White Plains, NY – Westchester County Board of Legislators (BOL) Chairman Ken Jenkins (D-Yonkers) signed a 10-year lease with the Westchester Children’s Museum at a special ceremony today held at the BOL Rotunda in Michaelian Office Building.
The lease signing ceremony, which finalizes the agreement for the operation of a children’s museum in a historic building on the County’s Playland property in Rye, included Tracy Kay, executive director of the Westchester Children’s Museum, along with Corinne Zola, board chair of the Campaign for the Westchester Children’s Museum, and Ira Greenstein, board president of the Westchester Children’s Museum, who also signed the lease.
The lease agreement, which was unanimously approved by the BOL in August 2011, “is an important part of a vision of Playland being a year-round attraction that will boost revenues and reduce costs,” said BOL Chairman Ken Jenkins (D-Yonkers).
“Westchester Children’s Museum is thrilled to reach yet another significant milestone toward making our brick-and-mortar home a reality for communities across the region,” said Tracy Kay, Westchester Children’s Museum Executive Director. “We look forward to building a children’s museum that will provide hands-on exploration to inspire, nurture, and begin the transformation of Rye Playland as a year-round destination.”
“I’ve served on the board of the Westchester Children’s Museum for more than nine years and have been looking forward to this day since the beginning,” said Ira Greenstein, Westchester Children’s Museum Board President. “Having two children of my own, building the museum has meant so much to me personally, as well as to many families in Westchester. I’m proud to play a role in such a momentous occasion in our county’s history.”
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.
“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 is a major part of any ‘re-invention of this great park,” said Legislator Judy Myers (D-Larchmont), chair of the BOL’s Budget & Appropriations Committee.
The lease agreement stipulates that the museum has two years to open its doors—or the lease is nullified.
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.
“The Westchester Children's Museum will be a significant asset for Westchester County,” said Legislator Catherine Borgia, chair of the BOL’s Government Operations Committee. “A year-round family educational attraction will provide economic opportunity and enhance tourism in the county. Children's museums in other parts of the country have proven to be economic engines that drive growth of many other types of businesses such as restaurants and other tourist attractions, so the Playland bathhouse is a perfect location. Congratulations to all whose hard work and perseverance have made this day possible.”
No property tax dollars will be spent on rehabilitating the interior of the facility—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.
“Playland for decades has been a great family entertainment destination, and the arrival of the Westchester Children’s Museum simply strengthens this,” said Legislator Bill Ryan (White Plains). “What a great, fun and educational addition to an already wonderful park. With this in mind, it is understandable why the museum has found such energetic and strong support from county residents and public officials.”
“This new lease for a children’s museum at Playland is a great opportunity to revive this park,” said Legislator Virginia Perez (D-Yonkers). “The idea of kids going to one central location to have fun as well as increase their knowledge by visiting a museum is simply brilliant. I am very happy about the new possibilities that this moment will bring to Westchester County.”
“The Board of Legislators can be proud of this bi-partisan milestone,” said BOL Majority Leader Pete Harckham (D-Katonah). “This is yet another example of us working together for the people of Westchester.”
“On behalf of our board, our dedicated volunteers, our generous donors, and our longtime supporters, we would like to thank the County Board of Legislators for their commitment to the Westchester Children’s Museum,” said Corinne Zola, President, Board of Directors of the Campaign for the Westchester Children’s Museum. “We are on the cusp of an historic private-public partnership that will benefit people in Westchester County and beyond for generations to come.”