My partner and I are residents of Yankee Lake and members of the Yankee Lake Preservation Association, and we would like to voice our strong opposition to the proposed China City of America Development. This project is supported by funding through the China City Regional Center and would be built adjacent to and including the surrounding shoreline of the "Whale Tail" of Yankee Lake and areas north of Route 17. Our letter will address the following issues: overstated positive economic impact on our local community, destruction of our environment and natural habitat of animal life, increased traffic and pollution. We urge you to please take a closer look at what Sullivan County residents' and taxpayers' needs and wants are.
Overstated Positive Economic Impact: We should not be blinded by the distortion of economic facts presented by China City of America and project leader Sherry Li. This development does not in any way reflect needs of the local community or county. The expected job creation of this regional center is grossly overstated. With an increase to the local population attributed to the residential development included in this proposal, we will only see an increase of unemployed residents who move into China City from China. Sullivan County is not so ethnically diverse that our residents speak or understand enough of the Chinese language or history of China to be an integral part of the plans Ms. Li and China City propose. China City workers, residents, and the majority of visitors will be exclusively from China. We already know that China City is seeking to gain foreign investment, and long term residents, through the EB-5 visa program desiring an approval of the China City of America Regional Center EB-5 visas. As stated on the China City Regional Center website, the EB-5 visa program allows an investor to invest "$500,000 USD if investing in certain regional centers in rural or targeted employment areas." The investor "must create 10 full-time jobs for U.S. workers directly or indirectly." We can expect that even if there are temporary American construction workers on the site to build, or low-wage food service or cleaning service workers, this would allow the Chinese investor to only contribute $500,000 and be given a route to immigrate to the United States and achieve a full path to citizenship for himself, children, married spouses of children under 21 and ultimately extended family once U.S. citizenship is obtained. This is a loophole in the EB-5 visa program that allows these projects to employ token U.S. workers without having any plans to employ permanent, skilled U.S. workers. If you review the China City Regional Center's EB-5 information directly from their website, it reads as an immigration recruitment tool to bring in family members of the Chinese investors.
It is clear from the above noted items that the focus of China City Regional Center and the whole China City of America concept appear to be nothing more than a miniature-China providing "a path to permanent [U.S] residency" for people who may have "minimal level of education," "no business experience" and "no need to speak English" who may ultimately achieve "the most important rights legal permanent residents [possess]... the right to obtain U.S. citizenship after five years." U.S. citizenship would afford the immigrants the right to claim benefits from the U.S. government. This will only attract more of the investors' unemployed, uneducated, non-English speaking extended family members.
You will note that as of the May 2013 published unemployment numbers for New York by county, Sullivan County ranks 51st out of 62 counties in New York State at 8.5 percent unemployment. We do not need additional unemployed residents in our county. The residents of China City may well be uneducated, with no knowledge of the English language, who wish to obtain U.S. citizenship which will allow them to be entitled to public benefits. Is this what Sullivan County needs?!
While I appreciate that immigrants can bring a wealth of skills and talent into our country, I cannot foresee China City providing any economic contribution to our community as a whole. It is a self-serving project that will only benefit its Chinese project managers and investors.
Protected Bald Eagles and Wildlife: On any given day at the lake, particularly in the "Whale Tail" area, you can hear and see many of our resident wildlife: deer, bears, diving birds, foxes, raccoons, porcupines, and most notably, a community of bald eagles that live on the big island in Yankee Lake. I have seen these eagles and their young offspring fly overhead and land in the tall pines that grow in the Whale Tail are of the lake. As you may be aware, bald eagles are federally protected under the Bald Eagle Protection Act of 1940. We would like to warn that town, county, and state government organizations that allow the China City Development, and its ultimate destruction of the bald eagle community at Yankee, could be subjected to the double fines related to the offenses against these eagles. Any attempt to develop anywhere near Yankee Lake will most certainly disturb the eagle community.
Other consequences of development of the Whale Tail area would contribute to poisoning of the eagles and other animal life. Increased development and human activity will bring work vehicles with harmful fuel exhaust and chemical run-off as well as garbage and waste created by construction and human activity. Even the sounds of the machinery and increased activity will contribute to noise pollution that will disturb the eagles and other animal life. After the construction phase, we can expect ongoing exhaust fumes, noise, and waste from the proposed hundreds of acres of amusement rides, restaurants, shopping centers, and housing. These disturbances, including the decision to remove native trees and plants to make way to build, will permanently damage the habitat for many eagles and other animals that have inhabited this area much longer than humans. The habitat and food sources will be affected. There is a very real threat that many animals, including the eagles, will be killed and wounded during the development of China City.
We became first time homebuyers at Yankee Lake in March of 2009 when we fell in love with the natural beauty and clean, tranquil environment that surrounded this beautiful lake. The residents on every part of this lake have become our neighbors and friends. We have many year-round neighbors who live here as natural lovers. We have many part-time neighbors who seek this same natural sanctuary of peace and tranquility at their home away from home. This community does not wish to lose what we love most — the lake, wildlife, plants, and ecosystem of Yankee Lake. For what? We have no need, and certainly no want, for this type of development literally in our backyards.
Pollution of Water (and a booming population): We must also consider that China City will need water for this development in order to build, then sustain the population who will live in and visit China City. This will require wells to be dug to support a very large number of people on a daily basis. They may even need to go larger scale and have proper septic treatments facilities if they proceed with the proposed museums and theatres and other recreational facilities for long term residents and visitors. Water will have to be collected from beneath the water table which connects with the lake and could also pollute the lake water and surrounding streams and runoff. Long-term, one can only imagine how we handle all of the resident's water needs including waste and the disposal of this waste. If we use history as an example of how many people may potentially live in China City, we can refer to the "'special economic zone' city of Shenzhen (established in 1979}, near the free trade port of Hong Kong, and grew from under 1,000 villagers to over 18 million in 25 years. Can we ever plan for something like this? Do we want to deal with something like this in Sullivan County?
Traffic Pollution and Congestion: We must consider that with the intrusion of the proposed China City Development, we would see a major increase in traffic on Route 17 and our local roads. As any Sullivan County resident will tell you, our roads are already overwhelmed with traffic. Even in the off-season the traffic in Sullivan County has increased dramatically with the development of homes and migration of people looking to move away from the cities or more expensive suburbs in the lower Hudson Valley or to establish vacation homes in the mountains and on the lakes in our county. We do not need additional, new sources of congestion and traffic along with the air and noise pollution that comes with this. Our county infrastructure cannot handle this! Many of the China City residents will be travelling from New York City and local airports, Route 17 being the primary (possibly only) route immigrants and visitors will use to travel to and from China City. What engineering plans are in place to accommodate for this traffic?
When we moved to Yankee Lake, we had visions of raising our children, and their children, at this beautiful lake in one of the most beautiful counties in the Hudson Valley. Sullivan County has made a great effort to maintain its identity as the gorgeous foothills to the Catskill Mountains. We hope to stay at our lake home for generations to come and enjoy all the beauty that surrounds us. We know our neighbors feel the same. Many have already had family here for generations, nearly a century in some instances. It is our home and China City wants to build in our backyards!
We expect that our town, county and state decision makers and legislators will make the right decision in regard to disallowing the China City of America Development to go forward.