2016-06-22 / Front Page

Gitter retires from Crossroads Ventures

Pasternak take role as Managing Partner
Joan Lawrence-Bauer

Dean Gitter, 81, a founder of Crossroad Ventures LLC and for many years its managing member, announced his retirement this week.  His corporation, The Silk Road Organization, Inc, has resigned as managing member of what is better known locally as the Belleayre Resort project and Gitter has assumed a position as another ordinary member of the corporation.  Gitter’s announcement said that Kenneth D. Pasternak, also a founding partner, will take on management status for the financing and building of the resort, which won approvals last year after a 15-year review process.

The announcement brings to a close the Catskill Mountain development career of a larger than life figure whose vision of a “high end” resort complex that would employ hundreds of locals was a dream-come-true for many and a nightmare for others.

Gitter, who grew up in the greater Boston area, graduated from Phillips Academy, Harvard College, the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and the Harvard Business School.  Gitter worked as an entrepreneur and as a film and music producer before re-locating to the Catskill Region where he assisted the spiritual leader Albert “Rudi” Rudolph in Big Indian.  He served as the resident teacher of Rudi’s work at the Big Indian Ashram from 1970 to 1973.  Gitter was instrumental in setting up the first television station in the region, Kingston-based WTZA (which later became WRNN) and founded the Big Indian Spring Water Company.

Eventually Gitter, who often said that upon moving to the region he realized he “had been born away from home,” turned his thoughts to projects that might enhance the quality of life for people who live in the region.  At the time, the first negotiations for stringent new development rules with the City of New York were well underway and Gitter chaired the Rt. 28 Corridor Committee in a Resource Protection and Economic Development Strategy study for Shandaken and the adjoining Middletown corridor. 

Results published in 1994 called for increased investment in tourism as the only economic development strategy with any chance of success.  The Route 28 study called for a tourism complex as a point of arrival in Mt. Tremper and a larger complex straddling the two townships that would spur the revival of Ulster county’s Pine Hill and Delaware county’s Fleischmanns.

Gitter and others set about trying to realize those concepts. He, acquired the former Scandinavian Ski Shop, restaurant and hotel complex on Rt. 28 along with the Riseley farm and the historic Longyear Farm and barn in Mt. Tremper and turned the entire property into Catskill Corners, a tourism complex featuring a log-cabin Lodge, the Catamount Restaurant, retail shops in the antique barn and the Spotted Dog Firehouse Restaurant.  He topped that project off by building the World’s Largest Kaleidoscope (certified by the Guinness Book of World Records) in the silo.  That property will celebrate its 20th anniversary in July.

Gitter, and long-time friend Emily Fisher, acquired a historic inn across the road from the Kaleidoscope and turned it into The Emerson Inn and Spa, a property described by Gitter as “so high end that I can’t afford to stay there myself.”  And while the Emerson rocketed to success with visitors coming from all over the United States as well as international origination points, Gitter would later say that his main reason for opening the Emerson was to prove that the borscht belt era was over and that a well-run, high quality, high price property could indeed, attract visitors.  In recent years, Fisher has moved away from opulence and splendor at the Emerson for a fresh, light, airy atmosphere with accommodations of comfort for people in a variety of price ranges.

When the Emerson burned in a tragic fire in 2005, Gitter and Fisher moved quickly to re-build.  They leased a restaurant in Woodstock and operated it for the two years of rebuilding so they could continue to employ the talented staff they had developed while they re-built.  In 2007, the new facility, built not on its original site but across the road with the rest of the Catskill Corners complex, opened and the entire property was re-branded at the Emerson Resort and Spa.

In 1998, with his gateway projects well underway, Gitter was also moving to develop the larger complex surrounding Belleayre Mt. Ski Center. Announced to great fanfare in 1998, the proposal included two hotels with three golf courses, a major retail store component as well as a host of other tourism related amenities.  Detractors immediately labeled it a “mega-resort” and mobilized to stop it.

Gitter, along with Fisher and Fleischmanns native Pasternak and other investors who joined them, were to spend the next 15 years planning and re-planning the project during what many have called the longest environmental review of a project in the history of New York State’s SEQRA law. 

The project was repeatedly scaled back and ultimately, 1,200 acres of property that had been accumulated for the effort was sold to the State of New York.  In 2007, environmental groups and oversight agencies involved with the review reached what was hailed as an Agreement in Principal to build the resort.  But the review dragged on for another eight years until December of last year when the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation finally issued a findings statement that would allow issuance of the permits needed to build the project.  In January, the Shandaken Planning Board and the Town of Middletown Planning Board each passed resolutions approving permits for the project after their own multi-year reviews.  Opponents of the resort filed Article 78 lawsuits in a last ditch effort to stop the project and those actions are now wending their way through the court.

At build-out, the Belleayre Resort Project will include a 250-bed hotel, a 120-room hotel, over 250 fractional-ownership condos and an 18-hole golf course.  The environmental impact statement estimates the resort will generate 771 jobs in the region with a $24.85 million annual payroll. 

For the last two years, Gitter and his artist wife Lynn, have lived in northern New Mexico where he takes care of his horses, is involved with community development in the small nearby town, and has resumed his long-abandoned career as a folk musician.  His second CD, “Carl Sandburg’s American Songbag 2.0” is finishing up in a nearby studio with the Questa Folk Ensemble, an outfit entirely manned by his close neighbors. His earlier CD, “Old Folkies Never Die” debuted at the Emerson in 2014.

Fisher, who continues to own and operate the Emerson Resort complex, said, “Dean has done a remarkable job of guiding the resort project to this point.  He has remained steadfast and dedicated through numerous difficulties including an arduous planning process, environmental issues and legal battles.”  Fisher went on to add “we now have permits in place and Dean feels it is time to hand the task of financing and building the project over to Kenneth Pasternak, a founding partner of the enterprise and an experienced real estate developer.”

Pasternak, a successful entrepreneur who grew up in Fleischmanns and now lives in New Jersey, founded the Knight Trading Group in 1994 and took it public in 1998 with a market capitalization of $7 billion.  He helped build it to become the largest market-making firm on the NASDAQ, on whose board he sat.  He later founded a hedge fund with $90 million in assets under management and a real estate investment group with $1 billion in reported holdings.

 

 

 

 

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More cheerleading for a

More cheerleading for a disaster in the making.

Great synopsis Joan! Thank

Great synopsis Joan! Thank you.
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