Shoot­ing range tied to Trumps rat­tles neigh­bors

The Oneida Daily Dispatch (Oneida, NY) - - Nation + World - By Jake Pear­son

WINGDALE, N.Y. » Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s two grown sons ar­rived at this tran­quil, ru­ral up­state New York ham­let with a bang.

A com­pany tied to Don­ald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump owns a 171-acre hunt­ing pre­serve that is be­ing used as a pri­vate shoot­ing range, where the sound of ri­fle fire from a wooden tower and ex­plod­ing tar­gets has riled nearby res­i­dents, neigh­bors told The As­so­ci­ated Press.

One neigh­bor com­plained that it rat­tles the win­dows of his home; an­other said it ru­ins the seren­ity of the sur­round­ing woods. A third con­fronted the prop­erty’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive over the sum­mer.

“It’s like you’re in a war zone,” said Elis­a­betta Berghold, who lives on 42 acres down the road from the Trumps’ land.

Neigh­bors said that while they knew there would be oc­ca­sional ri­fle fire from deer hunt­ing on the prop­erty, the thun­der­ous noise from tar­get prac­tice on a stretch of land clos­est to other neigh­bors was un­ex­pected and un­wel­come.

“It’s bad. It shakes the win­dows,” said neigh­bor Mike Dougherty.

Four neigh­bors in­ter­viewed by the AP de­scribed the shoot­ing. All said it had be­come less fre­quent in re­cent months but peaked on sum­mer week­ends.

The de facto shoot­ing range is lo­cated on a strip of land on the east­ern­most bor­der of the Trumps’ prop­erty, an ease­ment that was cleared of trees years ago for an AT&T Inc. ca­ble. A wooden tower on that stretch is vis­i­ble from the public road.

The Trumps ap­pear to have ac­quired the prop­erty via lim­ited li­a­bil­ity com­pa­nies that con­tain some ver­sion of the prop­erty’s ad­dress in their names but do not re­veal the Trumps’ con­nec­tions. LLCs are of­ten used to buy prop­erty or con­duct busi­ness in ways that ob­scure the peo­ple be­hind the trans­ac­tions.

The en­tity that pur­chased the land in 2013, Leather Hill Pre­serve LLC, lists its agent as a Man­hat­tan com­pany that pro­vides reg­is­tra­tion ser­vices to LLCs across the coun­try.

In­cor­po­ra­tion records filed with the state show that the LLC’s ar­ti­cles of or­ga­ni­za­tion were filed by a Trump Or­ga­ni­za­tion ex­ec­u­tive based out of Trump Tower and that Trump Jr. des­ig­nated him­self in July 2013 as the com­pany’s au­tho­rized per­son. In dis­clo­sure re­ports filed with New York City and ob­tained by the AP un­der a public records re­quest, Trump Jr. lists him­self as the owner of “DT Leather Hill Road LLC” and Eric Trump lists him­self as the owner of “194 Leather Hill Road LLC.”

A money man­ager from Con­necti­cut, Jef­frey Fer­raro, is listed as the com­pany’s or­ga­nizer and in sales records as a rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the LLC. He was a state del­e­gate at the Repub­li­can Na­tional Con­ven­tion in July 2016 and ap­pears with Eric Trump in a photo posted on Face­book.

Nei­ther the Trump Or­ga­ni­za­tion’s spokes­woman nor its gen­eral coun­sel ac­knowl­edged re­quests to dis­cuss the prop­erty. An email to Trump Jr. about the prop­erty was not re­turned.

Berghold, an ac­tive Demo­crat and no fan of the pres­i­dent, said that af­ter she con­fronted Fer­raro on July 3, he apol­o­gized and said they would keep down the noise. She said when she con­fronted Fer­raro about the shoot­ing, he said that his “part­ners have the Se­cret Ser­vice com­ing, and they shoot, too.”

A spokes­woman for the Se­cret Ser­vice said the agency had no com­ment. Fer­raro would not dis­cuss whether Se­cret Ser­vice agents shoot on the prop­erty.

Fer­raro ob­tained a li­cense from the state’s Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Con­ser­va­tion grant­ing the prop­erty the right to act as a non­com­mer­cial shoot­ing pre­serve for in­vited guests and rel­a­tives only. The li­cense is set to ex­pire in April.

Fer­raro said he was the pri­mary per­son in charge of the com­pany that owns the land. He would not dis­cuss how he knows the Trumps or their own­er­ship of the prop­erty and would not dis­cuss the use of ex­plod­ing tar­gets. He said there was no shoot­ing range on the land and said no one has vis­ited the tract with­out him be­ing there.

“Who I bring and what I do on my pri­vate prop­erty, as long as it’s within my le­gal rights, is not a story for any­one,” he said. He called the Trumps “pri­vate cit­i­zens just like any­one else.”

“You’re not ask­ing me about other guests who are up there who are bet­ter known than the names you men­tion,” he said, but de­clined to elab­o­rate. “Guns make noise. That’s all I can tell you.”

No com­plaints about the prop­erty have been lodged with the Town of Dover, which gov­erns the ham­let of Wingdale, said Donn An­der­sen, the town’s build­ing in­spec­tor. He said there was noth­ing in the town code gov­ern­ing the use of ex­plod­ing tar­gets, and the tower wouldn’t re­quire a per­mit since it’s not oc­cu­pied. The chap­ter of the town’s code on noise makes no men­tion of guns, shoot­ing or tar­get prac­tice.

The Trumps have deep ties to Dutchess County, a red-lean­ing part of the state in the bu­colic Hud- son Val­ley that voted nar­rowly for Hil­lary Clin­ton in the 2016 elec­tion. The pres­i­dent’s brother, Robert, lives in nearby Mill­brook and the fam­ily busi­ness owns and op­er­ates the Trump Na­tional Golf Club Hud­son Val­ley in Hopewell Junc­tion.

Trump Jr. and Eric Trump are avid hun­ters and fish­er­men, but their pres­ence in the tightknit up­state com­mu­nity has be­come known only through the ru­mor mill. Fer­raro, not the Trumps, in­tro­duced him­self to neigh­bors when the prop­erty was ac­quired in 2013, though one neigh­bor met Trump Jr. af­ter the elec­tion, neigh­bors said. Dougherty said he has seen a white Range Rover with Eric Trump’s ini­tials on the li­cense plates drive to the prop­erty on days when there is loud shoot­ing.

Oth­ers said that since the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, it was clear the Trumps were around be­cause they were ac­com­pa­nied by Se­cret Ser­vice agents trav­el­ing in black SUVs.

The prop­erty sits at the end of a dirt-packed road in Wingdale where a me­tal gate stops un­in­vited guests. Around the time of Don­ald Trump’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, or­ange posters warn­ing vis­i­tors that the area was pa­trolled by the Dutchess County Sher­iff’s Of­fice be­gan to ap­pear, neigh­bors said.

The pre­vi­ous own­ers of the land, which on one side abuts the old pot­ter’s field of an aban­doned state psy­chi­atric hos­pi­tal said to be haunted, said they knew they were sell­ing to an anony­mous buyer who wanted to hunt on the prop­erty but had no idea the Trumps were be­hind the pur­chase.

Dur­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions, said Joe Klein­man — who with his wife, Jo­ce­lyn, sold the prop­erty in Au­gust 2013 for $665,000 — the buyer’s agent tried to re­duce the price by in­vok­ing a 1991 state court de­ci­sion that re­quires buy­ers dis­close to sell­ers if a prop­erty is known to be haunted.

Klein­man re­fused, say­ing any­one who truly be­lieved it was haunted would ei­ther aban­don the sale or pay a pre­mium.

“That was the end of that con­ver­sa­tion,” he said.

SETH WENIG — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

In this photo, the gates of Leather Hill Pre­serve are viewed in Wingdale, N.Y. A com­pany tied to Don­ald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump owns the 171-acre hunt­ing pre­serve that is be­ing used as a pri­vate shoot­ing range, where the sound of ri­fle fire from a wooden tower and ex­plod­ing tar­gets has riled nearby res­i­dents, neigh­bors told The As­so­ci­ated Press.

SETH WENIG — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

In this photo, signs warn­ing of po­lice pa­trols dot the borders of Leather Hill Pre­serve in Wingdale, N.Y. A com­pany tied to Don­ald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump owns the 171-acre hunt­ing pre­serve that is be­ing used as a pri­vate shoot­ing range, where the sound of ri­fle fire from a wooden tower and ex­plod­ing tar­gets has riled nearby res­i­dents, neigh­bors told The As­so­ci­ated Press.

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