Comptroller blocking purchase of 1,200 acres from Crossroads

By Jay Braman Jr.
Last month no one thought it was so.
The New York Post reported Friday that State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli was poised to torpedo the land sale of 1,200 acres of Crossroads Ventures land in Big Indian to New York State to be converted to forever-wild status. The New York Comptroller’s office has rejected the state’s planned purchase of 1,220 acres in the Ulster County Town of Shandaken, calling the price too high.
The purchase was part of a deal between the state and developer Crossroads Ventures Inc. under which Crossroads would be allowed to build its planned Belleayre Resort at Catskill Park along the border of Ulster and Delaware counties. In a May 5 letter to the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), which plans to buy the property, DiNapoli’s office halted a deal that would have provided Crossroads $6.3 million for about 1,200 acres of property that the DEC valued at $4.9 million, or $1.4 million over the estimated market price
“I am returning unapproved contract…..for the purchase of land within the Catskill Forest Preserve known as “Big Indian,” wrote Charlotte Breeyear, the director of contracts in the comptroller’s office.

Price not justified
“While I understand that you have identified this as a priority project important to the Catskills economy, environment and watershed, you have not provided justification that adequately supports such a large premium over the fair market value calculation done by your staff after gathering information, which included professional appraisals. You may resubmit this contract for further review if value factors change significantly,” he added.
DEC spokesman Yancey Roy told reporters that DEC has received the letter and is reviewing it.
Dean Gitter, the managing partner at Crossroads, issued a statement on the matter Tuesday.
“We cannot comment on the comptroller’s recent communication to the DEC: it is an internal matter between two state agencies,” Gitter wrote. “
“It should be noted, however, that the comptroller did not reject the sale of the Big Indian property to the DEC. He simply returned the contract to the DEC, unapproved, requesting them to supply further information justifying the price that had been agreed upon. For our part, we continue to abide by the Agreement in Principle and expect the other parties will do the same,” he added.
Gitter added that Crossroads has been trying for 11 years to bring the project to the region. Touting what he sees as the economic development potential of the plan, Gitter vowed to keep trying.
At this point, Gitter’s read of the comptroller’s decision is that more support for the sale price is needed.
“This is simply another obstacle to overcome,” he said. “This project is moving forward. We will persevere.”
The land sale is expected to be part of a deal reached in 2007 to establish the $400 million Belleayre Resort at Catskill Park in Delaware and Ulster counties and is a key element in that deal, reached among national, state and regional environmental groups, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection and Crossroads.