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.