Harriman family calls on gaming commission to stop Woodbury casino

Family says they control deed restrictions on property


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By Nathan Mayberg
— Overlooking the village of Woodbury and the surrounding area of Monroe and Harriman is the Harriman State Park, Bear Mountain, Sterling Forest State Park and Ramapo Valley, thousands of acres of which were donated to the state by the Harriman family, for which the village of Harriman is named after. Their donation of the land preserved the mountain landscape and protected much of it from development.

Family will challenge license
The descendants of the man whose name this village in Monroe and part of the town of Woodbury is named after, say they control the deed on which a casino is proposed next to the Harriman train station in the village of Woodbury by Caesar's and developer David Flaum

That deed, said their lawyer James Sweeney, specifically prevents the construction of a hotel, and therefore prevents the related casino.

The deed restrictions were conveyed by the late W. Averill Harriman, former governor of New York.

In a letter to the Resort Gaming Facility Location Board of the New York State Commission, which will determining where up to two casinos will be located in either Sullivan, Orange or Ulster counties, Sweeney called on the board not to approve the Woodbury casino.

Sweeney said the Harriman family is determined to challenge the casino in court if a license is approved.

Separate properties
But the developer's spokesperson James Freedland says the casino and the hotel are on separate parcels next to each other. The casino is on land where the deed restricts a hotel, while the hotel is on land without the deed restrictions.

Sweeney said the hotel can't be built without the casino and that the deed states that the land where the casino will be built is prevented from ever being used as a hotel or for hotel purposes.

'Joined at the hip'
It is the word purposes which Sweeney said should stop the casino.

"These are casino hotels," he said. "They are one and the same. They are joined at the hip."

Sweeney wrote in his letter that the Harriman family is "resolute in their determination to honor the legacy set in motion long ago to preserve the compelling beauty of the Ramapo Valley."

Sweeney called the proposed casino a "huge and very intrusive facility."

While Freedland declined to be quoted for this article, he cited a 2006 letter written by Sweeney in which he states that the deed restriction for the property in question may not be enforceable.

Sweeney said the family was willing to allow a commercial development on the site at the time, but that development didn't go through.

'Massive intrusion'
Sweeney said the Harriman family was contacted numerous times by representatives of Flaum in an attempt to get out of the deed restrictions for the casino proposal, but rejected the idea. Sweeney cited the size of the casino as the reason. "It would be a massive intrusion into the Ramapo Valley," he said. He also said the casino would also impact a wetland on the property.

To reach reporter Nathan Mayberg, email comm.reporter@strausnews.com or call 845-469-9000 ext. 359.

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