Near Fallsburg and Lock Sheldrake in Southeastern Sullivan County, the tiny town of Thompson (pop. 15,000) is weighing a $6 billion proposal from Chinese investors that would double the town’s size and effectively turn it into a Chinese amusement park.
According to the New York Post, a Chinese businesswoman from Long Island, Sherry Li, wants to build a massive “Chinese Disneyland” in the Catskills. This Chinatown on steroids would include an amusement park, huge mansions, a college, shopping complex and a reproduction of the “Forbidden City”. There would be a building for each dynasty in its own recreation area featuring amusement rides. To top it all off, it would be laid out according to the principles of Feng Shui.
While the town council of Thompson is seriously investigating the possibilities of such a huge investment, others wonder if this is a massive scheme to gain visas for China’s wealthiest citizens. “It sounds like an EB-5 scam,” said Laura Corruzi, a New York City attorney who vacations in the area. “The financials don’t really support the $6 billion project.”
A little-known federal program created for immigrant investors, the EB-5 visa program provides a method of obtaining a green card for foreign nationals who invest money in the United States. To obtain the visa, individuals must invest $1,000,000 (or at least $500,000 in a "Targeted Employment Area" - high unemployment or rural area), creating or preserving at least 10 jobs and other stipulations.
The New York Daily News said “China City of America is a proposal for a Chinese-themed gambling/entertainment complex in the towns of Thompson and Mamakating in upstate New York. The 600-acre site would transform the quaint, but economically depressed town of Thompson into a pipeline for Chinese culture and money.”
Just a month after New York’s voters approved non-Indian casinos in the Catskills and other areas of the state, it appears some major players have bigger plans than originally considered by turning a quiet Catskills town into Shanghai USA.
See China City of America website for more information.