As a lifelong resident of Westchester County who grew up in Larchmont and now resides in Rye I’d like to explain why I personally endorse Tom Murphy for District 7 County Legislator in today’s Democratic Primary.
Since February of 2013 I have become personally involved in the fight to save the legendary and beloved Playland Amusement Park in Rye. This 85 year old National Historic Landmark is seeing a drop in attendance and falling into a state of disrepair that is directly linked to continuous and what often seems deliberate gross mis-management by Westchester County under the direction of our current County Executive Rob Astorino.
C.E. Astorino has spent the last three years pushing heavily to hand over management of the park to a group from Rye calling themselves “Sustainable Playland”. This group supposedly started out as a “grass roots citizens’ organization” set up to save the Park from being sold off to developers under C.E. Astorino’s inaccurate claims about plummeting revenues.
Sustainable Playland is about the farthest thing imaginable from what most people would consider to be an altruism-based effort by local residents to save a beloved landmark – which is how they have painted themselves. In fact, their plan originally called for elimination of over 50% of the amusement park area footprint with a drastic elimination of the number of rides. The Sustainable Playand group wants the keys to this multi-million dollar operation on Oct. 1, 2013 and yet have only just submitted an updated plan for approval as of September 6th, 2013. The “new and improved” plan still has many holes, the most glaring of them all still being the financial aspect of how and when they plan to pay for the drastic and very expensive changes they want to make to the park.
If throughout this entire long, drawn-out boondoggle of a process in trying to decide Playland’s future, there is one individual who has had access to all the details from Day One about just how inept the SPI group is, how flimsy their business model is and how severe their lack of planning and funding is, that would be current sitting Rye City Councilwoman Catherine Parker. She chairs the Playland Advisory Committee which is a liason group set up to address issues specifically between the local Rye community and the Park and she sat from the very beginning on the Playand Strategic Planning Group – which was the group set up to address the RFP back in 2010. She has watched the inception of this SPI debacle from the very beginning; she knows all the flaws with the RFP process and the SPI plan. She also knows that there are 2500 signatures on a petition protesting the SPI plan – many of them local Rye residents.
Yet Catherine Parker still touts this plan as wonderful. And she will still tell you that there is “overwhelming public support” for the plan. As the lone "Democratic" (nee - registered Independent) member of the current Rye City Council, back in October of 2012 she voted along with all the Republicans to unanimously and resoundingly endorse the SPI plan in spite of all the problems she knew the plan held. She will tell you that Playland is a “nice-to-have”, not a “must-have” - echoes of what Rob Astorino says about the park. I wonder what the Westchester County leaders of 85 years ago would think if they heard her say that.
Tom Murphy knows better. He isn’t afraid to stand up and speak the truth about what is going on at Playland. Tom Murphy knows that the entire RFP process was terribly executed and mis-handled from the get-go. He knows that under the Sustainable Playland plan, Playland will, in his own words, be neither “sustainable” or “Playland” anymore. He knows the financials of this group are a mess and that this will not solve the problems at the park. He also understands that keeping that park accessible to ALL residents of Westchester County, of all economic backgrounds and demographics is the way to go – not “reinventing” it into an elitist destination that many residents of the County would no longer be able to afford. He knows Playland is a valuable asset to the community and should be taken care of and run properly, not dissected.
Whoever wins this Democratic Primary will hopefully go on to win the Westchester County Legislator seat for District 7 – which holds Playland. We need someone in that seat who will have Playland’s best interests in mind on behalf of all Westchester County residents that love that park and the best interests of the constituents here in Rye – the local community most directly affected by what goes on at Playland. Many Rye residents directly abutting the park will most definitely not benefit at all from the SPI plan but will suffer greatly. Tom’s opponent is well aware of this. We need a representative for Rye and all of District 7 who will look at the big picture and have concern for all constituents. Tom Murphy shows the clarity of thought and common sense on this issue far beyond that of his opponent’s.
As the first Rye Democrat to vote in today’s Primary at my polling place, I voted for Tom Murphy this morning. He’s got it right on Playland, I think he’ll get it right on other issues as well.