GREENFIELD PARK – Education, and recreation, are springing up from the ashes of a ravaged Catskill jewel. Rabbinical college students are already bustling about the classrooms in the lower level of the former Native American museum on the grounds of the Tamarack Lodge, according to Yeshiva of Ocean's attorney Jeff Kaplan. And existing townhouses adjacent to the college offer dormitory accommodations, although Kaplan said he didn't know if they were occupied yet.
Above the classrooms, the upper story awaits Wawarsing planning board approval to become an apartment for the college's dean Rabbi Miller, Kaplan said. Once that mixed-use application is permitted, the school will be in full swing, he added.
Outside the windows, however, lies the bleak landscape left after an April 2012 inferno burned through most of the 40-or-so buildings on the Tamarack's 246 acres. Nature has taken its course and weeds and grasses mask some of the destruction, but it's obvious that whoever wants to clean up the property has their hands full.
"The Tamarack land is a mess," Kaplan acknowledges. "It is full of vacant buildings that need to be taken down. It's an expensive task since possible asbestos abatement has to be taken into consideration as well."
The property's next-door neighbor, Greenfield Resorts LLC, has bought all 246.5 acres and is hoping to expand its seasonal homes onto that property.
Greenfield Resorts asked the Wawarsing planning board on Nov. 19 to allow subdividing the property into two parcels: one, measuring about 25 to 30 acres, would include the rabbinical college (enrolling 40 to 60 young men) and the townhomes; the remaining land would be targeted for development into a seasonal summer colony of townhomes, according to papers filed with the town. The board acquiesced, granting a waiver to not include the two-foot topography lines on the site map for lot one.
In regards to the Yeshiva of Ocean lot, a more detailed map of lighting and landscaping was submitted to the board for their review, and questions were raised regarding driveway right-a-ways and ownership that have yet to be ironed out. Kaplan said he is planning on having all final map revisions for next months' meeting; including flyovers and ground surveying , after which dates will be set for public hearings.
Greenfield Resorts, based in Lakewood, NJ, owns Greenfield Meadows at 32 Tamarack Road. The colony includes about fifty houses, each with white siding and curtains or blinds in all the windows, even those in the basement. The large size of the homes somewhat contradicts their description as bungalows. The colony has thrived, and so Greenfield Resorts wants to expand.
"The benefit to the town is the use of the property," Kaplan said. Rather than lying stagnant, with a back-tax bill estimated between $400,000 and $500,000, the land will be cleaned up and put back on the tax rolls, he added. Although the school will be exempt from taxes, Kaplan said it is "doubtful" that the townhouse colony would be exempt.
Google "Tamarack Lodge Greenfield Park NY" and one quickly gets a feel for what was once there. The Tamarack Lodge started out as a boarding house in the 1920s, and by the 1940s was a premier summer vacation destination. A postcard from 1939 displays a touched-up photograph of the resort's air-conditioned, Tudor-style "Playtorium". On the back, someone had written, "Hello Everybody. Having a grand time. There's about six women to one guy." Dig further on the Web, and one finds reports of ghostly sightings on the grounds... as well as reviews of a new "rock opera" performed there in 1968 by a group called The Who.