Gitter, who was near death for more than a year after overdosing on the over-the-counter pain-killer Aleve, is thinner these days, but he said he is more committed than ever to seeing his eleven-year battle to build a hotel, condo and golf complex on the Ulster-Delaware border at Highmount to a successful conclusion.
Now, 75, Gitter said, “At times I get discouraged, but never defeated. One of my heroes is Colonel Sanders [of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame]. He started [KFC] at 65 and lived to be almost 100.”
Actually, Sanders got in the chicken business when he was 45. He franchised KFC at 62, sold the company for millions in 1964, but continued as a spokesman well into his eighties. He died at 90.
While ill, Gitter said, he turned over management of the Emerson Inn complex in Mount Tremper to Emily Fisher, one of his main investors. He says he remains “in the driver’s seat” on the Belleayre project.
Something of a self-styled mountain Moses, Gitter declares, “I have every intention of prevailing in what the bible calls the fullness of time.” I reminded him that the bible also calls for a lifespan of three score and ten. “That’s right,” he said, apparently amazed that reporters read something more than comic books. “You might say I’m on borrowed time,” he laughed.
Gitter’s latest stumbling block came earlier this year when state comptroller Tom DiNapoli refused to sanction the sale of some 1200 acres Gitter owns at Highmount for the state forever-wild holdings. The six-million-dollar deal was part of the agreement negotiated among Gitter, the Department of Environmental Conservation and the City of New York in 2007.
DiNapoli, up for his first elected term this year, says the price the state offered is too high. Real-estate fluctuation being what it is, three years ago Gitter might have gotten substantially more than the negotiated price from the state.
Here, I’d respectfully suggest the comptroller, ever eager to make a splash, ought to keep his nose out of legally binding contracts between willing parties.
A veteran of more than a decade of delay, Gitter doesn’t expect to turn any dirt for yet another summer. “This is the silly season,” he said. “Everyone in government is putting off things until after the election. I don’t see any movement until then.”
In the meantime, the lingering recession has had its impact on the economically challenged upper Catskills. Gitter’s foes, of course, consider his project the worst threat to the mountains since the tanning industry. Gitter’s development, valued by at more than $400 million when and if built, is currently under review by DEC.
Kingston mayor Jim Sottile’s annual cruise-on-the-Hudson fundraiser on the storied Rip Van Winkle last week drew a disappointing crowd of somewhere between 150 and 250 persons, depending on the source. It was a one-trip affair, down to the Esopus Lighthouse and back. Previously two boatloads had been necessary to accommodate overflow crowds.
Even with a couple of hundred loyalists on board, the glory days of mayoral waterborne fundraisers may be over. And if that be the case, might the mayor himself soon be walking the plank?
History can be instructive, Keeping in mind that nose counts from politicians or their lackeys on fundraising affairs are almost always suspect, there is still no comparison with the SRO crowds of the salad days more than a decade ago.
Inaugurated by former mayor T.R. Gallo in 1994, the early cruises attracted “over 600,” (for two trips) according to Hizzoner, remarkable since the Rip can legally hold only about 250. Ever the innovator, Gallo, who died in 2001, was also the first mayor to hold major fundraisers (the cruises) in off years. Collectively, the 17 annual boat trips have raised tens of thousands for Democratic coffers.
These events, sometimes referred to as “booze cruises,” got out of hand on in 2007 when Sottile and Mari Ann Sennett, wife of DA candidate Jonathan Sennett, got to hissing at each other in a waterfront waterhole after docking. The embarrassing upshot, captured on bar video and made available for the entire world to see on national and international TV, showed the two tossing drinks at each other.
Wounds have largely healed, but typical of pols, scars (and associated jokes) linger.
“Hey, did you hear Sottile and [Mrs.] Sennett are hosting a fund-raiser?”
”Yeah. The drinks are on them.”
Sottile, if he intends to seek a third four-year term on the Democratic ticket next year, has to view his latest fundraising effort with some concern. The shadows grow long, given that the Gallo-Sottile administration, elected in 1993, is now the longest running in city history. The previous record of ten years was held by the late Frank Koenig.
A more energized, committed and engaged mayor could turn things around. Otherwise, Sottile might be hosting a rowboat ride down the Hudson next year.
Tony Esposito of Hurley, no relation to the more famous Esposito Tuxedo clan of Kingston, sure writes a good letter to the editor.
Esposito, a recent arrival to our area, was commenting in a recent Freeman edition on Sunday columnist Alan Chartock’s advocacy of higher taxes on cigarettes as a means to limit smoking. I’ve never really bought into the logic of taxing sins so the government can spend the money on its own (sins). Neither, apparently, does Esposito.
But where he resonated with this reader was in advocating a two-dollar-a-word “fool tax” on pundits like Chartock, Geddy, Ira, Brian, Dan, Will and Tony. Maybe even on me. Under Esposito’s formula, the fool tax would be paid directly “to the beleaguered readers who endure this onslaught of presumption and mediocrity.”
And he wants to make it retroactive, particularly bad news for me and the esteemed doctor of political science, Chartock. He and I have been cranking out this stuff since Hector was a pup.
Hopefully, this shot across our collective bows will temper some of the more foolish foolishness.
Here and there
If county comptroller Eliot Auerbach and wife Judi have an extra bounce in their steps these days, it could be the impending birth of their first grandchild in January. Judi looks to be about two feet off the ground. If things go right for Democrat Auerbach in his run for reelection against Republican Fawn Tantillo, the family will have much to celebrate come the new year.
Reporters aren’t supposed to take sides, of course, but even the (innocent) appearance of bias can drive partisans gaga. I was absently minded polishing my nails with a Mike Bruhn (for city judge) nail file at the annual Immaculate Conception Church picnic last weekend, when Elissa Ball, wife of opposing judicial candidate Larry Ball, approached our table.
“How can you do that?” she exclaimed in mock horror.
“Do what?” I said.
“That nail file!”
She quickly proffered a “Ball for City Judge” sticker.
As Bruhn was still working the crowd, I turned over both handouts to son David.
Republican Bruhn seems much more comfortable campaigning than during his first attempt at the office in 2007. On the other hand, Ball, the incumbent Democrat, has the vivacious, totally dedicated Elissa.
I just wish they both handed out nail files.
Assembly candidate Peter Rooney might have inadvertently put on the most notorious fireworks show of the season when a warehouse containing illegal fireworks in Ulster Park his family owns blew up last month after trucks collided in front of the building. Reports of cataclysmic explosions — the building was leveled — are exaggerated, he said. “My father-in-law brought up some [illegal] fireworks [from North Carolina] a few years ago. The stuff was stored there,” Rooney said.
Some of the stuff went off, creating what one police officer called a “hazard” for firefighters.
Fireworks cannot be purchased or used in New York without a permit, a rule obviously widely ignored and rarely enforced. Undersheriff Frank Faluotico, who was on the scene, said misdemeanor charges for unlawfully dealing with fireworks against the Rooney corporation that owned the warehouse will be heard in the Esopus town court. The blazing inferno was ignited by fuel from one of the trucks. Fortunately, no one was injured.
And finally, a correction is in order. I wrote last week that a proposal to attract doctors to Ulster County would be sent to the legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee. Wrong. It goes to the Board of Public Health for review.++
Hugh Reynolds’ column appears weekly.