By Nathan Mayberg
BETHEL July 20, 2004 Alan Gerry, founder of Cablevision and president of the Gerry Foundation, finally spoke the words yesterday that everyones been waiting to hear:
The Bethel Woods Center for the Arts the performing arts complex located near the site of the 1969 Woodstock music festival in Bethel will open July 4, 2006 with a performance by the New York Philharmonic.
Governor George Pataki, Congressman Maurice Hinchey, former U.S. Congressman Benjamin Gilman, Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, New York State Senator John Bonacic, a string of local politicians and hundreds of others joined together to celebrate at official groundbreaking ceremonies in Bethel yesterday.
The $63 million project will include a 4,800-seat covered pavilion, a museum and an events gallery. Pop and rock concerts are planned for the future, in addition to regular appearances by the Philharmonic.
More than $30 million will come from the Gerry Foundation. New York State is providing $15 million, along with an additional $15 million in support from the Empire State Development Corporation and other state agencies.
Gerry called Bethel Woods a true community project, with help from thousands of people. He particularly thanked his daughter Robyn, who first approached her father with the idea. He also thanked his wife Sandra for her tireless efforts, as well as the states political leaders.
Pataki attended a separate ceremony in the morning, thanking Gerry for preserving the land so his grandchildren could attend the site. Pataki pledged to visit the site during every phase, including the opening on July 4, 2006. People will come from all over the world, he said.
Pataki, who was working on Wall Street during the original concert, said he and his friends didnt think it would be much fun, [but] we should have went.
Bonacic called the project a continuation of the renaissance in Sullivan County. It has been an an all-star month, he said, with the racino and Crystal Run Healthcare openings in the county throughout the last several weeks.
Bonacic called the Woodstock site sacred ground and referred to Gerry as a man with a big heart who keeps giving back to Sullivan County,
Hinchey called Alan Gerry a marvelous person. . . . All of the warmth and humanity in him is expressed for the benefit of Sullivan County. . . . The impact will have repercussions far beyond Sullivan County.
Gilman said Bethel Woods is a wonderful initiative for our region. I look forward to hearing great music. . . . Gerrys farsightedness will be extremely helpful to our region.
Town of Bethel Supervisor Victoria Simpson was overjoyed.
This is one of the best days for the Town of Bethel. It is very overwhelming and very exciting, she remarked.
Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, whose husband Jake helped secure funding for the project, called Bethel Woods a dream come true.