Westchester Residents At Hearing Split On Playland Proposal

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Mark Whaling of Rye speaks in favor of the proposed field house at Rye Playland during a public hearing in White Plains on  Wednesday.
Mark Whaling of Rye speaks in favor of the proposed field house at Rye Playland during a public hearing in White Plains on Wednesday. Photo Credit: Casey Donahue

RYE, N.Y. -- Westchester residents came out both for and against the proposed changes to Playland Amusement Park in Rye at a Board of Legislators public hearing Wednesday night.

The board's Labor, Parks, Planning and Housing Committee is currently reviewing Sustainable Playland Inc.'s (SPI) plan to reinvent Playland. The plan proposes keeping the park open year-round, with several new zones. The most controversial of these has been the 82,000 square-foot field house that is being proposed to be built in the parking lot.

Mark Whaling of Rye said he lives two blocks away from the park and uses it all the time. He said it is important to have a place for kids to get off the couch and practice sports, and that the field house will provide that.

"There's not perfect solution to keep everyone in this room and everybody in this county happy. What I like about this solution is it's got a little bit of everything. It gives the communities and the kids across the county incremental field space which is needed," he said. 

Deirdre Curran of Port Chester said that the proposed field house is wrong for the site, and is going to cut down parking that will be needed.

"This is a great idea for somewhere else, this is a great idea for somebody to do on private property where they pay taxes," she said. "I'm not going to subsidize it as a Westchester County taxpayer. That's not my problem."

Bailey Flood, a coach with FC Westchester girls' soccer, said that field space is in short supply in the county and the field zone is needed.

"It directly impacts the kids because right now we cannot start spring season because no fields are available. We're still indoors, we've had to cancel two weeks of practice because we have nowhere to play," she said. 

Brook Packard of Rye lives near the park and said she often lets people park in her driveway when there is no more parking at Playland. She said that SPI's plan does not include residents of towns like New Rochelle, Mount Vernon and Yonkers as potential users of the field house.

"The construction of the field house changes the heritage of Playland as a county park, making this a moral issue, a deeply troubling moral issue," she said.

Kwabena Manu of the local Civil Service Employees Assoiciation chapter said that when deciding, the Board of Legislators has to consider using union members to work at the park. He said that Playland has had to cut staff such as mechanics and electricians, and that their experience and skills will be needed to make sure the rides run safely.

"We are putting the people who patronize Playland at risk. This should not happen. We have men with experience who can do the job, let us continue to make them do it," Manu said.

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To Bailey Flood: girls soccer coach

Since spring doesn't begin until the third week in March - ever - how can you miss 2 weeks of spring season practice by March 20? I have a suggestion—start two weeks later. Life isn't a race to the finish. The girls will make it to college and marry the right men (or women). This is not a real problem.

The spectacle of well to do people in beautiful suburbs complaining that their kids have "nowhere to play" is a little sickening. The "solution" of ripping up a parking lot, that families from the entire region use to spend the day at Rye Playland, so your kids have more room for exclusive competitive team sports ,is appalling.

Westchester is Yonkers, Mount Vernon, New Rochelle, White Plains, Peekskill and Ossining too. It's not all about us here in Rye.

Sustainable Playland's marketing feasibility study, page 43: "The study area also included communities east of White Plains, south of Greenwich, and north of New Rochelle". This is not an opinion, Sustainable Playland did not include New Rochelle or cities south of New Rochelle. Mt. Vernon, Yonkers, and New Rochelle - you are not the market those operating the Field House have in mind. Your unions and churches can rent tables at Playland and you can sit on the dirt and tarmac for your annual picnics - a behemoth of a Field House behind you, a reminder that even our public parks are for sale to the highest bidder.