County BOL Litigation Committee Reviews Rye Playland Challenge

The City of Rye, Mayor Joe Stack and Councilman Richard Mecca filed a complaint against Westchester County earlier this month, challenging the legality of Westchester County’s public-private partnership with Standard Amusements to run Rye Playland.

The Article 78 complaint charges that the county violated the New York State Environmental Conservation Law and SEQRA’s implementation regulations by declaring itself lead agency for Playland redevelopment and by breaking down the review process into short-term segments that denied long-term analysis of the redevelopment.

On Thursday, the County Board of Legislators Litigation Committee met with County Attorney Robert Meehan to discuss the County’s response to the court action.

The City of Rye’s complaint claims that the County should not be the lead agency in certifying compliance with the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) and that Mayor Stack and the city of Rye weren’t aware that Westchester County was conducting the necessary SEQRA analysis for the redevelopment of Playland.

The majority of the Litigation Committee meeting was conducted in executive session to protect client, attorney privacy, thereby making it exempt from the state’s Open Meetings Law.

Following the meeting, Legislators expressed confidence that the County fully complied with SEQRA and sharply disagreed with Mayor Stack’s claims.

Legislator Lyndon Williams (D-Mount Vernon) is a practicing attorney and chair of the BOL Litigation Committee. He reiterated County comments previously made that “Playland is a County Park on County-owned property, which makes Westchester the party responsible for the environmental review.” Williams added, “If the County were to cede that responsibility to the City of Rye, it would establish an improper and likely deleterious precedent for all the other county park properties throughout Westchester. This precedent could greatly increase the timeline for all county renovation and repairs,” he said.

Legislator Gordon Burrows (R-Yonkers), also an attorney and member of the Litigation Committee said, “The City of Rye’s claim that they were unaware of the County Planning Department’s ongoing SEQRA review and that the review did not take ‘a hard look at’ environmental impacts is, frankly, preposterous.”

He added, “Not only were the County’s activities well documented in local media, the Mayor’s office accommodated pubic hearings on the matter in the Rye City Council’s own chambers. The notion that Mayor Stack could have remained ignorant to the County’s protracted review process strains credulity. I am confident that the County will prevail in court.”