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Durst Watch (2): Meet the Family | Little Town Views

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  • Durst Watch (2): Meet the Family

    Posted February 15, 2008 by James Sheldon, For the Record, Views from Gallatin 

    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.’”

    Comments

    One Response to “Durst Watch (2): Meet the Family”

    1. Edward Tuck on February 15th, 2008 4:59 pm

      Thank you James for publicly pursuing the facts on this development. I found the presentation on the 6th dismaying.

      As a LEED-certified architect and weekend resident for almost 20 years, I find the Durst family’s efforts to greenwash this project using their track record in Manhattan high-rise development offensive.

      Furthermore, regarding Landmark Land Company I can add the following from personal experience:

      I spent my childhood summers on my grandparent’s farm in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. Then a sleepy rural landscape outside Washington DC, it has given way –in the space of one generation – to one of our nation’s densest, most faceless suburbs. Landmark Land Company, The Durst Organization’s partner at the Carvel Property proudly advertises their role in that transformation as co-owners of Lake Presidential Golf Club in Upper Marlboro, where 1,680 houses and 720 multi-family units are being built, all couched in much the same language put forth to support the Carvel project.

      Nobody — not the Durst family, not Landmark Land Company and its shareholders, not the residents of this area and their children – really needs 900+ undistinguished new houses around a 27-hole golf course in exchange for the area’s character. We can all go to Upper Marlboro, Maryland for that.

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