“We don’t believe it’s the best deal for the taxpayers of Westchester County,” County Executive George Latimer told members of The Business Council of Westchester (BCW) about the contract for amusement park operator Standard Amusements to take over Playland in Rye. Latimer spoke this morning at the BCW’s KeyBank Speakers Series Breakfast at Tappan Hill in Tarrytown.
Latimer disclosed that a meeting was scheduled for Nov. 30, with the principals of Standard Amusements to revisit the deal which had been struck under the administration of Latimer’s predecessor, Rob Astorino.
“I don’t fault Standard Amusements. They negotiated what they thought was the best deal for them. And if I were in corporate life that’s what I would do,” Latimer said. He denied he’s intent on killing the deal. “We think there’s a stronger role for the county on Playland. If we’re going to have a relationship going forward, I think it can be recast in a positive light but those discussions have to happen.”
Latimer also reviewed the proposed 2019 county budget of $1.94 billion, noting that new revenue sources have to be found despite the planned property tax increase of 2 percent. Latimer said the proposed monetization of the county-owned parking lot in front of the County Center in White Plains provides a good example of how county assets can be used to help close a $71 million shortfall primarily resulting from a $32 million general fund operating deficit from 2017 and a $39 million shortfall from 2018.
When asked about the future of Westchester County Airport, and reminded that the BCW is involved in a campaign to encourage an operating arrangement similar to the long-term lease proposed by the Astorino administration, Latimer said the airport master plan process has been restarted and there will be a new study of the airport’s environmental impacts, especially those which have brought vocal opposition to airport operations from neighbors including noise, water and air pollution.
“We know there are business interests which want to use … and to have the benefit of operating out of that airport and we know some things have been delayed in discussion and we know those things will be discussed more aggressively and will come to resolution more quickly,” he said.
Latimer said that a new marketing study is being done on the North 60 biotech project in Valhalla. Latimer explained that some changes have been made to the proposal, which includes not only biotech facilities but apartments and retail as well. “It is 60 acres of land, the last, largest piece of county-owned general use land, so we have to make a strong public case for why we’re going to long-term lease it and what the prospects are,” Latimer said. He said he hopes to have the market study completed by the end of January and have the Board of Legislators review proposed changes to the project thereafter.
Latimer plans to spend a lot of time in Albany in 2019 lobbying against unfunded state mandates and trying to convince state leaders that they need to share the state’s financial resources with counties and municipalities to help relieve the burden of local property taxes.