steam would be hot air which, in the Rye area, is unlimited . If we took Rob Astorino, Kevin Plunkett, The Rye City Council and a host of other people too numerous to mention and put them all in a sealed compartment below the water tank, the heat radiating off that compartment due to the excessive amount of hot air would be enough to light up the entire eastern seaboard, even at peak air conditioning usage. And it’s all renewable energy with a low carbon foot print! What more could anyone ask for as a future use for Playland?

  6. We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a world-class children’s museum in Westchester County right now and right here in Rye. It will the cornerstone of a revitalized Playland no matter what the rest of the park evolves to be. The Westchester Children’s Museum will drive revenue for surrounding businesses, boost tourism, create jobs and enhance our school’s curriculum and our property values. It’s a 9-5 operation that would bring families and schools to the boardwalk and a prestigious cultural institution to our own backyard. Mr. Astorino would rather sell out to the highest bidder for what? Six Flags? Condos? A catering hall throwing loud events every night?

    The Westchester Children’s Museum has the strong
    support from thousands of donors and volunteers as well as George Lattimer, Judy Myers and the Board of Legislators because they have the vision to see the extraordinary legacy this can have for Westchester, Playland, Rye and your family.

    Visit http://www.discoverwcm.org and see the amazing exhibit and architectural plans ready to go. Now’s the time to join the campaign, show your support and get WCM open.

  7. Color me cynical about building a “world-class” children’s museum. The competition is well-established museums that have been in existence for decades and decades, and have a sustainable operation with a large space for numerous exhibits.
    My fear is that a great deal of money is raised to build the museum (to date, about $7 million has been raised). The museum is then built, but due to small exhibit space, lack of advertising, poor management, lack of interest, low repeat visits, etc, the sustainability of ongoing operations proves impossible… at which point the museum turns to the government for help in the form of grants, subsidies, etc.
    I wish the organizers all the luck to create and sustain a children’s museum, but I question if the business plan is achievable without the need to turn to some form of government to sustain it. Our federal, state and local governments really need to focus on their core responsibilities right now, to provide us with what we need, rather than what we want – two very different things!

  8. To loose Playland a wonderful historic piece of history would be TRAGIC!

    Residents of Westchester and CT have a very easy drive to Rye. Those living In Rockland and Orange counties also have only a 30 to 45 minute drive to Playland.

    It is one of only two, Coney Island being the other, amusement Parks in the tri-state area.

    People have been howling over the POP admission of $30.00. This is a very good deal VS the old policy of pay as you go. With each major ride being $6.00 Ala crate, 5 rides add up to $30.00 QUICKLY

    One can do the 5 rides in less then an hour! I do not think most people who come with their children for the day would leave after their kids went on 5 rides!

    I know friends with children who spent $60.00 for rides using pay as you go in the past.

    Taking even ONE child to a baseball game at Yankee Stadium and sitting in the terrace area (2nd section from the VERY TOP OF THE STADIUM) IS $85.00 A TICKET TO SIT IN THE NOSE BLEED SECTION! That is NOT even counting parking tolls and food!

    So $150+ for a 3 hrs or so baseball game VS $30.00 for an entire day at a historic amusement park along the STUNNINGLY BEAUTIFUL LI SOUND!

    I am a adult and feel the POP is a good value for me, as I ride way more then 5 rides when I go there.

    Hell I can go on the Dragon Coaster at least 3 times!

    Rob Astrino is clearly courting some private investors who want to TEAR DOWN THIS ICONIC BEAUTIFUL PARK to build CONDOS!! !!

    Yes take something from AVERAGE working people and their families and give it to the UBER RICH who will pay 1.5 MILLION and UP for a Condo on the LI Sound!

    If worst comes to worst a private operator should take over Playland from its current government run business model.

    Residents of Westchester, Rockland and those in CT PLEASE DON’T LET THIS WONDERFUL ART DECCO ORIGINAL PARK BE CLOSED!

    Support it by COMING with you families.If you do NOT have kids patronize the park as an ADULT. Go back to the days when you were a kid as you scream as loud as you can zooming along the rails of the iconic wooden Dragon Coaster or getting soaking wet on water flume rides!

  9. Keep Playland because
    1. It’s cheap[er] for the customers
    2. Looks nice on postcards
    3. Supports fond memories
    4. Guarantees access to a park-like atmosphere on the water

    Change Playland because
    1. Taxpayers can’t afford it
    2. It’s dangerous (historic deaths)
    3. Can make the space more useful for local tax payers (ball fields, etc.)

    Count me in on the change side, but I’m not sure to what. It would seem to me, though, that as long as it’s operating at a loss, entry and ticket charges are too low. Why should Westchester taxpayers subsidize non-Westchester citizens? Of course, if you increase prices, attendance will drop, exacerbating the current financial issues, but potentially forcing constructive [not housing] change.

  10. Hi all,

    I’ve enjoyed reading your lively discussion on this, and I’m hoping to work on a story with your thoughts on Playland and the Children’s Museum. There has been a lot of talk from officials but not enough from local folks.

    Would any of you be willing to talk for a quick few minutes? I can be reached at 914-582-5507 or you can email your number to tjuva@lohud.com

    Thanks so much!
    Theresa
    Staff writer
    The Journal News

  11. The Westchester Children’s Museum has a sound and sustainable business plan developed by experienced business professionals using a rich data set from the Associations of Children’s Museums. Based on conservative market share and square footage projections the museum expects 198,000 visitors a year. These projections are independent of Playland attendance. The museum is set to be run by sound professionals and the board currently consists of recognized leaders from the business, legal and real estate communities. In addition, beyond the private investment of millions of dollars of infrastructure improvements to a publically owned building, the museum operations will add over $4 million annually to the local Westchester economy.

  12. Robert, do you really consider playland “dangerous?” Are the rides themselves dangerous because of their design, or because of rider actions?

    BTW — how many deaths have there been during your lifetime at Playland (“Too many” is not an acceptable answer)?

  13. I think that the Playland body count is 4 since 2001, but it may be 5 and more than 0 is too many. For the record, my family typically gets to Playland at least once in the summer. We also go a few times in the winter to ice skate. But we’d a.) pay more if we had to and b.) go elsewhere if we had to.

    But the county government has no business operating an amusement park. Westchster’s ownership of Playland is a perfect example of NY State government getting into areas better left to private enterprise or locally controlled organizations. Matt has already covered those points more than adequately in his posts.

    And no, I don’t believe that we need yet another Children’s museum. There’s one in NYC (W83rd street and quite good, actually), one on Long Island, one in Brooklyn, etc.

  14. I feel that it’s dangerous for families whose parents do not properly look after their children.

    I feel that it’s dangerous for employees who don’t follow the safety rules provided by their employer.

    I feel that it’s dangerous for people who drink, get drunk, and then go swimming.

    In short, if you can’t be responsible (for whatever reason), it’s dangerous and you probably have no business being their. But the same can be said for operating heavy machinery, running a lawn mower, driving a car, shooting a gun, etc.

  15. LOL…I wish you didn’t say swimming! I was going to say if people frown at Oakland Beach, should we close down the beach?

    I don’t believe that Playland is inherently dangerous. The deaths were unfortunate, but definitely avoidable.

    That being said, I’m not a big fan of WC running Playland, but I’m also not thrilled with a private owner running it. They will (of course) attempt to maximze profits, and the only way (I can think of) is to get as many patrons as possible to visit. Not the best answer for Rye.

  16. I am sorry to those of you who don’t want to see Playland go but sometimes change happens and its for the better. Playland has been run in the red for years and on top of that taxpayers of Westchester County have been bailing this park out for patrons that are from everywhere but Westchester. Change happens all the time whether we like it or not but you will always have the memories inside you forever.
    The county would be smart to take advantage of this waterfront and add restaurants and shops. Think Hamptons or Montauk. Give the place a much added face lift with fresh paint and get rid of the awful green. I agree with keeping the ice rink and maybe a few rides but overall the place needs to a big change. And frankly some of the people it brings into this town are what is adding to a quality of life issue in the summer.
    But to those of you who say oh this is a place where i went and my kids and the memories well like i said change happens and in this case it will be for the better if they close the park and make it into passive parkland and fields or million dollar condos.

  17. Judy Myer’s thoughtful response to the “fate” of Playland is very much appreciated by all of us who have worked over the years to create a museum for children in Westchester County.

    To those of you who are unfamiliar with the campaign to build the Westchester Children’s Museum, it will be a world class learning institution that reflects the diverse residents of our region through a commitment to intergenerational learning and building awareness of the environment and the cultures and customs of our neighbors. The content will draw from the dramatic history, cultural diversity, flourishing ecosystems, and rich literary and artistic traditions of our region. Our architecture and exhibition design and our programming has been informed and shaped by the advice of countless advisors in the fields of education, early childhood development, special needs, elementary school curriculum specialists, and cultural advisors.

    We have raised funds to build out the museum at the Playland Bathhouses and are shovel ready. Studies from the Association of Children’s Museum show that children’s museums are the economic anchors of revitalization projects in many of the communities in which they are built. Building a Museum in the Playland Bathhouse, that will serve our families, our children, our schools, and draw tourists, will benefit any future form that Playland Park takes. In fact, it can become the cultural and recreational hub of the Park and revitalize the complex as we now know it.

    Until the walls of this museum are built, we provide educational outreach to children in community programs across the County and in Fairfield, all of which are underwritten by private, foundation and corporate donors.

    Building the Museum at the Playland Bathhouses provides a unique opportunity for adaptive reuse of historic landmark buildings which have been unoccupied for more than 40 years. The location on the Sound offers unprecedented opportunities for environmental learning. And, the site is accessible from every major roadway and public transportation.

    I will close this note by letting the readers know that Museum will be self-sustaining though fundraising, memberships, admission, and other revenue-generating activities. We do not seek taxpayer money to build this Museum and in fact will be an economic benefit the County.

    I invite you to visit the website to learn more – http://www.discoverwcm.org.

    Regards,
    Corinne Zola
    President
    Westchester Children’s Museum

  18. Corinne – All wonderful sentiments, great support and contributions from your interested parties, but I believe a large part of what is being asked is a financial question. Yes, you’ve raised a lot of money for the construction of the museum, but can (Westchester Tax Payers) really afford another subsidized initiative? Another not for profit?

    A $1/year lease is a subsidy. I’m not sure what a market rental rate would be ($15-20k/month?), but I’m sure a lot more than that – water / beach front, art deco building, etc.

    I am open to seeing the property be used as a museum if it is financially self-sufficient – including a real rent, utilities, etc. If the market demand predicted by your studies is real, then shouldn’t the museum be able to pay for itself? Including expected secondary benefits (economic development, etc.) doesn’t really count as their estimation is subject to significant assumptions and – for many public works – rarely realized.

  19. Dear Robert, thank you for your response and your comments. As was stated in an earlier post by Jeanne Fogel, “the Westchester Children’s Museum has a sound and sustainable business plan developed by experienced business professionals using a rich data set from the Associations of Children’s Museums. Based on conservative market share and square footage projections the museum expects 198,000 visitors a year. These projections are independent of Playland attendance. The museum is set to be run by sound professionals and the board currently consists of recognized leaders from the business, legal and real estate communities.”

    An important additional point must be made with respect to your comments on rent and whether the Museum should be viewed as a subsidy. In fact, the buildings which are intended to be the future Westchester Children’s Museum – the landmark Bathhouses – require an investment of millions of dollars of infrastructure improvements to make them habitable (this is electric, plumbing, HVAC etc.). This is money that the Museum itself will invest into a publically owned building not the County. Going forward, the business plan covers sustainability and maintenance of the buildings also through privately raised funds.

  20. “the county government has no business operating an amusement park. Westchster’s ownership of Playland is a perfect example of NY State government getting into areas better left to private enterprise or locally controlled organizations. ”

    I suggest asking private companies like Bear Stearns,Lehman Bros, AIG, Chrysler, GM, or Enron if they could do a better job.

    It’s amazing how Judy Myers jumps to solutions without even doing the research that tedc suggested. It seems clear the fate of Playland has already been determined. It’s too bad that a few people like Judy Myers can ruin it for 1 million people a year that visit Playland. It’s curiuos that Judy’s plan would never bring 1 million people to the park which means many people lose. It’s also interesting she advocates keeping Kiddie Land. Politically, it means she “cares” about the kids but in reality Kiddie land is only for kids under 7 or 8 years of age. I guess going forward the kids of Westchester will be hanging up their amusement park spikes at the ripe old age of 8. Great plan Judy.

  21. Robert Z. writes….

    “I think that the Playland body count is 4 since 2001, but it may be 5….”

    Then Robert Z. writes…

    “For the record, my family typically gets to Playland at least once in the summer. ”

    Would you get there more often if the body count was higher?

  22. correct me if I am wrong but playland doesn’t need to be revitalized per say. The boardwalk would flourish if you put a few restaurants and shops there or any type of business given that it has the opportunity. To say that the Museum is the only thing that could revitalize it is not true. The Playland Boardwalk I don’t think needs a children’s museum. Since you say it can revitalize an area why not build it in Yonkers or Mount Vernon? Yonkers is trying very hard to revitalize their waterfront area so according to you this museum would work great in helping them do that. Playland just has buildings that haven’t been used and if someone invested in them for a business they would flourish with their million dollar view and being in a affluent community like Rye.

  23. Okay, “Cynical”, your comments would have more value AND credibility if they came with a real name attached, but you may be concerned about linking your opinions with your real-world self.

    I indicated my family’s usage of Playland so that it was clear that I’d been there and that, even with a higher price (which would be appropriate) we would continue to visit. Body count wouldn’t change that because, as you obviously missed, we look after our kids, play by the rules, etc and so feel that we’re a low likelihood of drowning while swimming, getting thrown out of a ride while standing w/o a seatbelt, etc.

    Your comparison to financial services companies is confusing to me. Has someone suggested that they would be any more competent at running an amusement park than our county government? I think not so we’ll discount that part of your post. And if you’ve looked at the amusement park “industry”, you’ll find that many of the operators are suffering losses – so maybe it’s a dying business that needs to be significantly modified. Something that Mr. Astorino is suggesting and which seems the right action to me. But what that change is needs to be defined which takes thoughtful consideration, not emotional reaction.

  24. “I feel that it’s dangerous for families whose parents do not properly look after their children.

    I feel that it’s dangerous for employees who don’t follow the safety rules provided by their employer.

    I feel that it’s dangerous for people who drink, get drunk, and then go swimming.”

    Robert,

    I have to plead guilty to every offense that you bring up. I’ve violated all 3 of those offenses. I’m glad you are so perfect that you have never made any mistakes. I can’t count the number of times in my life I have made bad decisions and luckily didn’t pay for it with my life or my kids lives. I always thank whoever is in charge of this crazy place each time he lets me off without paying dearly for my imperfectness. I try not to judge people especially in hindsight and especially when we never get the full story. I hope to “God” you never make a mistake and pay for it dearly.

  25. Cynical – I am far from perfect, but thanks for the thought – as I self confess and as my family will surely reinforce. The point is that a lot of people are so careless (had a father with kids in the car drive through a red light on Purchase today while I was in the cross walk with one of my kids – that was nice) that the real danger is all in their own creation.

  26. Here we go again. We have another politician out to save us from something that doesn’t “make money”. We should close all the parks in Rye because they don’t make money. Why stop there, why not privatize all the public schools? Close the library and local museums. After all, they don’t make money. I don’t have issue with examining the use, operation and cost of Playland but the full picture isn’t just about the yearly loss. The larger picture involves benefits to youth employment in Westchester County, the additional revenue to local businesses and the activities that park sponsors and inspires. There is value in maintaining the heritage of a town. Instead of trying to close Playland, examine the operation to control and minimize costs but continue to look at it in the light of a resource and historical treasure. It is an investment. A privatized Playland will not have Rye’s best interest in mind when deciding what to do with this property. Examine what happened to communities like Asbury Park, Atlantic City or Miami Beach when private interests took control of a town’s coastline.

  27. Steve,
    the impact on business in the area is rather minor. The people going to playland and the beaches use the business in the imediate beach area which are the 2 deli’s and a pizza shop. The beach crowed will continue to come and the local business will continue to make money off the people going to the beach. Overall Playland has a lot of negatives to it and is losing money. Keep 4 or 5 of the historic rides make parkland and fields and add shops and restaurants to the boardwalk and the place will do fine. and make money! all while keeping people employed and attracting people. and like i have said a new face lift.

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