The Westchester County Board of Legislators (BOL) took a big step toward the revitalization of Playland today when it delivered a ten-year lease agreement for the operation of a children’s museum in a historic building on County property at the Rye park.
The lease agreement, which was unanimously approved by the BOL, “will greatly enhance a major regional attraction and create new jobs while adding year-round revenues to the County’s coffers, ” said BOL Chairman Ken Jenkins (D-Yonkers). “The Westchester Children’s Museum stands as a superb example of the visionary public-private partnerships that can help shrink government spending.”
Under the terms of the lease, the Westchester Children’s Museum will occupy about half, or approximately 21, 390 square feet, of the former men’s bathhouse on the Playland boardwalk and spend $6, 441, 300 in interior and exterior renovations in exchange for a yearly rent of one dollar ($1). The museum also plans to spend another $7 million for a wide range of exhibits.
Jenkins noted that the museum has two years to open its doors—or the lease is nullified. County property is not “being given away, ” as County Executive Robert P. Astorino incorrectly pointed out when he vetoed the legislation for the lease agreement last year. (The BOL overrode his veto.) Nearly all of the twelve Playland request for proposals (RFPs) that Astorino had his citizens committee consider neglected to even mention the men’s bathhouse—the lone exception suggesting that it be demolished (although the County has spent already a good deal of money refurbishing the exterior.)
“The reuse of a portion of the Playland bathhouse as a children’s museum is consistent with the family-oriented concept and mission of Playland, ” said Legislator Judy Myers (D-Larchmont), chair of the BOL’s Budget & Appropriations Committee. “Having the museum open even in the months when the amusement park at Playland is closed will bring visitors out through the rest of the year.”
The bathhouse was constructed in 1928, but use of its north and south wings has been discontinued for many years because of decreased patron demand. Under the lease agreement, the Westchester Children’s Museum will be responsible for making capital improvements to the building, all of which will be subject to approval of the Westchester Department of County Parks, Recreation and Conservation, along with the Department of Public Works because of the Playland’s National Historic Landmark designation.
No property tax dollars will be spent on rehabilitating the interior of the facility. Instead, the museum will invest $6 million-plus in the bathhouse before moving in, and thus greatly enhance the value of the property for the County. Also, all of the parking fees collected for visitors to the museum will go into the County’s coffers. Officials from the Children’s Museum expect the new attraction at Playland will have 198, 000 visitors (along with 50, 000 cars) over the course of each year