Welcome to the Woodstock - Preservation Archives
Dedicated to the Historic Preservation of the Site of the 1969 Woodstock Festival

Hurd & West Shore Rds
Sullivan County
Bethel  NY


October 20, 2002

Letter to the Editor


While it can be said that on one hand, Alan Gerry has greatly supported and contributed to many civic causes in Sullivan County. On the other hand, Alan Gerry's Gerry Foundation (GF) has also pulled off a smoke and mirrors act worthy of David Copperfield's praise. As the final period for public comment comes to a close for the Bethel Performing Arts Center final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), it appears that approval will be given to a plan that effectively cuts the original Woodstock site in half, places buildings on the top one third of the 37.5 acres, and surrounds the entire site in a compound of steel security fencing. The original plans from the Gerry Foundation called for no building anywhere on the original site. It appears that Mr. Gerry's tune has changed greatly from the day in June 2001 when he told the New York Times, "Would you build a shopping mall where Washington crossed the Delaware?" Apparently he would - and will. The Woodstock site is the only draw to Bethel that will allow it to compete with other rival PACs such as the Mountain Laurel in Bushkill, PA. Once it is altered and fenced in, the allure of Woodstock is gone, and so is the PAC's future. Bethel's tourist draw is nothing without Woodstock, as evidenced by a Woodstock Preservation Alliance (WPA) member asking a news rep. from the Times Union in Albany if they were covering the PAC issues in Bethel. The news rep immediately asked in a pensive tone, "Where?" The same response was given by the managing editor of the NYC Village Voice and the Chicago Sun-Times. Sure the issues have been raised in the local papers, but has the information and seriousness of it all really made it to the citizens of Sullivan County? How has information been distributed to the public at large outside of the county and state?

From day one, the Gerry Foundation has thrown up a smoke screen and averted criticism to development of the Woodstock site through a number of means. For instance, if you look at the web site for the Mountain Laurel PAC, you will find exquisite drawings of the proposed site and buildings. It gives the names of the involved parties, the staff listing and accountable credentials. If you go to the Gerry Foundation website. Wait. You can't. As there isn't one. Bethel, the county, state, country and world have no way to know what is really going on as no information has ever been provided for easy public viewing. If you don't know that you need to get information from Bethel directly, then a belief is created where there is no availability of the EISs , drawing of site plans with artist's impressions of how the site might look, carved up, built on, surrounded by steel fencing. There is no list available of which the Gerry Foundation is made up and what their credentials are. There is no forum for concerned citizens to provide immediate feedback to the GF. Mr. Gerry is a media mogul who understands the power of communications. No information. No opposition. It is much easier to get plans approved to dismember an historic piece of Americana when you allow a hungry town to make the final decision and take the fall cloaked in thin veil of self-determination. If the world is uninformed, they cannot angrily bang on your door. Joe public in Buffalo or Philadelphia knows nothing of the issues, that information can only be obtained through the Bethel Town Clerk, or that a period of public comment is occurring. We're certain that suites the GF just fine. The perfect tautology. There is little outrage so everything must be good. That seems to be what Bethel has been lead to believe. People need information on a widely accessible basis for outrage to be evident. We challenge the GF to put a comprehensive, honest PAC website on the internet, then evaluate the support for their plans.

It is evident that many in Sullivan County are unaware of the plans that place their economic future at risk. Recently high profile radio station personalities in Monticello and Port Jervis were approached to inform listeners of the development of the site. They were outraged at the plans and that they did not know about them. They have since gone on to inform listeners of the issues and resist GFs plans. If information about the PAC was available to them via the papers, those articles must have only contained information that averted controversy. The Gerry foundation has also dismissed consistently the desire for participation from groups who have followed and critiqued the site proposals. Mr. Glen Pontier, spin doctor and Director of Communications for GF has attempted to minimize, sentimentalize and discredit groups such as the WPA in the media. The thursday after the final Fall Harvest Market, a follow up was made regarding a potential meeting between the GF and the WPA. Mr. Pontier responded that there would be no meeting until after the final approval meeting in Bethel. Again, it is a moot point to try to oppose an issue once the issue has been approved. There is no opposition when you shut the opposition out.

In response to criticism that a steel security fence will compound the site, Jonathon Drapkin, GF executive director has rebutted that due to recent developments (Sept. 11), the world expects a higher level of security and the fence is necessary. It is shameful and pathetic that GF executive would use the tragedy of 9-11 to whitewash the truth that the fence is to merely keep out anyone who has not paid, period. If you want to make "spin", don't do it on the backs of over 3000 dead fathers, mothers, sons and daughters. Shame on you.

It seems that even those employed by the Gerry Foundation are coming forward. Dr. Michael Doyle Ph.D, section author for the Draft EIS wrote the WPA the following letter.

A letter to the WPA:

In summer 2001 I was hired by the Manhattan-based land-use planning firm that the GF employed to compile the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for its planned Performing Arts Center development. I authored the "Statement on the Historical and Cultural Significance of the 1969 Woodstock Festival Site." ... Alan Gerry himself and his Foundation's staff assured us then that they had no intention of disturbing the 37.5 -acre "Festival Stage Area" site [i.e. concert bowl and top plateau]; they obviously have since changed their minds. The statement I wrote couldn't have been more supportive of the importance of preserving the site as is; my colleagues in cultural resource management with whom I worked also stressed the desirability of mitigating PAC development within the Festival Stage Area's sight-lines as far as was practically possible.

Not only will it be a sacrilege to develop even just a portion of the Festival Stage Area, but it's not in their economic self-interest either. What makes their real estate valuable is precisely the powerful draw that that particular site exerts on the touring and music-loving public -- the very same people they will need to attract and satisfy if their PAC is to succeed financially. It would be the height of folly to "kill the goose that laid the golden egg." Don't let Alan Gerry forget that he acknowledged as much when he told the New York Times in the presence of his friend Governor George Pataki and many thrilled local people in June 2001: developing that special spot would as unthinkable as building a shopping mall where Washington crossed the Delaware. - Michael Wm. Doyle, Ph.D. Ball State University

Currently the WPA is recruiting further statements from participants in Allan Gerry's draft proposals who are angry with the dismissal of their work.

So, as the Joint Lead Agencies cower in fear of Allan Gerry pulling his cash if the plans are not approved, the Gerry Foundation attempts to keep the world in the dark, the Town of Bethel and Sullivan County are taken as fools, and Roberta Lockwood from the Sullivan County Visitor's Association sits silent, an ever-growing group of tireless preservationists ( www.thewoodstockspirit.org ) continue to inform, oppose, and do what's right for this historical landmark to make it available for generations as well as improve the PACs chances for success.

The following is the text of Alan Gerry's prepared remarks given April 23, 1997 announcing his purchase of the Woodstock site and his proposed plans for it.

"Over the last year, we have purchased a number of parcels surrounding the Woodstock site for the purpose of protecting the original concert ground. Rather than see the Woodstock site developed by some entity, or individual, who does not respect or value its place in American history, I decided to step forward and rather than allow its enormous potential to wither away�It reflects a very special time of change that embraced an entire generation of Americans, and I appreciate that this property has been sold to me in trust to ensure that this touchstone of modern American music and culture is protected.For years to come, we want generations of people from around the world to walk on those hills and be inspired by Woodstock's past, present, and future."

If you "Talk the Talk", Mr. Gerry, then "Walk the Walk". You have said that you are creating an "intelligent business plan that works ." We've seen the plan that you have to offer. Now where is the intelligent one? We encourage the citizens of Sullivan County and abroad to demand answers and accountability. Even if it means having to put up and cut through more of the Gerry Foundation's spin.

Letter from the Woodstock Preservation Alliance Board of Directors