SAUGERTIES—At least one of the vagrants who have taken over the spooky, old Clovelea mansion was arrested on Tuesday afternoon just hours after the property owner had scoured the building.
Brian C. Velie, 58, was arrested by Saugerties police and charged with disorderly conduct.
According to Saugerties Police Chief Joseph Sinagra, Velie was spotted coming out of the mansion and refused to comply with an evacuation order following the discovery of an improvised explosive device Tuesday afternoon at the adjacent Carriage House.
Jason Moskowitz, who bought the historic Clovelea in the spring, took HVNN.com on a tour earlier in the day, pointing out the trespasser’s apartment that had been set up in the back of the three-story brick estate.
Men and women’s garments were hanging from a suspension bar, while a kitchen, complete with knick-knacks, lamps and a coffee maker gave it that “lived-in” look.
Work boots, presumably belonging to a Velie, were placed alongside coffee mugs and an ash tray just outside the walk-down apartment.
On Tuesday morning, Moskowitz came with the intention of getting the squatters out.
He knocked on poles and window panes and yelled inside. A shuffling sound ensued—as if the person had panicked and found a way out of the cavernous, partially boarded structure.
Moskowitz, who owns Redwood Realty in New York City, envisions turning the long-vacant building into an inn.
“I have been coming up to the Saugerties area for four or five years now. I rent a nice, little house nearby, and I just drove by it time and time again, thinking to myself, ‘It should be something spectacular. It should be something gorgeous,’ but, instead, it’s an eyesore,” he said.
Moskowitz said he researched the mansion and initially negotiated directly with the previous owner, Ching Ya Wu, before buying the estate at an auction in April.
“The hope is that we can use the shell of this beautiful mansion here and make it into a nine-to-25 room inn. That’s the ultimate dream—to make this place what it once was and what it should be.”
The Gothic-styled Victorian estate once belonged to 19th-century industrialist William R. Sheffield, who commissioned architect Alfred H. Thorpe to build it in 1882.
More recently, it was known as the Dragon Inn, a Chinese restaurant run by Wu. After fire gutted a portion of the structure in 1993, it fell into disrepair and became a target for vandals.
The once grand Queen Anne now bears graffiti and has been muddled with trash and debris. Weeds and foliage have overtaken the property.
Moskowitz said he recently heard from his broker that trespassers were making it their home, so he notified police on a couple of occasions.
“There was a fence up. It got knocked down. I was told about it a month ago. I came up and that’s when I first noticed that people were inhabiting the place,” he said.
“I didn’t get much assistance (from police). I’m not sure they think there’s much they can do. We have a difference of opinion whether they’re squatters or trespassers, so I decided I should come up and take care of it.”
Guided by a flashlight, Moskowitz made his way through the dark and multi-chambered structure. Some parts are inaccessible and downright dangerous such as the creaky, unsturdy staircase leading to the basement.
The businessman said he believed the homeless are making use of the entire building.
A cable running from the mansion to an adjacent apartment complex also suggests the occupant was “stealing energy,” Moskowitz said, pointing out the cord.
He called Saugerties police again on Tuesday, but the two officers who arrived would not venture inside due to the unsafe condition of the building.
One of the officers followed Moskowitz down the steps at the rear of the mansion and found bottles of prescription medication.
While no further action was taken on the part of the officers, Sinagra later announced they had caught the vagrant.
He said while Moskowitz had a legitimate complaint, the businessman had only notified police twice about someone living in the building.
“The dispatcher told him if the person is a squatter, there has to be an eviction process. Mr. Moskowitz thanked him and never called me or filed a trespass notice with our department.”
As for the future, Moskowitz said he plans to send a cleanup crew to the property next week to remove all the outdoor debris and indoor furnishings and possessions and close it up until renovation work begins.
“Anything that’s not original is coming down,” he said. “The bid to do the minimal amount of work, on the low side, is several hundred thousand dollars.”