NEW ROCHELLE, NY — Talk of the Sound has confirmed that Jadian Capital, the company that announced last summer it intends to “unlock the value” of a “trophy” amusement park in “a major metropolitan area” by “repositioning” some unnamed “significantly valuable beachfront land” is an investor in Standard Amusements, the company with a thirty-year deal with Westchester County to manage Rye Playland.
Media accounts over the past year have described the money behind Standard Amusements only as coming from “a Manhattan hedge fund”. Talk of the Sound was the first media outlet to confirm the identity of the investor.
Talk of the Sound reported Tuesday that the so-called “hedge fund” appeared to be Jadian Capital, a real estate investment management firm founded in 2017, headquartered at the Grace Building at 1114 Avenue of the Americas, and run by Jarrett Cohen formerly of Fir Tree Partners. Cohen sits on the board of United Parks which owns Standard Amusements.
Jarrett Cohen nor anyone at his company responded to repeated requests for comment over the past week.
After some apparent confusion in a call earlier in the week, Kevin FitzGerald of Gasthalter & Co. issued a statement on behalf of his client, Standard Amusements, to clarify his client’s relationship with Jadian Capital.
“Jadian is an investor in United Parks, said FitzGerald who added that Jadian’s investment was disclosed to Westchester County long ago.
“There are no plans for condos or other development in the Master Plan and any assertion otherwise is false.”
The only “assertion” about commercial real estate development at Rye Playland was made by Jadian Capital in its July 2018 press release. Talk of the Sound never asked about any current plans or Master Plans.
Catherine Cioffi, spokesperson for Westchester County County Executive George Latimer, told Talk of the Sound, “turning Playland into a bunch of condos is not something that is ever going to happen on the County Executive’s watch.”
“The County Executive is a neighbor to Playland,” she said. “He is very committed to that park,” she said.
Latimer believes “that park should remain a county property.”
New York State Assemblyman Steve Otis noted that no development can occur at Playland without state approval.
“As the State Assemblyman representing the Sound Shore, I give my guarantee that there will be no parkland alienation of Playland or other shoreline parkland properties,” said Otis.
“Playland is protected by state law as parkland,” said Otis. “It cannot be developed for commercial purposes without legislation to remove parkland protection.”
“The amusement park, shoreline walk and connected nature areas are treasures,” he added.
State Senator Shelley Mayer concurred with Steve Otis.
“I am committed to Playland Park remaining a public park and a crown jewel of Westchester,” said Mayer. “I went every summer as a child, and I know how important Playland is as an affordable recreational resource for Westchester families.”
“i will work with my colleagues to ensure that Playland remains a public resource,” she said.
Westchester County Legislator Catherine Parker who represents Rye and Rye Mayor Josh Cohn did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Reached earlier today, Cioffi would not address questions about whether County officials had asked Standard Amusements about the Jadien Capital press release, whether it refers to Playland, whether Jadien Capital has an equity interest in United Parks/Standard Amusements or Jarrett Cohen’s role as a board member of United Parks.
These questions were asked before Standard Amusements issued a statement admitting that Jadian Capital was their investor.
“We feel very strongly that we are not going to litigate any issues with Standard Amusements in the media,” said Cioffi. “John Noona, our county attorney, is in negotiations with them now and I can’t do anything to compromise that negotiation.”
“Quite a bit is at stake,” she added.
The Westchester County Board of Legislators approved a deal with Standard Amusements in May 2016. Under the Management Agreement between Standard Amusements and Westchester County each party is required to invest money in Rye Playland with Westchester County to make a capital investment of $42.5 million and Standard Amusements to make a capital investment or $27.5 million.
Soon after George Latimer was sworn in as Westchester County Executive in January 2018, he directed Director of Operations Joan McDonald and County Attorney John Nonna to review the deal. A report issued on May 7, 2018, found, among other things, that Standard Amusements still owed $1.25 million out of a $2.25 million upfront payment on the contract and the “experienced amusement park operator”, Jacob Falfas who ran Dorney Park, was no longer employed by Standard Amusements. The report found the County might be on the hook for tens of millions in renovations and the county will “not receive a share of the profits until Standard Amusements has fully recouped its initial payments of $2.25 million and capital investment of $27.5 million. By Standard Amusement’s calculations, noted in the report, that means the county would not receive any profit share until at least 11 years after Standard Amusements takes over Playland management.”
Nonna identified three main legal issues with the deal: (1) has Standard Amusements met its financial obligations to this point, and can the company meet all future obligations? (2) if the contract is not beneficial to taxpayers, can it be renegotiated? (3) if the county cannot renegotiate, can the county terminate the agreement?”
Standard Amusements expects to take over full management of Rye Playland at the end of the 2019 season.