Cheer/Jeer of the Week: What Happened to the Catskills, and is there Hope?

I recently was a speaker on a panel for the New York State Communications Association Conference in Ellenville, NY, which is a town in the Catskill Mountains. I was excited since I had never been to the Catskills, and I had no idea what to expect. My presentation was about the travel industry and tourism (naturally,) about a project I designed (and copyrighted!) for none other than Aspen, Snowmass. My video is below, but I wanted to talk a bit about the Catskills.

What happened to them?! I had no idea that the area was such a disaster. Entering the town gave everyone I was traveling with a very eerie and creepy vibe. Maybe it was the rundown buildings everywhere, or the attempt at fixing up a house or store scattered through the town that made me feel that way. Whatever it was, you could definitely tell this area is majorly suffering and is in extremely hard times.

I did a little research and found that the Catskills are not only one of the poorest areas in New York State, but in the entire US. The whole town of Ellenville is close to a ghost town. I presented at the brand new and beautiful (which completely stands out and makes it even weirder) Honors Haven Resort and Spa. Directly next to the resort is the terrifying old and giant Nevele Hotel that closed its doors in 2009, yet seems that its been closed down for 40 years, not four. With broken windows, weeds growing everywhere, paint peeling, and an empty pool with scattered lounge chairs, it looks like a scene from a horror movie. There is also a formerly beautiful yet decrepit home next door with the same scene. My father and I actually took a stroll through the grounds, and it seems that tons of homeless people are still living in the old hotel. With the original furniture, why not?

The Nevele Hotel Sign
The Nevele Hotel Sign

There’s good news, I guess, for the poverty-stricken area. On November 5th, casino gaming will either be passed or struck down. If passed, it would naturally bring tons of jobs to the desperate area, and of course, start to build up the tourism again. Honors Haven is an incredibly beautiful resort, yet why would anybody visit there if all there is to see is the slightly terrifying scene next door and the desperate residents?

Will a Casino Ultimately Help or Hurt the Catskills and its Natural Beauty?
Will a Casino Ultimately Help or Hurt the Catskills and its Natural Beauty?

I can see how this would definitely help the area, but I guess I just think: really? Is that all that will get the area booming again, is the “fun” of a smoky casino with no windows, pumped in oxygen to keep you awake, and no clocks? Isn’t the joy of a beautiful and scenic area like the Catskill Mountains, the fact that you’re there to enjoy the outdoors, breathe the fresh mountain air, take a hike, ski, swim, or horseback ride or maybe just relax and read somewhere? In short-term thinking, yes, the casino will provide the hopeless with jobs and boost tourism, but in the long run, are we just setting ourselves up to destroy the beautiful nature that the Catskills provide?

What Will Happen to This Scene?
What Will Happen to This Scene?

What are your thoughts, readers?


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