On Monday night the Westchester Board of Legislators approved the County’s bankruptcy court settlement with Standard Amusements. The vote paves the way for Standard Amusements to take control of the Rye’s Playland Park on December 1st, after the 2021 season is over.
The choice was limited – vote in favor of the current settlement or roll back to the original 2016 agreement with Standard. A statement from the Board said the agreement allows for “significant new oversight over Standard’s operation” that “include the power to review and approve Standard’s construction plans, approval of new rides, new and more specific financial reporting requirements for Standard, and County approval of an annual operating plan for the park, among others.”
Rye’s County Legislator Catherine Parker was one of the four “no” votes cast against the approval the the Standard deal. MyRye.com has asked Parker for additional comment.
Playland has been a political punching bag and political playground for years. We’ll see if this new direction for the park signals a smooth ride or a rollercoaster in the years ahead. Have your tickets ready…
The statement from the Board of Legislators follows.
BOARD APPROVES PLAYLAND SETTLEMENT
Settlement Contains Improved County Controls and Financial Terms in Management Contract with Standard Amusements
White Plains, NY — The Board of Legislators, by a vote of 13-4, approved a bankruptcy court settlement with Standard Amusements regarding the management of Playland.
The settlement was negotiated by the County and Standard, the terms of which were previously approved by the bankruptcy court.
The agreement gives the County significantly improved terms compared with the 2016 agreement, which had become the subject of the dispute in Standard’s bankruptcy reorganization filing.
Under the settlement, Standard will invest millions more in rides and food and other improvements at Playland than under the 2016 agreement.
The settlement also gives the County significant new oversight over Standard’s operation of the park — controls that were not in the 2016 agreement. These new oversight powers include the power to review and approve Standard’s construction plans, approval of new rides, new and more specific financial reporting requirements for Standard, and County approval of an annual operating plan for the park, among others.
The settlement contains new terms under which Standard can assign the contract to another company. The County will now have the ability to object to an assignment, and there are new requirements that any company that might take on the contract must have years of amusement park management experience and demonstrated financial wherewithal.
There are also improved financial terms for the County. Under the 2016 agreement, the County shared only in Standard’s net profit and only after Standard recouped its capital investment. Under the settlement, the County will be paid from the beginning out of gross revenue over $12 million. The County also will receive an annual fee starting at $300,000 in 2022, increasing to $400,000 in 2023 with annual adjustments thereafter.
In addition, under the settlement, if Standard fails to generate at least $12 million in gross revenue per year for four straight years, the County may terminate the contract.
The settlement also heads off expensive litigation in the future by hiring a commercial arbitrator, to be agreed to and paid for by both parties, to resolve disputes.
The settlement preserves crucial protections for workers. Any County workers at Playland now, not hired by Standard, or who do not want to work for Standard, will continue to be employed elsewhere by the Parks Department. Standard is committing to continuing to hire a diverse slate of young seasonal workers during the summer as well as older workers.
Chairman Ben Boykin (D- White Plains, Scarsdale, Harrison) said, “The choice we faced in this vote was not between our theoretical best agreement or no agreement at all. Our choice was between voting to approve this settlement, or voting not to approve this settlement and allowing Standard to assume the original contract in bankruptcy court. In approving this settlement, we are voting to give the County much better financial terms, more oversight over Standard’s work and operations at Playland, and more outside investment from Standard in this park which is a jewel in the crown of our Parks Department. Thanks are due to County Attorney John Nonna and his staff, our outside attorneys, Parks Department Commissioner Kathy O’Connor and First Deputy Commissioner Peter Tartaglia, and the chairs of our committees, especially Law and Major Contracts Chair Nancy Barr, and Budget and Appropriations Chair Catherine Borgia for their outstanding work in getting us to this improved place for County taxpayers and residents.”
Law and Major Contracts Chair Nancy Barr (D – Harrison, Rye Brook, Port Chester) said, “Although this agreement might not represent the dream contract we would have negotiated if we were starting from scratch, it is clear after three months of deep and detailed review that this settlement represents enormously improved terms for the County and a better future for Playland than would be the case under the 2016 agreement. I’m particularly pleased that during the committee process we were able to work within the context of the court-approved term sheet to further improve specific provisions to preserve free off-season parking, improve the time frame for the County to consider any possible assignment of the contract, and clarify Standard’s labor commitment.”
Budget and Appropriations Chair Catherine Borgia (D – Cortlandt, Croton on Hudson, Ossining, Briarcliff Manor, Peekskill) said, “A legislator’s duty as a financial fiduciary and as a steward of our parks means we often must make challenging and hard-nosed decisions, guided always by what we believe is in the best interests of the people of this County. After thorough and detailed consideration of this settlement, there is no doubt that the County and Playland will both be better off under the terms of the negotiated settlement than they would have been under the 2016 agreement. While I understand the impulse to believe we can somehow hold out for even better terms, the nature of federal bankruptcy reorganization proceedings means that what we’re really faced with is a binary choice between these terms and the 2016 terms. In the final analysis, it is important that we not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”
Majority Leader Mary Jane Shimsky (D – Ardsley, Dobbs Ferry, Edgemont, Hartsdale, Hastings-on-Hudson, Irvington) said, “The agreement we approved this evening is not a contract negotiated on a blank slate – it is a lawsuit settlement, which the County Attorney’s office masterfully improved to the benefit of the County, park-goers and taxpayers alike. Reverting to the 2016 Astorino deal, or engaging in years of further litigation with limited likelihood of success, only risked further harm to our wonderful Jewel on the Sound. I am glad that my colleagues put aside emotion and acted as good fiduciaries. We can now move forward, and work to make Playland the best amusement park it can be.”
A copy of the settlement agreement and links to the legislative history, as well as minutes and videos of all the committee meetings devoted to consideration of the settlement can be found at: https://westchestercountyny.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=4793516&GUID=DF5AF02D-7C55-4444-BE15-74E92259DA3C