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200 Supporters Attend Sustainable Playland Fundraiser

Community group seeking Westchester County's OK to lead revitalization efforts of landmark amusement park.

Sustainable Playland, the community based non-profit organization that seeks to restore Playland’s historic and environmental integrity.

The event, “Public Parks, Vibrant Communities,” at Coveleigh Club, Rye, featured speaker Dan Biederman, internationally renowned for his work in transforming public park spaces and President of Biederman Redevelopment Venture and Bryant Park Corporation.

Proceeds from the event will help fund SPI’s ongoing efforts to gain support for its plan for restoring and revitalizing Playland. The plan is one of a number of responses to Requests for Proposal issued by . A decision is expected to be announced this summer

SPI takes a holistic approach to create a sustainable year-round destination that will unlock Playland’s full recreational and entertainment value while restoring its historic and environmental integrity. The SPI plan divides the National Historic Landmark property into eight distinct areas including an entry zone with a landscaped sculpture garden and seven zones comprising recreation, entertainment and environmental activities aimed at attracting visitors with diverse interests from across Westchester and the region.

“We believe we have created a well-balanced proposal, one that addresses the needs of all county residents and retains the park as a public asset. Our plan respects the park’s National Landmark status, its environmental heritage, proximity to the adjoining Edith Read Wildlife Sanctuary, and the evolving needs of the community it serves,” said Sandhya Subbarao, President of SPI’s Executive Board of Trustees. “We have been encouraged by the favorable reaction our plan has received throughout Westchester and it is imperative that we continue with our outreach efforts.”

SPI’s plan proposes working with the private sector partners and the county under a governance and operations plan similar to the Central Park Conservancy.

The group says its plan reflects the creative input of consultants including architect Doug McKean and representatives of the amusement, restaurant, skating and other specialized activities to be included in the future park.

“Playland is a national treasure and deserves caring and thoughtful stewardship in order for it to thrive in the 21st century,” Subbarao said. “Working with Westchester County as a partner, we are confident that our approach will ensure that Playland is sustainable and will have a healthy second act indeed that will be enjoyed by future Westchester generations. We welcome others from throughout Westchester who share our vision to support SPI.”

The group has an online petition of support on its web site, www.SustainablePlayland.org.

Playland is set to open is 2012 season on Saturday, May 12. Westchester County  owns and operates the park – one of only a handful of governmental bodies to be in the amusement park business.

With attendance steadily dropping – from 1 million in 2005 to 494,000 in 2010 – park ownership has translated into greater taxpayer subsidies, according to Westchester County. The losses are as much as $5 million annually, including both operating losses and debt.

Since 1928, the focal point of the property has been the amusement park, which today has 50 major rides and attractions. The prototype of today's modern theme parks, Playland was the country's first totally planned amusement park. Seven of its rides and several of its art deco buildings are designated as National Historic Landmarks.

The request for proposals issued by Westchester County covered approximately 100 acres of the larger 280-acre Playland property.

RyeDad May 03, 2012 at 12:24 AM
I would bet that none of the people in that picture have ever been on a ride at Playland. Shouldn't that be a pre-resiquite in deciding what to do with a national historical site like Playland or is it whoever has the most money and lives in Rye wins?
William Demarest (Editor) May 03, 2012 at 11:48 AM
Memories of Playland: Funny, but every time I went on a school trip to Playland as a kid it rained! What are your memories of Playland? What do you think should be done with Playland?
William Demarest (Editor) May 03, 2012 at 11:48 AM
It's likely that no decision will be made on what's next for Playland until the end of the 2012 season for the park.
tedc May 03, 2012 at 04:31 PM
Doug McKean is in the shot RyeDad. But to your point he might be the only one.
Ian May 03, 2012 at 06:31 PM
Sustainable Playland needs a major wake up call that not everyone in Westchester County is in support of their plan - http://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/ArtDecoPLAYLAND/
Michael Coutermarsh May 03, 2012 at 11:06 PM
There hearts are in the right place but this concept overall is horrible. They want to keep Kiddie Land which is overinflated but remove every ride south of the midway. Plans call for the removal of the midway building that contain the mirror house, Arcade and Zombie castle. In place of a smaller dark ride, the horrible YoYo, and the Kite Flyer. Gone would be the Flume one of the best ride on property and a family ride a demographic they say they want to cater to. But they keep the Wild Mouse which is by far the worst of it's kind I have ridden. The Sports fields are a horrible idea. You can't convince me there are no sports field in the town. The indoor sports area they don't get use for just sports. I have on in town and it's most often used for exhibition space not sports. They are worried about green space despite having conservation land to one side and a city park on the other. The central area dose need more Landscaping but not park land.
Billy L May 07, 2012 at 12:19 PM
I am sorry to see the article choose to publish some bad stats on the park that cannot be validated. Attendance has steadily dropped? Really? So it was a million in 2005 when attendance was counted by multiplying the number of cars by 4 people assumed in each one to half that in 2010 when they actually counted people? One number cannot be compared to the other. They are keeping the historic integrity of the park? Really? keeping the original buildings and rides is NOT enough. It was designated a NHL because of it's rides and architecture as an amusement park! They want to remove rides and put fields and a SCULPTURE GARDEN?! Again, anyone who cares...write the county legislators. I've already written mine and told him this idea is a train wreck.
Stuart May 17, 2012 at 04:53 PM
I attended a Sustainable Playland informational meeting and I was extremely impressed with what these people are trying to accomplish. There are some important facts which cannot be overlooked. The park loses money every year in its current configuration, and there is evidence that Playland cannot succeed financially exclusively as an amusement park. The Sustainable Playland plan is modeled after the highly successful NYC Central Park Conservancy, and the group is actually using as a consultant Dan Biederman, who founded Grand Central Partnership, 34th Street Partnership, and Bryant Park Corporation. Like many others who grew up in Westchester, I have fond memories of Playland, but an examination of the situation tells us that something must change if this park is to continue to exist. The Sustainable Playland model utilizes the park year round, and does not depend solely on revenue between Memorial and Labor Day. New features of this plan include a sculpture garden, ball fields, bike paths and trails, a great lawn with picnicking, a playground, zoo, and much more. Shorline access and view will be enhanced, and the historic elements of the park will be preserved. In my opinion, it is a well-thought-out plan backed by a large group of Westchester residents who not only care about the future of this historic park, but have the expertise and experience to make it succeed. Visit the Sustainable Playland website to learn more.

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