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December 08, 2016
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Promising the moon

Noel van Swol

The aftershocks of the Ilwon Kang fiasco continue to reverberate through the Sullivan West Central School District. The issue even came up at the December 1 school board meeting.

For the record, I was the only Sullivan West school board member who saw through Mr. Kang from the beginning and the only one who voted “no” on every proposal of his for over a year. Once again, I am forced to say “I told you so.”

From the beginning, I was convinced that Ilwon Kang, who was sold to the community as a big time New York City developer, was not serious in his plans for purchasing both the Delaware Valley and the Narrowsburg school buildings. Here is why.

1. No one was ever able to turn up any articles in the New York City newspapers about his projects.

2. Mr. Kang “forgot” to include his $150,000 earnest money deposit with his $3 million bid for the two buildings. As I stated at a public meeting in Narrowsburg which Mr. Kang attended, and repeated at many school board meetings, this was a red flag. That “oversight” made me suspicious Mr. Kang did not have the money to consummate the deal.

3. The Sullivan West attorney made a major mistake in the bidding procedure by allowing Mr. Kang or any other bidder to get their deposit money returned if they backed out of the deal before closing. This loophole was the local equivalent of one of those television shows that tell people how to buy real estate with no money down. Ilwon Kang was handed a no-risk option on the properties, knowing that if he could not consummate the deal for any reason he would get his $150,000 deposit back. Who wouldn’t jump at such a deal?

4. One of the conditions of the bidding process was the fact that board members and the administration were supposed to be allowed the opportunity to review Kang’s financial statements. When I requested this information, I was blocked by the school attorneys.

5. Mr. Kang additionally wanted to acquire the school district’s 14 acres in Narrowsburg, which he won with a separate $70,000 bid. He eventually backed away from that deal also, and never produced the money.

6. Numerous discussions by me with key Narrowsburg community leaders confirmed that many of them had similar reservations about Mr. Kang, especially after he walked away from his $70,000 offer to buy the 14 acres.

7. Mr. Kang claimed he had plans to turn the Delaware Valley School building into an international school. I regularly checked with a key member of the Fremont planning board, and found that Mr. Kang never had a single formal meeting with the planning board about his project.

8. Mr. Kang requested and was given extension after extension on the closing dates for his bids. In the end, as I predicted, Mr. Kang walked away, got his $150,000 deposit back, and left the district holding the bag.

There are some people in the community who ran after Ilwon Kang for a year or more and are now trying to save face by claiming this debacle cost us nothing. Actually, it did. Rather than totally shut the buildings down, Sullivan West spent approximately $180,000 in utility bills etc. during the year-long period Kang had optioned the buildings. Because we could not retain Kang’s deposit, Sullivan West taxpayers had to absorb that entire cost.

As I have repeatedly said, Mr. Kang appears to have been just one more in a long line of promoters who have come to Sullivan County over the last 40 years promising the moon and delivering nothing. No wonder people are cynical.

[Noel van Swol is a member of the Sullivan West School District’s school board and a resident of Long Eddy, NY.]