SOUTH FALLSBURG—Next April, it will be the 10-year anniversary of one of the most devastating fires in Sullivan County history that ripped through parts of the Grandview Palace Condominiums on …
SOUTH FALLSBURG—Next April, it will be the 10-year anniversary of one of the most devastating fires in Sullivan County history that ripped through parts of the Grandview Palace Condominiums on Route 52 near Loch Sheldrake.
The site was also home to the famous Brown’s Hotel, which hosted comedy legends like Jerry Lewis. The resort was converted to condominiums once the Borscht Belt hey-day died down.
It took over 65 fire companies to extinguish the fire nine years ago, with neighboring county fire companies coming to aid in the firefighting at the historic site.
The Town of Fallsburg proposed taking over the site last year and, on August 23, 2021, held a public hearing to hear comments on the town’s use of Eminent Domain to take over the property.
Town Supervisor Steven Vegliante said the property has sat untouched since the fire. The town board felt they had given the insurance company and the homeowners association enough time to take care of the property.
“The cost of cleanup and resolving debris, including asbestos, is several million dollars,” said Vegliante. “The association has been unable to address the situation; the town needed to step in.”
To do that, the town needs “temporarily authorized commencement of condemnation” of the 24-acre property and all its buildings.
According to the proposed action by the town, the town wants to acquire the property so the land can be developed “through residential, municipal and/or commercial economic development projects in connection with the public purposes of advancing the general prosperity and economic welfare of the residents of the Town by returning the vacant and/or underutilized Proposed Site to productive use thereby promoting employment and increasing the property tax base within the town.”
Many of the former residents from the Grandview attending the meeting in person at the Senior Center in South Fallsburg and on the Zoom video app said they felt blindsided by this proposed take over from the town.
Brian Rourke, an attorney representing the residents of the Grandview, said they deserve more respect than getting “a cold notice [of] informal discussion.”
Rourke stated that many were surprised by the notice and felt using Eminent Domain should have been the last resort.
“Not only did they lose their homes and investments and personal possessions, but they were also dealt with a very serious blow by the insurance carriers,” who did not compensate the residents due to a technical issue with the policy.
Those owners who attended came from as far as Brooklyn and Queens. They wanted to know what will happen to their items. While the fire was widespread, some of the buildings remain unharmed and untouched since the fire.
George Perez, an owner of a condo at the Grandview, said he loved spending weekends there and would drive up every weekend.
Once the Brown’s Hotel shut down, many amenities were left for the condo residents, such as the tennis court and swimming pool.
Perez said he had plans to retire at the Grandview, but now he said the fire wiped out his and his wife’s dream.
Vegliante said he sympathized with residents and reminded them that he was there that day and watched as the flames and smoke rose from the building.
“I don’t think for a moment anyone on this board lacks any empathy for the situation. The last nine years, we’ve given every opportunity to the homeowners association to make a deal to work through the insurance process; unfortunately, that was unsuccessful,” said Vegliante.
After listening to all the concerns, the board said they would extend the public comment section of the public hearing for 30 days so more residents can express their concerns.
Vegliante said, “I can tell you this; what we want is to clean that parcel up and put it back to proper use.”
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