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Rye Sues Westchester County Over Playland's New Private Manager

Standard Amusements co-founder Nicholas J. Singer, center, with Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino at Playland. Singer, a native of Harrison and co-founder of Standard Amusements, criticized Thursday's legal action by the City of Rye. Photo Credit: Jon Craig
Nicholas J. Singer was praised by Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino during the 2015 "State of the County" speech. Singer, a native of Harrison and co-founder of Standard Amusements, said the City of Rye's legal appeal could "kill the deal." Photo Credit: Jon Craig

This story has been updated.

RYE, N.Y. -- The City of Rye and Mayor Joe Sack filed a court complaint against Westchester County on Thursday, challenging the legality of county government’s hiring of Standard Amusements to manage and renovate Playland amusement park.

Rye's legal action appeals county government's declaration of itself as the lead public agency in the state Environmental Quality Review Act process that resulted in the recent private-public partnership between Westchester and Standard Amusements.

Harrison native Nicholas J. Singer, who co-founded Standard Amusements, said the Article 78 lawsuit places the future of Playland in jeopardy and threatens to undo years of work spent developing a plan to save the historic park.

"Why the City of Rye would seek to kill the deal and compromise the safety of Playland patrons is beyond our comprehension," Singer reacted on Thursday.

In May, Standard Amusements secured final approval from the Westchester County Board of Legislators for a $30 million deal to revitalize and operate Playland. Endorsed last year by Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, the latest contract requires Standard Amusements to add new rides and restaurants while upgrading the park’s physical infrastructure and retaining the unique character of the family-friendly park.

In a statement, Singer said: "We have engaged in a painstaking, six-year process with Westchester County to form a public-private partnership that does right by its citizens. This is an ideal example of government working creatively to provide value to its constituents. We have grave concerns about the City of Rye’s apparent efforts to harm its own citizens and waste millions of dollars of Rye and Westchester County taxpayer money with a meritless lawsuit."

"We have a carefully-crafted plan in place to not only save the historic park, but restore it to its original splendor while making it more environmentally compliant. These environmental upgrades, which include the addition of permeable surfaces (and the removal of) lead paint and asbestos. . . will benefit Playland’s most important customers – the children and families who visit the park," Singer said.

Westchester County Legislator Catherine Parker said, "Had the (Astorino) administration been more collaborative for the last six years, Rye City Council would probably be satisfied with the County serving as lead agency as it has done with . . . previous capital projects."

Parker, a Democrat from Rye, cited this list of projects as examples: the restoration of the boat house, restoration of the music tower, rehabilitation of the north bathhouse for the Westchester Children's Museum, the demolition of the pillars near the entrance gate, the rebuilding of the Ice Casino roof and boiler replacement after Superstorm Sandy (2012) and the restoration of part of the boardwalk also damaged by Sandy.

Parker suggested that the City of Rye be added as an "interested" party - not lead, but truly having a say: "I support Rye, and would hope that the administration agrees that they need to allow for Rye to have a greater say, prior to more tax dollars getting wasted going through the courts," Parker said.

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