Standard Amusements has told the Business Journal that it remains committed to restoring Westchester’s Playland to “its former glory,” even though the county has notified the amusement park operator that, as far as the county is concerned, the deal for it to take over operation of the Rye park is dead as of May 28.
Westchester County Executive George Latimer said that the county has notified Standard Amusements’ legal counsel that the county has elected to exercise its right to terminate the agreement originally reached under the administration of Latimer’s predecessor, Rob Astorino. Latimer said that the county was giving the required 30-day cancellation notice.
The county accuses Standard Amusements of being in default by doing things such as improperly claiming certain expenses as capital improvements and improperly claiming that money spent on salaries, meals, travel, advertisements, marketing, consulting fees and legal fees were part of a $5.7 million investment in the park.
“This decision by the county executive is deeply disappointing and devastatingly false. Standard Amusements’ perfectly valid conduct was never controversial under the prior administration, and this move is nothing more than a means to improperly terminate a thirty-year contract that was twice approved by super majorities of the Westchester Board of Legislators. It exposes taxpayers to hundreds of millions of dollars in losses from Playland’s extensive capital needs and needless litigation. The administration has been negotiating in bad faith and, despite numerous requests, Mr. Latimer has been unwilling to meet with Standard Amusements since November 2018,” the parks operator said in a statement.
“This course of action also directs attention away from the county’s complete mishandling of food safety, failure to secure the wooden Dragon Coaster, and lack of proper fire suppression technology at Playland,” the statement said.
Standard Amusements said that it has worked for nine years and spent more than $10 million on Playland. “Despite Mr. Latimer’s mismanagement and complete disregard for visitor safety, Standard Amusements remains more committed than ever to restoring Playland to its former glory,” Standard said.
Latimer’s announcement was released shortly before 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, when county offices normally are closed. Latimer said: “We are unhappy with the way this has all turned out; we never wanted this kind of conflict. However, we are simply not satisfied with what we have been seeing.”
Latimer alleged that Standard Amusements has leaked false information to the press, hired a public relations firm and hired a legal firm rather than spending resources on delivering a detailed marketing plan for the park.
Latimer charged that Standard is in material breach of the contract. “Standard Amusements has improperly claimed that it invested money in Playland, when in reality that money was not spent on purposes allowed under the agreement. Standard Amusements is wasting taxpayer dollars at the end of the day,” Latimer said.
He said that the county has been negotiating in good faith to restructure the agreement. Latimer referred to a letter the county sent to Standard on Dec. 7, 2018, setting forth what the county alleged were a number of areas in which Standard had defaulted regarding the investment it was supposed to be making. It accused Standard of blocking the county from completing a financial audit related to the contract.
Latimer said that the county has done what it was supposed to do under the contract, but Standard hasn’t. He said, “This agreement has Westchester taxpayers on the hook for $125 million with Standard committed for $27.5 million. My job is to make sure Westchester taxpayers come first. The county’s relationship with Standard Amusements must come to a close. We cannot have confidence in Standard Amusements based on its actions. The company has not proven it has been serious about Playland succeeding.”