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Camp Hamachane opening pushed to 2015

By Kim Smith Dedam, The Press-Republican, Plattsburgh, N.Y.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

July 05--GABRIELS -- New owners of what once was Camp Gabriels prison say its redevelopment into a summer camp won't happen this year.

This spring, Rabbi Eli Hersch presented plans for Camp Hamachane, an Orthodox Jewish summer camp for children from the greater New York City area.

Hersch said they ran into legal snags as work got underway to restore the property.

"We will not be opening this summer," Hersch told the Press-Republican by telephone.

"God willing, we should be able to open next summer. We ran into a few legal issues, and we will not be able to finish all the things we had to do, fixing up everything that has to be fixed up to be ready."


Hersch would not elaborate further on the legal issues, and his attorney, Michael Hill, referred questions back to Hersch.

But minutes from the June Town of Brighton Town Council meeting indicate the sale has not yet gone through due to concerns about title insurance because the property is in the Adirondack Park.

"Supervisor Peter Shrope said he heard from Sen. Betty Little concerning this property. The sale has not gone through because the purchaser, Let's Camp LLC, is having difficulty getting title insure due to the property being in the Adirondack Park and under Article 14 of the Constitution," the minutes say.

"Some groups think the property should be reverted to state land since the state owned it."

The question of land-use classification was raised at a public hearing in January 2011, when Brighton considered buying the Camp Gabriels site.

At the time, the APA indicated the land use would revert from State Administrative to Moderate Intensity, the designation in force when Paul Smith's College owned the property. When the college sold the land to New York, some 200 acres were subdivided and added to the state Forest Preserve.

Dave Gibson of Adirondack Wild has suggested that since the land became state-owned property, it should remain state land.

The Town Council maintains the property has a long history of private use and brought the issue to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's attention.

Let's make dreams come true.

"The property has been used for private business since 1897 and is currently designated as State Administrative; it was not designated as forest lands. Camp Hamachane will not be able to hold its summer camp in the town this summer and will have to make other arrangements."

The Town Council minutes indicate the owners pulled their building application.


Hersch and project financier Adam Fine purchased the 92-acre parcel with some two dozen out-buildings, a wastewater treatment plant, industrial kitchen, classrooms and historic dormitories.

The former minimum-security prison at the site closed six years ago amid Department of Corrections cutbacks.

Fine won a second-place auction bid from the New York State Office of General Services and paid $166,000 for the property last October.

The sale closed in April.


Hersch was looking to add outdoor playing fields and a swimming pool to the camp, but beyond that, use would remain much the same.

The Department of Environmental Conservation received a completed permit application on June 4 for groundwater discharge of about 37,500 gallons of treated wastewater at Camp Hamachane.

The new owners are reactivating the wastewater treatment system that served Camp Gabriels.

The comment period on the project is open through Monday, July 7.

In its notice, DEC made a tentative determination to issue a State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit.

"This tentative determination indicates that the discharge regulated under this statute is considered to satisfy regulatory standards for permit issuance, based on information available to the department at this time."


Camp Hamachane is looking to provide an Adirondack environment for about 250 boys ages 10 to 18.

The initial reuse plan was developed for summer use, leaving extended fall, winter and spring options open for future development.

Hersch and Fine live in the Spring Valley area north of New York City.

Let's make dreams come true.

They had hoped, despite tight application deadlines, to open the new camp this month.

Email Kim Smith


(c)2014 the Press-Republican (Plattsburgh, N.Y.)

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