The Clovelea manor on Route 9W, a visible and crumbling 19th century edifice called a “historic dump” by Mayor Bill Murphy and an irreplaceable historic asset by others, changed hands once again on Feb. 28.
The previous site of the Dragon Inn was purchased by T.J. Anand of Baran Hospitality Group for $130,000.
According to Anand, negotiations are also in the process for his corporation to purchase the Sunoco station on 9W and the vacant land behind it. Anand said his first step at Clovelea will be to remove the thicket of rotting wood in front of the property, the remains of an addition put up during the Dragon Inn days. Murphy said this addition doesn’t enjoy the historic protections that cover the rest of the building.
Although the possibility of a bed-and-breakfast establishment is being considered, Anand says that he won’t make a definitive decision until mid-May.
“We’re not really sure what we want to do with the property,” said Anand, a CPA who lives on Long Island. “We know that some people are looking for fine dining — I’ve heard so many stories from people about the Dragon Inn. It will be some sort of hospitality thing. We are exploring ideas to see what’s needed in that area. We will do what’s required to make the people of Saugerties happy and to make us happy — we’re outsiders coming in so we want as happy of a medium as possible. A bed and breakfast is certainly an option.”
Villagers in the know have high hopes for the property that has been in a state of severe disrepair for over 20 years.
“[Anand] talked to the mayor, the Historical Society and everyone in town,” said Sandy Potter, the Win Morrison real estate agent who handled the deal. “He’s been doing his due diligence for six months now and wants to get his ducks in a row … he’s from out of the area, but he does own other businesses in Ulster County. He’s a great businessman who is excited about this huge undertaking.”
The four-story manor, built and originally lived in by Saugerties industrialist William Sheffield, now suffers from graffiti-covered walls, floors coated with animal feces and the forgotten belongings of unlawful tenants past. When the house burned in the early 1990s, it was owned by Ching Ya Wu of Woodstock and was a popular Chinese restaurant.
The property was designated as a historic site by the village’s Historic Review Board in 2007, which means all future developers have to get potential fixes approved by the panel
“Even things such as the color a building needs to be approved but there are also positive things about designation,” said Village Historian Marjorie Block this week. “In an instance such as this, an owner can get tax breaks to assist him in paying for the restoration.”
Eventually, the building came to be in the hands of Brooklyn developer Jason Moskowitz until last week’s sale.
“The experience of owning the Dragon Inn was not a pleasurable one,” said Moskowitz this week. “Admittedly, I did not fully grasp the undertaking when I entered the fray, but I’m extremely disappointed in how quickly my relationship with the building inspector and the mayor deteriorated. I certainly bear some blame in that, but their aggressive nature towards my ownership from the onset made this project an easy one to move on from.”
After receiving a violation letter from Village Code Enforcement Officer Eyal Saad for beginning to tear down an addition to the property installed by Ya Wu without proper approval from the village, Moskowitz also received a violation notice from the state Department of Labor for proceeding without an asbestos abatement plan in place. No further measures were taken to improve the site and the unruly pile of wood left over was left to rot outside.
Murphy said he supposes that Moskowitz never set foot in Saugerties after making the purchase. “Two sides to every story, but not getting in a pissing match,” Murphy said this week. “If he enjoys blaming us, then let him do so. But it is extremely far from the truth.”
After the body of 58-year-old Brian Chapman Velie, a squatter at Clovelea for some time, was found in the building in February 2016 after he succumbed to what police called a “medical issue,” Moskowitz was forced to seal the building. According to both the police and the developer, this did not do much to dissuade trespassers, who continue to be a problem to this day. The property, recently assessed at $375,000, went back on the market in March of last year.
“We’ve continued to have issues with squatters there and we tell them that they have to move,” said Police Chief Joseph Sinagra. “Since no one owned the property, there was no one to file a trespassing complaint. We’re not concerned with criminality, we’re concerned with safety.”