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Dan Hust | Democrat

As Ilwon Kang (left) and Dick Riseling (center) listen, Sullivan West Supt. Ken Hilton explains their now-joint effort to re-envision the future of the Narrowsburg School, which Kang may purchase in the coming months.

Kang, Riseling agree to partner on Narrowsburg School’s future

By Dan Hust
LAKE HUNTINGTON — January 11, 2011Following a marathon session of meetings coordinated by Sullivan West Superintendent Ken Hilton last week, Ilwon Kang and Dick Riseling agreed to work together on the former Narrowsburg School.
The announcement was made at Thursday’s regular SW board meeting in Lake Huntington, shortly before the school board voted to reject petitions seeking a rebidding of the sales of the closed Narrowsburg and Delaware Valley campuses – removing the possibility of a public vote on the issue (see related story).
“Tonight, Dick Riseling, Ilwon Kang and I stand before you united in a shared concern and in a shared hope,” Hilton remarked to a small crowd in the high school library.
He said the concerns include a reopening of old merger wounds, rumor-mongering and personal attacks.
“If there are those in our community who are seizing on this issue to fan the flames of discord or who are using it to divide the SW community, we deplore you, your methods and your objectives,” Hilton continued.
“Local government – including school districts – can be poisoned by fears, anger and suspicions,” he added. “Please, don’t let SW be poisoned.”
Hilton then introduced Kang and Riseling, whom he said have a shared vision and mutual respect.
“I assure you, there is no conflict between these men,” he remarked. “That they both have such sincere interest in the future of Narrowsburg and the Narrowsburg School is a blessing for our community.”
“You will see I am committed to working together with Dick to create a smart strategy that will work for everyone,” promised Kang, a New York City developer who is seeking out area properties to develop into hospitality attractions. “... I am mostly enthusiastic because of Mr. Riseling’s involvement and care.”
“We will together do our very best to bring to Narrowsburg ... a new repository of hope and activities,” vowed Riseling, a Callicoon Center farmer who had unsuccessfully bid to purchase the eight-decade-old campus. “... I’m going to work very hard with Mr. Kang.”
Riseling also thanked the hundreds of people he’d met and who had signed the rebidding petitions he’d passed around the district in the past few weeks.
“I ask for your support,” he said.
The news of a potential joint venture was greeted with elation.
“Three words: ‘wow’ and ‘thank you’!” remarked Jane Luchsinger, who as Narrowsburg Chamber of Commerce president had coordinated meetings involving Kang.
“I applaud the willingness and commitment of Ilwon Kang and Dick Riseling to work collaboratively with a shared vision,” added board member John Reggero. “... We should all be excited and supportive of that vision.”
He called those who would seek to undermine that effort “reprehensible,” but passionate disagreement persisted.
“We don’t really know who Ilwon Kang is,” insisted board member Noel van Swol. “... We still have not seen his financials [documents proving Kang’s fiscal abilities]. It’s as simple as that.”
District attorney John Miller of the upstate firm Bond, Schoeneck and King has seen the documents and certified Kang’s financial wherewithal, but Hilton, citing confidentiality concerns, has not acquired them nor provided them to the board.
Board member Brian Grady, a Narrowsburg resident, shared van Swol’s concern.
“I don’t believe in filling in ambiguity with accusations,” he stated, “... [but] I really believe in clarity and transparency, as well.”
He joined van Swol in urging Kang to reveal more of his financial background and plans.
“It seems like this could be wonderful,” affirmed Grady, “but I’d like some more support behind that.”
Grady briefly joined Kang and Riseling in a private discussion in a room adjacent to the ongoing board meeting.
Both Riseling and Kang said such meetings over the prior three days had borne fruit.
“I look forward very much to working with Ilwon Kang in developing the many different possibilities,” Riseling affirmed on Friday.
Riseling said Kang will be providing him with a set of keys for his design team to assess Narrowsburg’s potential.
Both men agreed they aren’t legally business partners (a lease arrangement is contemplated), but Kang confirmed that Riseling can lease the entire building if he so desires.
Kang was very complimentary of Riseling, noting their meetings have always been pleasant.
“I know he has great ideas, but as you know, it takes more than great ideas to work out an agreement,” Kang remarked.
Riseling agreed, noting he’s now seeking out potential tenants for the spaces in the school, all fitting in with the community center he articulated in past presentations.
“Any and all of those ideas are on the table,” Riseling said. “I trust that Mr. Kang and I can work together [to] satisfy the public.”
Kang agreed that’s the goal: to create something “for the good of Narrowsburg.”

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