By Eli Ruiz
LOCH SHELDRAKE Some of the displaced Grandview Palace residents are crying foul.
Reports of looting in some of the units of the F and I buildings of the now condemned Grandview are circulating as residents of the 396-unit condominium complex struggle to salvage pieces of their former lives.
Last week, the F, and portions of the I buildings became the first of the few structures spared most of the wrath of the huge April 14 fire to allow unit owners and renters to return to retrieve any surviving possessions.
Marlene Ritter, who lived in the F building and has been staying at the Days Inn in Liberty, said, “I’m missing cameras, jewelry, a DVD player and cash that I had left in my unit. I don’t even know the total of what’s missing because they’re only giving us two hours to gather our stuff, and they’re saying I can’t return a second time for the rest of my things… they [security at the Grandview] told me it’s a one-time deal.”
At the April 23 condemnation hearing in South Fallsburg, Grandview’s Board President David Rajwan said that owners could in fact return after their first appointment to collect belongings only if a new appointment is formally made.
Indeed, Rajwan reiterated this point in a telephone interview with the Sullivan County Democrat on Friday.
“If people set up an appointment with security to return, they will be able to come back again for their things, but I’m not going to have people coming in two or three times when some people haven’t even come in once yet,” said Rajwan.
Rajwan explained that the purpose of the meeting was to inform the appropriate parties that the board had just received permission from Fallsburg Code Enforcement Officer Mollie Messenger to allow people into the F and parts of the I building to collect their belongings.
“We were required to put lights in the hallways and secure the place before we could let anyone in… we did that and got permission from Ms. Messenger. We let the residents know that same day that we were allowing people to get their things from the F and I buildings,” said Rajwan.
Regarding the complaints of looting, Rajwan said, “If people say they are missing stuff… I don’t know… they have insurance and they can put in a claim.”
Town of Fallsburg Police Detective Travis Hartman said of the alleged thefts at the Grandview, “We do have an investigation ongoing into this matter.”
Asked for an estimate of about how many complaints he’s received, Hartman said, “I can’t comment on the specifics of an ongoing investigation… I will say, though, that I have several here.”
Jessy Miceli who lived in M-315 and has been staying with a friend in Liberty since the fire said in a phone interview, “They’re charging us $90 a month for maintenance. For maintenance of what? My unit was destroyed, so what exactly is it I’m paying for? I don’t feel I should have to pay the fee for a unit that’s gone.”
“We’ve got over 25 other people over here who also say they aren’t gonna pay the fee,” added Miceli.
Of the $90 monthly maintenance fee, Rajwan said, “The fee is to pay some old bills and to pay for security. Think about it, it’s costing $10,000 a week to maintain our security. That’s $40,000 a month just for security.”
He added that the fee will be in place for three months.
engineers weigh in
Sheldon Zimet who owned a unit in the B building worried that he and others who lived in the structure will lose all their personal belongings even though most of that building still stands.
“I got an e-mail from Mollie Messenger saying that the town’s engineer has found that the B building is not accessible and that the Grandview Board won’t be hiring an outside engineer for us,” explained Zimet.
He added, “I don’t even care about clothes or anything like that… I just want my old family photos back. There’s a lot in that unit that has sentimental value to me above any market value… those are the things I want back more than anything else.”
“We have to save the B building,” Zimet said.
In regards to the board hiring an outside engineer, Rajwan said, “I just got the e-mail from Mollie at 10 a.m. this morning with the town engineer’s report … I’m supposed to have taken bids and hired an outside engineer in a few hours time?”
“I’m told that the building is unstable and that one of the stairwells was completely destroyed by the fire … that’s what I’ve been told,” said Rajwan. “Regardless, we have done everything we’ve been required by law to do.”
A temporary fence has been set up around the property, noted Rajwan, who added that management was also required to clean up the site.
“We had three engineers with the insurance companies in there giving us suggestions on how to go about cleaning the site up,” he explained.
The Grandview board has scheduled a meeting for May 20 at 11 a.m. to further deal with residents’ concerns. The meeting will be held at the Paul Gerry field house at Sullivan County Community College in Loch Sheldrake.