SAUGERTIES—Jason Moskowitz said enough is enough. The Brooklyn-based developer who bought the once glorious Victorian mansion known as Clovelea two years ago is officially throwing in the towel.
He blames “narrow-minded” local officials for dashing his dream to restore the historic property and turn it into a boutique hotel.
“Basically, I’ve just come to the conclusion that they’re not giving me any tax relief or allowing me to clean up the site without getting permits on my own property,” Moskowitz said in a recent phone interview.
“I’m going to put up a fence. I’m going to secure a perimeter and put it on the market. I’m done dealing with Saugerties.”
For Moskowitz, the recent collapse of the wooden extension added to the front of the building when it was the Dragon Inn Chinese restaurant represents the final nail in the coffin.
Snow from the March blizzard caused it to cave in, and he said village officials have been harassing him ever since to get a permit to clear the debris.
Moskowitz, the owner of Redwood Realty, said he is frustrated because he tried to remove the extension more than a year ago.
He sent a crew to Saugerties in the fall of 2015 to demolish it, but officials issued a stop-work order.
They claim he has ignored their repeated reminders that any changes done to the property require approval by the village Historic Preservation Board.
Moskowitz said he has already spent several hundred thousand dollars for cleanup, purchase of the real-estate note and tax payments.
“I’m still paying $3,000 a month to Ulster County for the back-tax settlement. It’s just costing me money, money, money, and I’m not willing to put more into it. They want magic to happen. I think they think I have an unlimited amount of money. I can’t even go to investors because I get pushed back and harassed. It’s just one thing after another.
“When a supposedly libertarian government won’t let you do whatever you want with your own property, there’s something going on. It can’t just be ego. I don’t know what goes on in the local government there, and I’m not interested enough to find out anymore,” he said.
Moskowitz said he’s hired Win Morrison Realty as the exclusive agent and is asking $389,000 for the historic 3.5-acre property on U.S. Route 9W.
That is nothing new, according to Village Building Inspector Eyal Saad, who claims Moskowitz has been trying to unload it since day one.
“He never removed that (Win Morrison) sign. I don’t know what his intentions were, but that property was always on the market,” Saad said.
The key issue, according to Saad, is negligence of the property and his frequent requests that Moskowitz address it, including the recent building collapse.
Saad has the documentation to prove it and handed a reporter a pile of emails he has sent Moskowitz over the past two years.
It now has reached a point where Saad said he is “not playing games.” He is set to take it to court for failure- to-appear notices. The judge could then fine him.
“This is like my last resort. It’s not fun for me, but he leaves me no option,” Saad said late last week.
“I have tried for three years to accommodate him. This would be solved easily if he just came before the board and maintained his property. He came over here with high hopes, and it went by the wayside.
“He has failed to do anything about it. We are just asking him to keep his property maintained. It’s the gateway to the village. It’s a property that’s been abandoned. He promised that he’s going to renovate it but has failed to do anything about it.”
The Gothic estate, once owned by 19th-century industrialist William Sheffield, was built in 1882. It most recently served as the Chinese restaurant owned by Ching Ya Wu.
After a fire gutted a portion of the structure in November 1993, the building fell into disrepair and became a target for vandals.
As a frequent visitor to the area, Moskowitz said he would often drive by the derelict estate and envision something spectacular.
He said he researched the mansion and initially negotiated directly with Wu before purchasing it in April 2015.
Moskowitz bought the note directly from the bank in a private sale for an undisclosed price and then foreclosed on the property. The process involved a public auction, but there were no other bidders.
Movement at the property has been slow, and the recent death of a vagrant pushed the project back further.
In the winter of 2016, the body of 58-year-old Brian Chapman Velie was found in the basement. Police said the man, who had been living there for months, died of natural causes.
After that, Moskowitz sent another work crew to the site to secure the property.
He said he was threatened with criminal activity for the man’s death, and the latest go-around with village officials has convinced him there is no turning back.
“If someone would have told me that after two years it would be in the exact same shape that it’s in now, I would have thought they were crazy. I was looking into getting investors and improving the property, and instead, I’m still fighting the locals on getting rid of the extension.
“I’m frustrated. I just wanted to make the place nicer than it was. I didn’t have a tremendously detailed plan in place admittedly, but I was expecting some kind of support, and instead I’ve gotten hurdles and blockades. There’s no light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.