Above: Video of Ted Blazer's comments to the Catskills at the Boiceville Inn last night. Apologies for the extremely fuzzy video quality. Video shot by Julia Reischel.
Ted Blazer, the CEO of the Olympic Regional Development Authority, visited the Catskills last night to deliver an apology and a promise about the Belleayre Mountain Ski Center, which ORDA took over in November. (For our previous coverage of the ORDA takeover, click here.)
"I apologize if it's not perfect, but we want to make it better," Blazer told a standing-room only crowd of Catskills businessowners and politicians. "We are going to make it better. It's going to be a great success story. Give us your ideas and your suggestions. We will listen."
Blazer rarely appears in person in the Catskills, so close to 100 people showed up at the Boiceville Inn in Olive to see him speak. (ORDA's main headquarters are in Lake Placid, in the Adirondacks.) Blazer was accompanied by J. Patrick Barrett, the chairman of ORDA's board. Both men were there at the invitation of Ulster County Legislator John Parete, who represents the Catskills on ORDA's board along with Coalition to Save Belleayre chairman Joe Kelly. Parete owns the Boiceville Inn.
Blazer said that ORDA was enthusiastic about the Catskills and the "beautiful" Belleayre Mountain Ski Center facility, promised to make changes in Belleayre's operations in time for Presidents' Day weekend in February. He also said that he had privately met with members of the Belleayre Region Lodging and Tourism Association earlier that day, and had listened to their complaints about ORDA's current management of the ski mountain.
Business owners around the Catskills have been concerned about a lack of visible advertising for the Belleayre Mountain Ski Center, which had no marketing budget last year during the 2011- 2012 ski season, when it was still under New York State Department of Environmental Conservation management.
"There are concerns," Blazer said. "I was reminded that we can make things happen quickly. Well, you know, we're not perfect either. And I guess we're guilty of having a couple of other ski areas where we try to do things one way. But that doesn't mean that's exactly the way we have to do it here. We have to understand how it works here."
Blazer took questions from the crowd. In response to why Belleayre isn't featured alongside ORDA's Adirondack ski centers -- Gore Mountain and Whiteface Mountain -- in radio commercials across New York, he said that those commercials are likely part of longstanding contracts that can't be altered immediately. He then pledged to improve Belleayre's marketing presence in New York and New Jersey.
Regarding ORDA's stance on the controversial Crossroads LLC Belleayre Resort project, he said "The Department of Environmental Conservation is going to carry the ball on that because they started it." He added that the DEC has a unit management plan that is in the midst of collecting public comments on the matter.
Lots of bigwigs were present. Congressman Chris Gibson, who represents New York's 19th Congressional District, was working the room, and New York State Assemblyman Pete Lopez, whose 102nd Assembly district includes Greene and Schoharie Counties, as well as parts of Delaware, Ulster, Otsego and Albany Counties, was there as well. Both briefly addressed the crowd.
Correction: An earlier version of this post misstated the boundaries of the 102nd Assembly district. Sorry about that -- we're still getting used to the new districts too.