Hotel in ruins; ownership in question

Victor Whitman

Times Herald-Record

FALLSBURG — Jerry Ehrlich pulls open a heavy door, steps over broken glass and into a former 1,000-seat dining room at The Pines. Copper pipes have been ripped out and insulation tubes are scattered on the floor.

"Pretty sick," he says, looking at the pile at his feet. "My whole life, my family's life."

He takes a moment to let his eyes adjust to the dark. Someone has punched several chairs through the wall and left them suspended. Circular dining tables are overturned, splattered with orange and green paint.

'"Fifteen men were in here last week — a paintball war," says Ehrlich, who still maintains a home next to the resort. "These buildings are unsafe, frighteningly unsafe as well. It is a horror show."

After four fires hit outbuildings at the Pines in three months last year, Town of Fallsburg officials pledged to order the owners, Fallsburg Estates LLC, to remove the older, wood-framed buildings and issue tickets for code violations.

Ehrlich sold the resort a dozen years ago. He walks up creaky steps and looks at rooms that his family spent decades building up. He points up.

"This whole ceiling could come down in a second," he said.

Ehrlich is trespassing. He doesn't care. He wants the town to force the owners to tear the buildings down before someone gets hurt.

"I'm an old man," he said. "They can come and arrest me if they want."

Shredded insulation hangs from the rafters of the former nightclub, the Persian Room, where Joan Rivers cracked jokes and Tony Bennett hit high notes for the summer guests. A trestle holding up the arched roof of the former indoor skating rink is collapsing. Contaminated dirt from oil tank spills has sat in piles for nearly two years.

Fallsburg building inspector Allen Frishman said the town plans to issue tickets for unkept grounds, broken windows and fences, and force the owner to take down buildings that are fire hazards.

But Frishman said the town also hasn't known who owns The Pines. County records list Fallsburg Estates as the owner. But Abraham Piller, who claims to be a 50 percent partner in Fallsburg Estates, is now suing another partner, Moshe Schwimmer, and Princeton Realty Associates in state Supreme Court. Court papers say the property's deed was transferred to Princeton Realty, which is affiliated with Schwimmer. A religious court involving a tribunal of rabbis in Brooklyn is also trying to settle the dispute, said Henri Shawn, the attorney for Princeton Realty. Shawn said Princeton Realty knows about the health and safety issues. The lawsuit delayed things.

"We want to cooperate fully," Shawn said.

Frishman said the town will soon take action on the property.

"We are going to proceed on this very expeditiously," Frishman said. "I'm not going to sit around."

Ehrlich walks to the outdoor pool. The diving board is gone, and tadpoles hover in the murky water.

"Look," he said. "There are fish in there. Fish?"

This article was written by Victor Whitman and published by Times Herald-Record on Thursday, June 19th 2008 and NOT owned by nor affiliated with, but are recorded here solely for educational use.