(11/27) Catskill Mountain News Article

Original post can be found HERE at Catskill Mountain News

Deans Dream

Among golfers, it’s not considered polite to discuss politics during a round. That’s why they have 19 holes. But nobody’s ever called me Mr. Manners.

Catskill impresario Dean Gitter, then in his late 60s, his wife Lynn and I were playing at hilly Windham maybe 15 years ago when I just had to raise the question.

“Dean,” I said as we searched for my ball in the woods, “do you think you’ll live to see the Belleayre Resort ever built?”

“I sure hope so,” he said. Hope ran out last week. Gitter died at 83 without a spade of earth turned on his “mega-resort” on the Ulster-Delaware line at Highmount.

Gitter was a dreamweaver, a showman with big, big ideas. Lots of people have big ideas, but Gitter had a talent for attracting big money to his. He was also highly confrontational, suffering neither fools nor critics, which to him were one and the same.

I think Gitter and his deep-pocket investors might have had better luck without in-your-face Gitter as frontman. That said, it was hard to keep him out of the spotlight.

The Catskill Resort at Belleayre, when announced in the late 90s, was pegged at some $300 million on 1,700 acres of pristine Catskill forest land. It would have been by far the biggest private construction project in the history of the Catskills. It originally included two golf courses, two hotels, conference centers, condos, time-shares and commercial space. It would have been a natural extension to the near-by state-owned Belleayre Ski Center. Met with fierce opposition from environmental leaders and citizen action groups, the project was drastically downsized, with Gitter and his investors agreeing to sell more than 1,000 acres to the state as “forever wild.” It didn’t matter. The heat went on. Gitter picked up stakes for warmer climes.

It seemed the last legal hurdle was finally cleared this year with the state’s highest court rejecting notions that the DEC and the Town of Shandaken had acted improperly on review and zoning issues.

Gitter left behind a mini-Belleayre Resort, as it were, in the highly successful Emerson Resort and Spa at Mt. Tremper.

For Gitter’s admirers, and there are more than critics might admit, there is already a monument there to its recently departed founder. During the contentious hearings for that project, a town official complained that Gitter’s silo-high kaleidoscope represented “the biggest erection in the Catskills.” RIP, Dean Gitter.

SPEAKING OF GOLF 

Gitter always went first class. He selected prominent professional golfer Davis Love III to design his two golf courses at Belleayre.

A gala press event was held at a golf course not far from Arkville, a few miles west of the project site. On the way in, I noticed a sign welcoming Love to the Catskills on the eastern edge of the hamlet. So did Love.

A personable guy, Love worked the crowd before lunch, introducing himself and talking about his golf course design philosophy. At a roundtable press conference after lunch he mentioned the sign at Arkville. “That was the first time anybody put a sign out for me since I won the PGA in Akron in ’97,” he said, a smile crossing his face. For Love, a cinch for the Golf Hall of Fame, it was his only major. Seems a young fellow named Tiger Woods had arrived.

The long-hitting Woods came to mind when Love, himself a bomber, described a near-700-yard par-5 he was planning for one of the courses. “The tee-box is on the edge of a cliff, spectacular views, and the hole will play down a valley, more like a regular pro 550-yard par 5,” he said.”

“You mean a drive and a wedge? ” a reporter asked. Love, with a look of resignation, replied, “No. More like a driver and a six or seven.” Tiger had arrived.

HAIL TO THE CHIEF  

I note with sadness the passing of former Kingston Mayor Don Quick, at 89, last week.

“Quickie,” as he was called, served two terms, ending in 1983. As chairman of the common council’s powerful laws and rules committee, he was one of my early mentors. An old-fashioned Democrat, he considered party loyalty the highest virtue. Criticized for hiring cronies during his first term as mayor, Quick’s reply was, “Do you expect me to hire my enemies?”

He was as straight-forward as any politician I’ve covered over the years, like when he got in hot water for fixing parking tickets. Investigators didn’t have to look hard for evidence: Quick wrote “OK-DEQ” on every ticket. Truth was, he paid for most of them out of his own pocket.

I had a hand in writing Quick’s first official mayor’s message in 1980. The mayor delivered his annual message to the common council on New Year’s Day back then. January 1 fell on a Thursday that year, meaning my weekly Ulster County Gazette would be a week late reporting what was then big news if I couldn’t get an advance copy. Frank Koenig, Quick’s predecessor, wouldn’t give reporters a copy until after he read it at the organizational meeting.

I asked the new mayor if we could have an advance, promising to run an exact version in the paper. Sure, he said, promising delivery the next morning. Bright and early Quick arrived at our offices on Fair Street with the four-page message and a whole bunch of new appointments.

I read through the first few pages while Quick chatted with a reporter in another room. I asked him to go over it with me.

“You’ve got some good ideas in here, Don,” I said, “But it doesn’t read that well. Doesn’t sound like you.”

“You know, Kay (his wife) and I taped it last night and it didn’t sound that good, either,” he said.

“Suppose I punch it up a little, write a new lead, get you into it,” I asked. I promised to come by his house with another version that afternoon.

Quick agreed, much to my amazement.

Well, it wasn’t just the first few paragraphs, or the first two pages, it was the whole thing, but I had to admit it sure read well.

I made three copies and went over to Quickie’s house. He and his wife went through the whole thing, nodding here and there, not saying a word. A born paranoiac, I took their silence for rejection.

Quick looked at his wife and then at me. “This is really, really good,” he said, as Kay smiled in agreement. “Is it OK if I change a few small things?”

“Hey, it’s your speech, mayor,” I said. “But remember, this will be at the printer’s before you deliver it.”

The mayor’s delivery drew loud applause. To my relief, he read every word flawlessly.

After the speech an alderman who had served with Quick and knew him well was almost tongue-tied.

“Did you hear that speech from Quickie?” he said. “I never knew he had it in him. I guess it’s true what they say, the office makes the man.”

I couldn’t agree more.