A tentative court clash between the City of Rye and Westchester County is afoot over the county’s $30 million deal with Standard Amusements to revitalize and operate Playland amusement park. The deal, announced a year ago by County Executive Rob Astorino, would spend a combined $60 million, including $32 million of taxpayer money, to add new rides, renovate existing structures, and restore the shoreline with new restaurants.
But earlier today, the City of Rye and its mayor, Joe Sack, filed a lawsuit (in the form of an Article 78 appeal) against Westchester itself, challenging the grounds of its public-private partnership with Standard Amusements. “The county did not follow the law,” Sack asserts, adding that it’s “taken a stubborn view of the situation, and we’re reacting. We had to take action.”
Specifically, Sack argues that by declaring itself lead agency on the project, Westchester bypassed the approval of Rye’s land-use boards, and thus failed to meet State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR) mandates. That action, Sack contests, ultimately forced the city’s hand in having “asked the county to rescind” lead-agency status to “make sure the SEQR review process would be done right.”
“What [Mayor Sack] says is false,” refutes Standard Amusements partner and Harrison native Nicholas Singer. “[He and Rye want] to have the ability to control the project but don’t want to spend the money.” (When asked whether Rye would allocate funds to upgrading Playland if afforded lead-agency status, Mayor Sack confirmed, “No, we would not.”)
Moreover, it’s Singer’s opinion that Rye is at fault for allowing Playland’s environmental state to recede, and he says he’s intent on ensuring that Standard Amusements and Westchester’s arrangement “does right by its citizens” by making Playland more “environmentally compliant.”
So with another summer season at the venerable landmark in full swing, Sack holds out hope that, “The courts will compel [the county] to withdraw,” while Singer, for his part, remains convinced that the City of Rye and its chief official are “going to go to court, and they’re going to lose.”