Dan Hust | Democrat
The Jennie Grossinger Tower is the most visible part of the old Grossinger’s resort complex in Liberty. The drive to the still-open golf course leads past the dilapidated remains of the hotel, which has been closed for nearly 30 years. Plans are in the works for bringing housing, lodging and gaming to the property and surrounding acreage.
Grossinger’s rising again?
Story by Dan Hust
LIBERTY May 3, 2013 While the Catskills casino focus has been on Monticello and Ellenville, the former Grossinger’s resort in Liberty may be a player as well.
A Wall Street Journal article earlier this week hinted at a casino plan by Muss Development, a family corporation which has owned 500 acres adjacent to the old hotel for the past three decades.
But Westchester developer Louis Cappelli owns the actual hotel site and the still-active Big G Golf Course, and he’s got plans of his own.
The Muss Project
Muss Development Chief Operating Officer Jeff Kay confirmed the Journal report that leader Josh Muss, whose family has developed numerous projects in the New York City area for the past 100 years, continues to consider a casino resort for the 500 acres the corporation owns along Route 52 and Grossinger Lake on the far side of Grossinger’s golf course.
“We’re paying very, very close attention to what’s happening in Albany,” Kay said.
The State Legislature is reportedly close to reaffirming a desire to legalize gaming in to-be-named locations statewide, though Gov. Andrew Cuomo is now pushing to move the required public referendum from this November to a general election where there’ll be more state races and thus potentially more voter turnout.
So until that’s settled or at least until state-approved casino sites are revealed Kay’s short on details.
“We’re looking for some level of certainty,” he explained.
But they have been in touch with both local and state officials about their idea, with positive feedback.
“It is a great location,” Kay said. “It’s right off the highway. It’s one-and-a-half hours from New York City. We think it could be ready very quickly.”
The Cappelli Project
Cappelli and company have already approached the Liberty Town Board with conceptual sketches for a 200-500-unit residential development on the “back nine” part of the golf course, west of Clements Road.
They’re also designing a possibly-300-room hotel with space for a casino.
“We’re in the preliminary stages,” said consultant Henry Zabatta, who’s also a key part of Cappelli’s Concord project.
The housing would be of the affordable workforce variety, he added, predicated on having the golf course and possibly hotel/spa amenities next door.
The hotel would be built upon the demolished remains of the old resort, whose badly deteriorated state has made it popular with photographers contrasting the present with what once was a world-famous resort.
Whether Grossinger’s would be tabbed as a state-approved casino site isn’t a requirement, Zabatta said.
“It’s not dependent on a casino at that site,” he explained. “It’s dependent on a casino being in the area.”
But Cappelli hasn’t yet put forth a specific timeline for the project, likely waiting, too, to see what Albany does.
Zabatta indicated that something more concrete may be forthcoming later this year.
“The next step is for us to put a plan together and go to the Liberty board,” he said.
Possibility for collaboration?
What about the two groups working together?
Though speculation persists that either side may be evaluating the intentions and commitment of the other, both Kay and Zabatta said they haven’t shared notes.
“We certainly have not spoken about this recently,” Kay affirmed.
“They haven’t informed us of their plans,” said Zabatta. “Unless they contact us, we’re proceeding with our plans.”
But is there really room for two casinos in Liberty?
“We think that the more casinos in Sullivan County, the better,” said Kay.
Town waiting and watching
Liberty Town Supervisor Charlie Barbuti said he’s had conversations with both parties.
“I came away from that discussion [with Muss] thinking he didn’t have a [specific] plan,” Barbuti said.
“Cappelli has a plan, and I think it’s a good plan,” he added.
If formal plans are submitted, the town will work with both, he said.
“We’re excited to hear of the interest in it,” Barbuti acknowledged, affirming Liberty could use the economic development.
But nothing is sure.
“We would welcome it, but I don’t know the potential for anybody’s success in the [casino] business,” he related. “We’re seeing casinos for the first time go into financial insolvency.”