Reports had Michael Treanor, the man behind The Nevele’s unsuccessful bid for a casino, refusing comment as the NYS Gaming Facility Location Board announcing only one casino for the Catskills…not at the Nevele, but in Sullivan County. Then abruptly leaving the room where top officials from Ellenville and Wawarsing, along with former mayor and current county Comptroller Elliot Auerbach.
Photos showed him at his desk with an un-drunk Heinekin.
“It only cost me $13 million and my reputation but I have heard gratitude for bringing this community together and giving it hope in a way it hasn’t had for 50 years now,” he said this week, during an interview about his options for the long-closed resort. “I’ve still got work to do here, with The Nevele…Otherwise I’ll be lucky to get a job working as a subway conductor after these past three years.”
Treanor emerged with casino plans for what had been one of the old Borscht Belt’s first big destination hotels three years ago, when he wrestled control of the site out of bankruptcy court in Kingston with the help of advice from Debt Advisors Law Offices Milwaukee division. Hope sprang eternal in the long depressed southern Ulster community that once had been a big destination for summer and year round tourists, as well as a prospering manufacturing center, with thriving businesses like Schrade Cutlery and Channelmaster. But in the ensuing decades since their demise, the community pinned its aspirations for revival on a gambling casino.
Treanor then pushed the project into contender position by roping in swaths of local support from around Ulster County and the greater Hudson Valley region. Two of the four winners for casinos were surely going to come from this region, everyone believed. Evil Orange County would get nixed for its late grab application, because this was economic development promised to the Catskills. One would be for the Monticello area, as depressed and more than Ulster, and then the other for lonely Ellenville.
And then the hopes were crushed as the Siting Commission chose to award only three applications…and only one casino for the Catskills, which was awarded, as everyone had assumed, to Empire Resorts and their newly-named Montreign on the site of the old Concord Hotel.
Treanor, a former New York City attorney and Las Vegas casino operator had pushed for a second casino in the Catskills with a campaign focused on the simple statement, “2.” The state legislature twice approved a constitutional amendment to allow gambling, the governor signed on and the states voters said yes in a public referendum in November, 2013. But once that happened, the Nevele’s hopes were rocked by the emergence of a number of casino proposals from Orange County, backed by the gaming industry’s top players, and by revelations about Treanor’s own past that forced him to step back from immediate management of his own proposal this past summer.
“What happened in the final round is what I like to call ‘Orangitis,’” Treanor said this week. “The location board cited our financing as a problem while announcing just three casinos last week…Our equity had been extremely strong when Orange County came along, after which no one wanted to commit. But now I’m getting calls; now the money’s there.”
Treanor noted how while making its announcements, the five member locations board went out of their way to note that “Orange County wouldn’t even be in the running.” He said that although he felt their subsequent statement about keeping casinos to one per region was “designed to justify the results,” he was still reminding himself that what they announced on December 18 were “only recommendations.”
Would he still be pushing for a casino at The Nevele?
“Absolutely. There’s still a fourth license allowed that could be issued and now that Orange County’s off the table, we can submit final financing and operating plans,” Treanor said.
In the next breath, however, the would-be casino magnate added that while “possible and not incompatible with the original intent of the legislation, and the whole idea behind having casino gambling in this region, it’s still a long shot.”
Competing with the Nevele’s possible attempt for a Hail Mary granting of a fourth casino have been similar pushes coming out of the state’s Southern Tier, where owners at Tioga Downs have been lambasting the state location board’s decision to recommend a license for what is ostensibly the northern Finger Lakes, within an hour’s drive of another Native American gambling destination. There is a promise by Ulster County Executive Mike Hein to push the governor and anyone else who’ll listen on a state level for reconsideration.
As for Assemblyman Kevin Cahill’s announcement that he would again be pushing for passage and granting of two video lottery terminal (electronic slot machines) sites at existing resorts in Ulster County, Treanor laughed.
“That’s a complete waste of time,” he said.
$17 million mortgage
Similarly, Treanor doesn’t believe that revival of The Nevele would be possible without the allure of gambling dollars, because of both construction and hazardous material removal costs being too high for reimbursement from simple hotel room fees — even with added attributes such as a water park or other family fun draws. He’s not heard a peep from the massive China City of America proposal, later morphed into a college, that was pegged for the same town where Montreign will be landing.
“It could take three to four years for the people holding my mortgage on the Nevele site to give up the property if I was to be resistant,” he added regarding the $17 million in debt owed to iStar Financial. “But I’m not sure I want to be resistant.”
Treanor said while feeling pummeled by the state’s decision, though understanding and ready to still work for that long shot, he was also proud to have gotten as far as he did…and helped the Ellenville/Wawarsing area regain some of its pride and a long-lost sense of optimism.
“The Nevele remains a magical property,” he said. “I’ve had a bucket of ice water dumped on my head but I appreciated all the gratitude I heard from this community where, I was told by many, people hadn’t spoken to each other for years until this prospect came along.”