The presence of numerous rowdy labor and union proponents at last
night‚s Belleayre Resort public hearing was only a surficial
and transparent show of support for the project. It is obvious
that Dean Gitter has made an effort to rally some people to his
cause, but despite their vocal and boisterous support it was evident
that this was only a paper dragon. Jobs are critical for
all of us, but not in any location, of any kind, or at any cost.
Most of these folks presumably do not live in these mountains,
and even fewer, probably none, have read a single page of the
DEIS. More than one did not even know where this project
was to be located or what it entailed. They told us to judge
the project on the facts and not to simply oppose it for the sake
of opposing it, but this smacks of hypocrisy. They themselves
did not make judgments from a careful study of the project, they
were simply motivated by money and showed up to say what they
were told to say.
I also resent the fact that these people from outside our community
worked hard to increase divisiveness, and spur an Us vs. Them
attitude. In this case it was Jobs vs. the Environmentalists.
It is far too naïve and simplistic to pin the diverse and
widespread opposition to this project on simple environmentalism,
or to say that it is orchestrated by outside environmental forces.
Yes, many of us are concerned about environmental impacts, but
also about impacts to our way of life, degradation of our rural,
scenic, small-town character, increased secondary development,
increased taxes, gentrification, traffic headaches, etc.
The labor proponents see job availability as the be-all end-all
of keeping people in the area, but low paying jobs at the resort
will not keep people here when land values and property taxes
spurred by the resort escalate beyond those people‚s means.
I am one of those people they talked about who are lucky to have
one home to work for, let alone two, and I don‚t want my
land values and property taxes to rise so fast that I can‚t
keep it. Having grown up on a farm in a rural area, there
is nothing I would like more than a couple hundred acres to hunt
on and cut firewood on and keep a few cows on, but that possibility
is out of my grasp in this place (not just Shandaken, but Delaware
County too) where land values are already too high for someone
making a modest salary to achieve such a dream.
The noise made by the four labor reps who spoke, and their numerous
backers in the crowd, was nothing more than a commodity bought
by the developer. True sentiment about this project came
in waves after the labor folks left, as it has in all of the previous
As a former President of the ertswhile Bowery Savings Bank ($5.5
billion when I was there), I have some sense of what is financially
feasible, and what is not. I also supervised literally billions
of distressed commercial real estate while in government (federal),
and witnessed enormous losses created out of developer meglomania.
The Crossroads venture simply does not pass the smell test for
my prominent proboscis.
The New York Time's article on Crossroads was pregnant with issues
that remain unaddressed, or elided by Mr. Gitter. These
excerpts, with my comments, are representative of those issues
The Times reports: "The $250 million year-round resort
- which is supported by most local officials and businessmen -
would draw thousands of visitors from the city, 120 miles away,
Mr. Gitter says, just as the Catskills' legendary trout streams
and misty landscapes drew them a century ago."
Two Hundred Fifty Million? Where is that money coming from?
Does Mr. Gitter have commitments for financing such a project?
When the Concord Hotel was in Chapter 11 a few short years ago,
and seeking a plan for exiting the reorganization proceedings,
the Murphy group made repeated representations that it had financing
for restoring the resort and taking over the reorganization.
But on closer examination by the judge, Mr. Murphy could not produce
any credible evidence of financial commitments. In short, Murphy
was blowing smoke. What has Dean Gitter been smoking?
The Times also reports, "If we are perceived as being pro-development
or anti-development for whatever reason, it will jeopardize the
integrity of the memorandum of agreement," said Christopher
O. Ward, commissioner of the city's Department of Environmental
While Mr. Ward's caution is quite understandable, the DEP could
take another tack, and one which would be consistent with its
mission, by requiring credible demonstrations of unconditional
commitments for financing, and also for completion bonding, before
spade is driven into the ground, and turned.
Again, The Times reports: "Mr. Gitter said he is ready
to begin construction as soon as the project passes an environmental
No doubt he is, but there is a disconnect between beginning construction,
and being able to achieve all the blue sky benefits promised by
Mr. Gitter. His ability to start ripping up the mountainside
is not in question. Rather it is his ability to complete
the project, involving some of the most difficult of all improvements
to finance, namely time-shares. Many institutional lenders
will not touch such fragile real estate structures. So where
is Mr. Gitter getting his funds? And if he cannot say, for
whatever reason, should he be allowed willy-nilly to "start"
Finally,as if the foregoing were not enough, the Times informs
us: "He also has been involved in several big projects
outside the Catskills that were never built. In the late 1980's
Mr.Gitter had plans for a $500 million China-United Statestrade
center outside Stewart Airport in Newburgh. Local homeowners opposed
it, and Mr. Gitter took his plans to Baltimore County, Maryland,
but that project was scuttled too. 'What difference does that
make?' Mr. Gitter said angrily when asked about those projects.
'I've been here a long
time and I've done a lot of credible things.'
Q.E.D., for Mr. Gitter. His dismissiveness of his own failures
in large project development augurs poorly for his ability to
obtain financing, let alone bringing a destination resort of the
$250,000,000 to completion. Even the experienced and resourceful
Gleneagles/Guiness organization misfired when in 1988 it undertook
to take over the Lake Placid Club and make it into an Adirondacks
destination resort. And it had the financing to do so. These examples
should be huge crimson-red flags for those decision makers who
are trustees of the environment, and also of the Shandaken financial
structure [the town stands to be the big loser financially if
the development tanks].
Mr. Gitter relies on the market-place to make his plans a success.
But what exactly is the financial marketplace telling him about
their willingness to finance the complete venture? That
is at least one of the critical questions that require addressing,
in detail, before he is allowed to "start" construction.
Finally, the closest the Times gets to solving the financial conundrum
presented by Mr. Gitter is hardly reassuring: The Times
reports: "Mr. Gitter said several economic studies
over the last 40 years have all concluded that year-round tourism
is the best way to reinvigorate the Catskill economy. And he said
the project has to be big to attract a major hotel chain and lenders
willing to put up more than $150 million in financing. He said
he also has to offset the cost of bringing in roads, water treatment
plants and electric lines."
Does this mean that the financing is in the bag? Clearly
not, otherwise he would have said as much. Instead it merely
reinforces the proposition that he does not have completion funding
which would cover the cost of "roads, water treatment plants
and electric lines." But that is only the beginning
of the laundry list of costs of improvements and operation inherent
in his grand design. Are his promises of glory sufficient
to wait and see if he can get financing after he starts tearing
up the landscape? Certainly not!
I also looked at one of the several DEIS volumes that appeared
to be bear on financial information, but it was sadly lacking.
I am not surprised that Gitter would try to obscure this aspect
of the development - he is hoping, I presume, that no one will
have any sophistication in this area. And in fairness, the
DEIS does not require it -- and that is the reason why the community
should demand it. And, of course, a mountainside torn up
is possibly the worst possible type of environmental disaster.
His oblique references to major franchises, and to the Fisher
money, is - to my mind - worthless. Let's see the commitments
-- that is the way financing is done.
Do I sound like a broken record? oh well
Stuart D. Root
Livingston Manor, NY
Why does life have to be so confusing and complicated? As a democrat
I am having trouble [this early] in making a selection for President
of the United States when the primary rolls around. We have seen
the [democrat] candidates form a Bush "firing squad"
as they configure into a circle and "blast away".
On each occassion a candidate has been eliminated. The first one
[from Florida] quit after discovering he wasn't suited or qualified.
One [from Missouri] dropped out after starting a brawl in Iowa.
The more honorable [from Connecticut] pulled out due to no "traction".
Then the General who outranked "just a Lieutenant" found
that arrogance doesn't play outside one's command. A few days
later he showed up on the Lieutenant's quarter deck begging "permission
to come aboard" which was graciously granted. Another committed
political suicide by accepting the endorsement of a former loser
(from 2000) and then hiring that loser's former campaign manager.
Maybe he did something as Governor of Vermont that would not be
acceptable nationwide. Who knows?
Now we have four candidates; two of whom are being ignored. One
is a "buffoon" and the other presided over the bankruptcy
of a large city. He believes as some past and present CEO's that
failure should be rewarded.
There are at present two viable candidates, one in the lead who
admits he voted for the Iraq invasion but didn't mean it and the
other who is not sure of his position. Both trash others [including
Republicans] for catering to "special interests". Are
lawyer groups, Sierra, abortion rights clubs, AFL-CIO and other
liberal entities any different than the big business [Heinz, Conoco,
NRA etc] interests on the other side? It takes alot of Hutzpah
to criticize either way by either candidate.
Senator John Kerry is a millionaire married to a millionaire[ss]
and is trying to get down to the little guy's level [temporarily].
Sen. John Edwards is also a millionaire but as a beneficiary of
tort law; the old 65-35 contingency ratio. He tells us rightly
of his roots, but that was "then". Both live in miserable
huts in D.C. valued at 4.3 mil and 3.4 mil respectively and neither
proponent has ever taken an unfortunate home for a bath, dinner,
brandy and a night in a plush bed.
All of the above has suddenly been shoved off the "tube"
for a couple weeks due to the heroic, but dumb actions of a misguided
mayor of San Francisco. The Gays and Lesbians getting "married"
has caused a bit of vigorous discussion and comments on both sides
of the issue [even within their ranks] and along comes Ralph Nader
for a "rematch". It doesn't get any better than that
for "W" and the dems are beside themselves. Those folks
in S.F. will go on into the history books having had no damaging
effect on the rest of us. They will be rermemberd for the entertainment
and for having contributed to population control.
We will return to the campaigns with all the vitriolic accusations
including "who served more honorably in the military".
Now I must devote more time prior to the primary sorting it all
out. It is indeed a daunting task ahead. I like when the millionaires
tell me, an "achiever", that I stole what I have from
the poor and attack me on social or religeous beliefs.There are
no shortcuts; no substitute procedures. Not many choices.
Don't forget to scrutinize our local candidates. In the 1930's
and somewhat later it was quite difficult to make a selection
in Olive as all were committed to being "clean as a hound's
tooth". Lem DuBois, Chester Lyons (Sr), Lester "Skin"
Davis, Francis Avery and others of both parties were honorable
and deserving of their office. They came to the voter's home,
dressed nicely, asked for your vote and handed you a pencil with
their name and intended office on it. That made selection more
difficult. Now there are those who don't care to vote. What a
There was another promise of hundreds of jobs in this area some
300 years ago that we should remember when considering Dean Gitter's
proposed Belleayre Resort project. In 1710, thousands of people
arrived in New York from the Pfalz Palatinate in Germany, fleeing
war, hardship and religious persecution in their homeland. I'm
descended from a dozen of those families; a look at the families
listed on the Palatine Monument in West Camp will show many names
still common in Ulster County.
New York's governor, Robert Hunter, had plans to put the Palatines
to work in the Hudson River Valley producing tar and turpentine
for the Royal Navy. However, while the area was rich in pine trees,
they were not the kind from which tar and turpentine could be
made. With all their hopes set on a single industry that couldn't
support itself, they soon fell into grinding poverty. Their subsidies
cut off by Governor Hunter, some of them boiled grass and ate
leaves to survive the harsh winter of 1712/13.
We remember, too, the disruptions when IBM withdrew hundreds of
jobs from this area. Have we not learned that depending too much
on one major employer, especially in a situation where the profits
will not necessarily stay in the area, has the same hazards of
monoculture in agriculture?
While we need jobs and lodging in western Ulster County, let us
figure out how we can achieve this through strengthening our diverse
range of small independent businesses, rather than depending on
the capricious fortunes of a single employer.
History, especially here in our Catskills, is often forgotten.
Over the years we have had a plethora of sumptuous spas impregnated
on our mountains, which catered to the celebrity and the genteel,
the gourmand and the gourmet. The Hotel Kaaterskill, the Overlook,
the Grand Hotel, the magnificent Catskill Mountain House and many
many others. History asks - where are they? And history answers
- all went bankrupt, and all are dust.
Now, Mister Dean Gitter and his backers propose funding a huge
enterprise down the road from me, atop a mountain, that requires
the destruction of a forest, its animals, and its flora and fauna.
In their place will be erected two golf courses, hotels, condos,
residential subdivisions and lots of places in which to park cars.
This is a terrible idea.
First, the disruption of the land will not end with the completion
of the building project. In a way the worst begins after the fact.
The oily leachings from all that blacktop and the toxic residues
from the phenomenal arsenal of chemicals, pesticides, fertilizers,
etc., that the minions of a tip-top, first-rate golf course are
required to employ for an artificial green will eventually find
their way to the bottom of the mountain and thus into our rivers
Rascally nineteenth century poachers would occasionally kill trout
in our streams by throwing lye into the water. They'd net their
dead catch and be off to the market to make a profit. But in this
age the year-round continuing infusions of golf course leakings
will have a more terrible effect on the fish and their watery
havens. Dead fish and more dead fish for no particular reason.
Let us talk business for a minute. In particular, the mega-golf-hotel-condo-heaven
on earth-business. The embarrassing truth is that throughout the
U.S., in fact throughout the rest of the high-roller golfing world
(Great Britain, Japan, etc.), resorts like the one proposed by
Crossroads Ventures, LLC, have been going under by the hundreds.
There seems to be a downward trend for such operations, and golf,
as an industry, is financially troubled. Check out the internet.
Would you buy this company's stock? I wouldn't.
N. Gregory Mankiw, the chairman of the White House Council of
Economic Advisers said, this week, that outsourcing of American
jobs is good for our country. His boss, George Bush signed the
report in which the claim is made. "Outsourcing is just a
new way of doing international trade," Mankiw told reporters.
Bush should tell that to the 9 million Americans out of work.
There is a simple solution for the problem: Republicans, Independents
and Democrats need to unite and vote Bush out in November, 2004.
It had been a long time since I looked up at the sky at night
to stare at the stars. My husband and I used to do that almost
every night we spent in the Catskills. With the increase
of new homes over the last couple of years, I started to notice
fewer stars. I couldn't make out the milky way anymore and
I can't see that endless blanket where the more you looked the
more you saw more and more stars... One of our newer neighbors
put in a very bright, hung very high, bare flourescent light.
With celabrations for the 100th year aniversary of the Catskills
a time to also bring public awareness to our Catskill environment,
what a wonderful time to educate our neighbors of light polution.
There are lots of alternatives to lighting our yards and woods
and mountains, where bulbs are not exposed and aimed toward the
ground. Not only does that make it easier for our eyes to naturally
adjust to the night, it doesn't pollute our sky. Perhaps now is
the time for Our towns to pass laws againest bare light bulbs
and flouresent(7Eleven?) or excessively bright lighting.
Let's not lose the beauty and wonder of our night lights, the
Olive Bridge, NY