Ray Gustini is the author of Lucky Town, a forthcoming book about sports in Washington, D.C. He is a former staff writer for The Atlantic Wire.
Does saving Playland have to mean destroying its beloved rides?
For nearly 85 years, Playland Amusement Park in Westchester County has offered rides that range from the tepid (Ye Olde Mill) to the teeth-chattering (the Dragon Coaster). This will soon change, in the wake of the county agreeing to a redevelopment proposal — submitted by a nonprofit corporation called Sustainable Playland Inc. — that would remove 30 percent of the park’s rides to make way for new green spaces, restaurants and something The Journal News describes as a “splash park.”
Those who grew up braving the Double Shot might be pleased to learn more than 1,000 Playland enthusiasts have signed a petition protesting the planned changes and encouraging county legislators to reject Sustainable Playland’s offer in favor of a proposal that would “maintain and improve the existing amusement park...without shrinking the footprint of the amusement area or decreasing the number of rides.”
While it's hard for the kid in us not to side with any movement dedicated to preserving the world’s existing supply of amusement park attractions, the reality is the petition is unlikely to have an impact, since Westchester County owns and operates the park. This unique arrangement is probably the reason Playland has been able to remain largely the same, despite attendance being down more than 50 percent in 2011 from where it was in 2005. And Westchester’s County Attorney told legislators last month they’re legally obligated to implement the Sustainable Playland contract, which was initially accepted back in October, prior to Hurricane Sandy inflicting millions in damages to Playland’s ice rink and boardwalk.
By gutting a piece of Westchester history and removing the lone compelling reason to visit Rye, New York, the county will save between $3-$5 million annually in operating losses. Which is good. So is Sustainable Playland’s promise not to ditch the famed Dragon Coaster, which opened in 1929. Also, the refurbished park, which is being sold as an approach that "is sustainable environmentally, historically and fiscally," will operate year-round, a win for proponents of unusual public spaces.
Fans of the Double Shot will have to be content with their memories, supplemented by other people’s home videos.