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MAMAKATING: Land has been sold at the gateway to the Catskills

Michael Levensohn and Grove Potter
Middletown Times Herald-Record

September 10, 1999

Sullivan County has sold the old Shawanga Lodge property in the Town of Mamakating to the Flaum Management Co. of the City of Rochester.

David Flaum, owner of the company, said he paid $650,000 for the property, which included paying the former owners and creditors of the encumbered 236-acre parcel.

The purchase price included about $185,000 for Sullivan County, which covered all back taxes on the property, plus interest and penalties, said county attorney Ira Cohen.

The 236-acre property is made up of seven parcels on Shawanga Lodge Road, about a mile east of Wurtsboro, off Exit 114 from Route 17.

Flaum, 46, was a one-time bidder for the Concord Resort Hotel in Kiamesha Lake and had also considered buying the Grossinger Resort. He said he backed away due to the costs and complications associated with each property.

Flaum has yet to design specific plans for the site, but he is certain he wants to build a resort. As a child he vacationed in the Catskills with his family, staying at the Concord, The Pines and The Brown's.

Flaum Management owns and manages more than 50 properties, including a resort in Bristol, N.Y., and commercial and retail properties in Rochester and Syracuse. The company specializes in buying distressed properties and resuscitating them.

Flaum said he had been looking for a site in the Catskills for years, and had known about the Shawanga Lodge property for some time. After the county foreclosed on the land, he stepped in and offered to buy it.

"It was a win-win for everybody," he said.

Flaum agreed to let the county keep about 22 acres of the 236-acre property, providing a likely site for the county's planned visitor center.

"As far as I'm concerned, that is the spot for it," said county Legislator Gordon MacKinnon, who represents most of the Town of Mamakating and helped secure the site for the visitors center.

The county had seized the property from the previous owners, James Pappas and Stanley Horowitz, in a tax foreclosure, and then won a lawsuit alleging improper seizure.

Flaum paid Pappas and Horowitz an undisclosed sum in return for their giving up any claim to the land.

The deal, closed Sept. 3, comes just two months after another former Concord bidder, Crescent Heights, announced plans for an 800-acre luxury resort across town. Crescent Heights hopes to close on that property by the end of the year.

Gene Barbanti, of the commercial real estate firm The Barbanti Group in Liberty, is representing both Flaum and Crescent Heights. He said, combined, the developers are planning to spend about $350 million on the projects.

The developers are sharing information with the thought that the developments will help each other.

"It's like the old days when a Holiday Inn opened, a Howard Johnson's would open nearby. Their advertising would help each other," he said.

Crescent Heights plans to build a conference center, hotels, condos, homes and golf courses on its 800-acre site.

Flaum is awaiting completion of the Town of Mamakating master plan before he puts together plans for his 214-acres, Barbanti said.

Mamakating Supervisor Duane Roe, who is running for MacKinnon's Legislature seat, said he was concerned about the lack of information, as well as the possibility that Flaum might be getting into position to build a casino should legalized gambling ever come to the county.

Barbanti said both owners are making long-term plans not based on legalized gambling coming to the county.

However, "I don't know anybody who owns property here who is not watching the gambling situation," he said.

Barbanti said the two Mamakating sites have several selling points: they're about 90 minutes from the New York City and its suburbs, they're right off Route 17 (soon to be Interstate 86), so visitors do not need to use secondary roads, and they are beautiful properties in a naturally beautiful region.