For some in Thompson, N.Y., the idea seems like a dream — a potential financial and cultural windfall for the economically struggling region in the Catskill Mountains.
For others, however, it spells nothing but trouble — a “perfect storm of problems,” one skeptic noted.
Either way, U.S. immigration officials are reportedly weighing a plan from Chinese investors to create a “China City of America” just 20 minutes east of where the iconic Woodstock festival took place in 1969.
What is a “China City,” you ask?
It’s a 600-acre, multibillion-dollar “Chinese Disneyland,” the New York Post reports, that would be nestled by Yankee Lake in Sullivan County and contain an amusement park, mansions and a “Forbidden City” all constructed according to the principles of Feng Shui.
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The place would feel like a trip to China just 90 miles outside New York city, as one area would mark parts of the Chinese Zodiac while another would have 16 buildings representing the major Chinese dynasties.
It also would contain offices for every province in China, according to Fox News.
If the proposed project happens, a federal program (EB-5) would grant visas to each foreign investor who plucks down $500,000, the Post noted.
But the Center for Immigration Studies, a conservative group, isn’t thrilled about the “China City,” claiming in an internal report “a charge from within the Chinese community that China City is a stalking horse for the Chinese communist government in Beijing.”
“It’s a perfect storm of problems,” CIS fellow David North told Fox News, adding that the project contains sketchy job-creation promises, not to mention national security concerns. What’s more, North — who penned the CIS report — said developers insist that U.S. taxpayers would pony up 20 percent of the project’s funding (a “pipe dream,” he said).
Sherry Li, a Long Island, N.Y. businesswoman whom the Post said is masterminding the plan, countered that the “China City” development would eventually draw $6 billion in foreign investment.
Li added that it would also “have lot of attractions for families,” the Post said.
The China City Regional Center’s website contains a section referring to federal funding, and under the section “Phase 1 Investment Percentage” the website states: “US government investment total of $ 65 million accounting for 20%,” Fox News reports.
The site is affiliated with a Florida law firm; Fox News said it couldn’t be reached for comment.
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“Each dynasty will have its building and will have rides go with it,” Li said at a town council meeting in May where she pitched the original plan.
China City’s website features golden dragons, and projects an initial investment of $325 million — with $10 million going to a “Temple of Heaven,” $24 million on a hotel and entertainment complex, and $20 million to construct a “Forbidden City.”
Indeed the more visual China City of America website notes: “With thousands of years of history and culture, China is unique, elegant and inspiring. The China City of America project is designed to portray this culture and also using [sic] ‘Yingjing’ and ‘Feng Shui’ principles for visitors to experience.”
It also displays — with musical accompaniment — what appear to be architectural color drawings of posh spots such as “Empire City,” “Pavilion Park,” and “Hotel Center.”
At any rate, before shovels break dirt, the project needs not only federal approval but also likely a number of state and local permits, Fox News reports.
Local officials did not respond to Fox News’ requests for comment, but there is a videotape of a May public meeting held in Thompson (below) which addresses the “China City” proposal and reflects the controversy the project has elicited.
“Families who invest in EB-5 program are normally influential and wealthy families from China. A lot of them are successful business owners or enterprisers. Most of those investors are highly educated and skilled in different fields,” wrote one poster.
Another poster added that it would created “thousands of job opportunities” and would be a “precious opportunity to learn more about Chinese culture and beauty.”
Here’s videotape of the public meeting for the proposed “China City” featuring Li’s sales pitch: