Durst Watch (2): Meet the Family
In a recent blitzkrieg of mailings to our homes, the Durst Organization extols the glories of its past accomplishments, the smiling family at its helm and the “environmental” virtues of its proposed Carvel development. But the glossy brochures, which offer a slew of misleading environmental claims and wildly inaccurate financial projections, neglect to tell us anything about the key players overseeing the project, their motivations or their track record in guiding comparable developments.
One of the mass mailings invites us as “dear neighbors” to “meet the Durst family,” and in this and future postings we hope to get to know the Dursts, not their soothing, sepia-toned portraits gracing the brochures, but their capabilities, their character and their business strategy.
Our first link, Dear Mr. Durst, is a letter we wrote to the company’s CEO in 2005 asking him to explain why “a man of your environmental vision, tremendous wealth and civic generosity” would stake his reputation on a development whose likely legacy will be to “turn our rural way of life into the next front line of suburban sprawl.” The letter remains unanswered, as do the questions it raised, leaving us little choice but to assume that this man with a personal fortune estimated at over $2 billion simply wants to pocket another $100 million or more at our expense.
There is another member of the Durst “family,” one who has been omitted from any mention in the brochures: Durst’s primary planning, construction and marketing partner, the Landmark Land Company, which we profile in a summary of our own research, based on publicly available sources. Landmark, the reincarnation of a bankrupt savings & loan, appears to have plenty of experience in real estate speculation but virtually none in developing from scratch a project of this scale in a snow-belt region.
Also included in the Landmark report is a brief outline of the U.S. golfing industry, which raises further questions about Mr. Durst’s ability, or his intention, to market the Carvel development as an upscale, second-home golfing resort.
We end this installment of our “Durst Watch” with a letter from the Dutchess County Department of Planning and Development which takes the Durst team to task for the “disturbing incongruity” between the environmentally sensitive wonderland described in their public filings and the destructive, sprawling behemoth they are asking for approval to build. “Clearly,” the county’s letter states, “many portions of what is being proposed is not green development, but ‘greenwash.’”