Posts Tagged ‘Sullivan County’

Casinos Arrive

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

By Jeffrey Pageroulette wheel

The news that Monticello in Sullivan County had been awarded the Catskills casino site brought mixed feelings, not the least of which was the happy understanding that the roulette spinners and the blackjack dealers will be doing their work there and not here.

“Here” being southern Orange County, where one of the losing casino concerns wanted to build his operation and, in the process, put Sterling Forest at grave risk.

Truth in writing: I must say that after leaving New York City many years ago, I lived for a time in Sullivan County, first in Forestburg and then about eight years in Liberty. It was a time when the big hotels – Kutsher’s, Grossinger’s, the Concord, the Raleigh, and so many others – were still humming, though maybe not as melodically as in years past. It was the start of the end, a time when hotel owners of my time in the mountains, generally a secretive bunch, used to talk out loud about how much fancier – how much glitzier – it had been before when guests were happy and plentiful, and the money rolled in.

A classic dialogue played out any number of times:

“So and so’s going Chapter 11. Couldn’t keep up with Milt and his sports academy.” Then would come the dirge with the grim lyrics: “Fell by the wayside.” Words heard over and over, fell by the wayside. Eventually they all fell by the wayside.

Sullivan County was troubled. By the middle 1970s, Broadway in Monticello was deserted most nights in all seasons. Liberty, always quiet despite the existence of Grossinger’s just down the road, seemed forgotten by the outside world. And South Fallsburg, a place described best by my colleague at the Times Herald-Record, Pete Kutschera: “The place looks like a traveling circus went through 20 years ago and they never got over it.”

No question, Sullivan County needs and deserves a boost. So they’re getting a casino and in all likelihood certain people are dreaming of the money rolling in. I hope a casino gets things moving again, but I have to wonder.

With all the campaigning for a casino site, some important facts about the county and the Town of Thompson and the village of Monticello seem to be missing.

Has anyone in government taken pencil to paper and come up with an estimate of what sorts of changes the area can expect with the opening of a casino? If it’s been done, I confess I missed it.

But right off the bat is the startling statistic that the winner, Montreign Resort Casino, wishes to install 2,150 slot machines, which works out to four slot machines for every resident of Roscoe. Is this progress? Is this any way to a secure future? It worked in Las Vegas where there was no competition but can it work in upstate New York when there’ll be competition from another casino in Schenectady and from gaming tables in nearby states.

In the meantime, how many more cops will have to be hired with the advent of casino gambling? Montreign, projects the creation of 2,400 new jobs. That will require more new housing, more school facilities, more teachers, more equipment. Tax bills likely will go up.

The real winner, if there is one, isn’t the bettor or the community. It’s the casino operator. Any other belief is naive. Is the area ready for such a non-bonanza bonanza?

I’m happy for Sullivan County getting what it wants, but far happier for southern Orange remaining casino-free.

Coming Attraction

Saturday, April 21st, 2012

By Jeffrey Page

Word that a developer is turning the old movie house at the Monticello Mall into a modern five-plex recalls the curious, and sometimes outrageous history of movie theaters in Sullivan County.

On the gentle side of things in the Seventies were the Rivoli in South Fallsburg and the Strand in Loch Sheldrake, both owned at the time by Sam Rosenshein, who also served as the Fallsburg supervisor. The theaters had long passed their glory days and were brooding hulks. Still, Rosenshein kept them open. But they were only crowded on Saturday nights in summer, when they were patronized mostly by tourists. Rainy days brought kids from camps.

When you went to the Rivoli in those days, your shoes stuck to the floor, you sensed that the seats were rarely if ever cleaned, you knew that the popcorn didn’t exactly taste like it was just made, and that if you breathed deeply you were inhaling air that smelled like something swampy.

But what was it? Ahh, it was a dampish combination of muskiness and mildew. That odor and the fact that no theater in the county ever showed the Marx Brothers was why I would take my daughter to the movies in Middletown or Chester, or down to the city if we needed a touch of Groucho to brighten our day.

Sam Rosenshein, an older gent and a genuinely nice guy, kept the Rivoli and Strand open year round. This might have had to do with the fact that he also owned Poppy’s, a popular-priced restaurant just a few blocks from the theater. Rosenshein would lock the Rivoli and then join his customers for coffee and Danish at the restaurant.

Though the Rivoli was quite unpleasant, I still recall it was there that I saw “The Late Show” with Lily Tomlin and Art Carney, having missed it in its initial run of the county. I have no idea why I remember this.

It was at the Rialto Theater in Monticello that the owner, Rick Dames – he would later gain a rep for showing porn – played “Travels With My Aunt” for an audience of seven on a blustery cold night. Dames said the old comedies would never draw an audience. He was right. Once he played a W.C. Fields double bill and said the crowd amounted to 12, which included a friend of mine and me.

Later at the Rialto, he showed pornographic features and then offered the movie “Snuff.” Snuff films, designed for the sickest among moviegoers, purportedly showed the actual murder of women. Some  advertising copy for “Snuff” ran: “The film that could only be made in South America where life is cheap.” This resulted in some local feminists bringing obscenity charges against Dames, who eventually left the county.

The county used to be rich in movie houses – the Roscoe, the Ritz in White Lake, four in Monticello, two in Liberty, the Peace Palace in Woodbourne, among others – but as summer tourism declined so did its theaters. The only active movie house in the county nowadays is in Callicoon.

The prospect of a new theater in Monticello is a treat for anyone who loves film.