Among the many joys summer camp offers kids is shared memories. But unfortunately at Brant Lake Camp, which is located in the Southern Adirondack Mountains and caters to wealthy Jewish New Yorkers—Jerry Seinfeld’s sons have attended, as have Ralph Lauren’s—some of these shared memories have involved sexual abuse by Dylan Stolz, a former Long Island public-school teacher who worked at the camp for 33 summers, including as an assistant director, and is currently serving a four-and-a-half-year sentence in Otisville Correctional Facility, in Mount Hope, New York.
But what’s all the more shocking, and sad, is that even after Air Mail’s May 2020 investigation into sexual abuse at Brant Lake revealed that executive director Richie Gersten had been warned, via e-mail in April 2018, that Stolz might be molesting boys—and that “a few” counselors had brought concerns about his behavior to another longtime Brant Lake counselor, Emmanuel “Mani” Cadet, who allegedly dismissed them, saying, “Dylan does that, don’t worry. It’s not your concern”—Cadet has been rehired and is currently working at the camp.
What’s more, that same April 2018 e-mail alleged that Cadet was sexually harassing younger male counselors: “As a brief aside these counselors also reported Mani saying explicit sexual things to them (the counselors not campers), like ‘You can have some candy if you touch me,’ and ‘You must have a big d***. I’m going to see it before the summer is over.’ This is borderline threatening and completely unacceptable workplace harassment especially given that these comments are coming from a superior and generally only directed at young adults 18 to 22 years old. I urge you to take action.” (Cadet did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)
Gersten’s reply to the e-mail was brief: “Thank you for passing on the information that you did. It is important and much appreciated. I will address with Dylan (and Mani as well). I agree we have to remain vigilant and aware. We surely want no one’s life ruined while here at Brant Lake Camp.”
And yet it was just two months later, after the first night of camp in the summer of 2018, that a nine-year-old boy wrote home to his parents, “Dylan touched my penis. Evry thing [sic] is good except for that”—information that would seem to render Gersten’s commitment to “remain vigilant and aware” toothless.
Brant Lake Camp, which is located in the Southern Adirondack Mountains, caters to wealthy Jewish New Yorkers—Jerry Seinfeld’s sons have attended, as have Ralph Lauren’s.
By the following summer, in 2019, Stolz was in prison, and Cadet did not return to work at Brant Lake, telling at least one parent that, for medical reasons, he could not; he had to have foot surgery that summer and needed to be off his foot for weeks.
While some speculated that Cadet’s surgery was merely a red herring, and that Brant Lake, having been chastened by the Stolz experience—or at the very least mindful of the liability it was facing as a result of it—did not want to take the risk of rehiring him, the fact that Cadet is now back working at Brant Lake would seem to indicate otherwise.
In fact, not only is Cadet back working as a Brant Lake counselor (in the intervening summer of 2020, Brant Lake Camp, like all overnight camps in New York State, was closed due to the pandemic), but he is currently listed as “Key Staff, Sophomores” on its Web site. This means not only that Cadet has responsibilities with regard to some of the youngest campers—specifically those who have just completed either the second or third grade—but that, as per the Web site, Brant Lake is “extremely proud” of his, and all its key staff’s, “quality, quantity, and longevity.”
In response to AIR MAIL’s questions about his rehiring of Cadet in light of the sexual-harassment allegations, Gersten replied, via e-mail: “We will not talk to the media about the events of 2018, other than to remind you that the perpetrator of the crimes is in prison, and that Brant Lake Camp ensured that these matters were carefully reviewed and evaluated by, among many others, law enforcement agencies, child welfare agencies, leading child safety experts, camping associations, camping experts, insurance experts, parent groups, and many others.”
Given that it was the parents of the letter writer who reported the allegation that Stolz had molested their child to the local Warren County district attorney, thereby initiating the Stolz criminal investigation, Gersten’s response is a curious one. (Additionally, it says nothing about the allegations against Cadet, who is the subject of AIR MAIL’s questions.)
According to his Brant Lake bio, Cadet has been counselor to some of the youngest boys at the camp since 1988, including, once upon a time, Max Gersten, the son of director and owner Richie Gersten.
Now an adult, Max Gersten is a coach at the Dalton School and also a director of Brant Lake, and “Head of Intermediate Camp.” According to his Brant Lake bio, Max and his wife, Chloe Grimes, who is the assistant athletic director at the Nightingale-Bamford School and also the co-director of Brant Lake Sports Academy for Girls, are “committed to being the 4th generation of Gerstens to own and direct Brant Lake Camp.”
Theoretically, the fact that Brant Lake has been family run for so many years should be reassuring to parents. But given that there have now been allegations of sexual abuse at the camp while it was under the leadership not only of Max’s father, Richie, but also his grandfather, the late Bobby Gersten, as was detailed in AIR MAIL’s investigation, the prospect of continued family ownership should perhaps instead give them pause. Or, as Cadet recently wrote in a caption on his Facebook page, where he describes himself as a “Shamu Christman Miracle Singer at SeaWorld,” and where he reposted a June 25, 2016, photo of himself and other Brant Lake staffers awaiting the arrival of campers: “Whelp here we go again!”
Interestingly, the rehiring of Cadet takes place at what may wind up being a critical time for Brant Lake. Currently, there are three outstanding lawsuits against the camp on account of sexual abuse: one by the parents of the boy whose letter home instigated the criminal investigation of Stolz; one by a man who alleges he was molested there as a six-year-old in 1960; and one by a man who alleges he was molested there as a nine-year-old in 1982 by two counselors who, one evening, allegedly both orally raped him.
A fourth lawsuit, by another Stolz victim, was reportedly settled last month for $500,000. Considering the fact that Gersten’s initial financial offer to the parents of the boys molested by Stolz who were involved in the trial was merely a $5,000 credit against future camp tuition, this seems a significant win.
Meanwhile, one former Brant Laker in his 50s is currently preparing to file suit against the camp before New York State’s temporary suspension of the statute of limitations on claims of childhood sexual abuse expires next month. This man’s story of allegedly being molested by a Brant Lake counselor in 1977 when he was nine years old was featured in part three of our Air Mail investigation into sexual abuse at the camp.
According to this man, the rehiring of Cadet is no surprise but rather part of a pattern at Brant Lake. “They did the same thing with [the counselor who molested me],” he says. “After we told them about what he did, they said, ‘He’s a great counselor and we’ll keep him on as a camping counselor for overnight trips, but not as a bunk counselor. He won’t be in the bunks alone with the kids anymore,’ but he’d still be employed. That was their psychology.... It’s the culture of the camp.”
One parent of a Stolz victim whose son is back at Brant Lake this summer says that Cadet “has a little bit of a relegated position this summer,” but also that he had no idea that Cadet was returning to work at the camp until he saw him in an initial batch of camp photos of “the boys getting off the bus and Mani greeting them.... It definitely brings up bad memories.... Bringing that guy back is disturbing given the connection with Dylan.... It dredges up all the concerns.”
Johanna Berkman is a New York–based writer