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New Century, a 40-acre property in the Town of Deerpark known for hosting large, tradition-themed festivals, is planning a new development to spur future community growth, according to its chief operating officer.
Its development plan has been through several town planning board sessions as well as a public hearing at the senior center on April 26.
“As a driving force in community revitalization, New Century aims to convert a run-down historical equestrian facility to a multipurpose center for film production, recreation, and cultural exchanges, such as the well-received Moon Festival,” COO Peter Wei told The Epoch Times.
“Our efforts have brought and will continue to create more conveniences, jobs, opportunities, and good memories for the local communities.”
According to the site plan, the company proposes to build a 3,556-seat screening hall, an 85-room hotel, restaurants, a market space, and a shooting range on its 40-acre property, which was once home to a professional equestrian center.
Most of the proposed facilities will be built upon old structures, while some will be entirely new, including a parking garage and film studios.
A wastewater treatment plant is also planned to handle the new demand.
The planning board already approved several proposed amenities in past applications by New Century.
During the public hearing, a dozen residents supported the proposed development, citing economic, cultural, and educational benefits.
Zenon Dolnyckj said he had attended several festivals hosted by New Century with his children and enjoyed the traditional themes and wholesome entertainment.
“When I went there, I was very surprised to see pillars with printed posters all about the Founding Fathers and various accomplishments and contributions to humanity. At the end of the walkway was this Chinese giant sign that said ‘Virtue,’” he said.
“It is all about promoting traditional values [and] culture for the good of humanity. This, to me, is very heartening, and I am very excited that this is happening in my town.”
Jack Austin, a resident who has lived in the area for almost 50 years, said he welcomed the economic benefits the project would bring as long as the engineering requirements are met.
“It seems analogous to me the kind of cultural activities at Bethel Woods,” he said.
Bethel Woods is a well-known performance arts center on scenic hills in the Catskill Mountains.
Several residents at the hearing referenced the Town of Deerpark’s Comprehensive Plan, which set a goal 10 years ago to promote growth while preserving the town’s rural character.
Tourism was identified as one of the most desired industries, according to the plan.
James White, an Otisville resident who recently started working at New Century, said the company’s festivals had attracted more than 50,000 visitors since 2018.
The proposed development would bring more tourists to the area, he said.
Some residents expressed concerns about the increased development and traffic it would bring.
Mark Long, who lives right next to New Century on U.S. Route 209, said that even though he attended many festivals hosted by the company and liked the sense of community they brought to the area, he was worried about the impact of the new development on his quality of life. According to the site plan, Long’s property is near the proposed site of the sewer treatment plant.
Thomas Brunelle, a town resident for the past six years, said that he respected the technical issues raised during the public hearing and believed they were all resolvable.
“The owners of this property have a track record of doing well for the community, and I believe that going forward, they would uphold that as well,” he said.
Jin Pang, the chief coordinator of festivals at New Century, said that as a local resident herself, she is committed to a clean, safe, and prosperous Deerpark.
“We care about the environment because we live in the same environment, just as our kids and grandkids do,” she said. “I believe the engineers are doing their job to make this beautiful facility more useful while following the rules.”
At the March planning board meeting, town engineer Al Fusco acknowledged the due diligence of professionals working on the New Century project.
“The Fellenzer team has crossed their t’s and dotted their i’s and provided sufficient information,” Fusco said when planning board members solicited his professional opinion.
Fellenzer Engineering is the lead engineering firm on the project.
Wei told The Epoch Times that to mitigate any potential impacts on the surrounding environment, the company has invested in professional studies of traffic, endangered species, site lighting, stormwater pollution prevention, archeology, and more.
Group With Ties to China Shows Up
Besides local residents, the meeting was also attended by a China-linked group based in New Paltz named NYenvironcom. The group has been focused nearly exclusively on running a campaign against development projects of the local Chinese diaspora in Deerpark, many of whom fled religious persecution in China. Scilla and his group’s ties to China were the subject of a previous Epoch Times investigation.
The head of the group, Alex Scilla, used to live in China and maintains business interests there. NYenvironcom, meanwhile, lists as a “partner” on its website a China-based company. Scilla brought to the hearing several environmental consultants to criticize the project and submitted reports from a few more that weren’t present.
It’s not clear how the campaign is financed given that Scilla’s group, according to its latest public disclosures, spent less than $5,000 on its program services in 2021 and finished the year with less than $3,600 in assets, based on self-reported figures on GuideStar.
Scilla’s group has also been funding local group Deerpark Rural Alliance, which is headed by Grace Woodard, who joined Scilla at the hearing.