Ancram logs its rickety structures

Building Inspector’s book tells all. A photograph of Ancram’s number one unsafe and dilapidated structure at 73 Cottontail Road. Photo contributed. See story at

ANCRAM—Most people know about Santa’s Naughty List.

At its June 18 monthly meeting, the Ancram Town Board heard about a similar kind of list contained in a book called, “Unsafe and Dilapidated Structures.”

The Ancram list is not about recalcitrant children, but it is about out-of-control structures that could or have become a nuisance or hazard.

Town Zoning Code Enforcement Officer/Building Inspector Edward Ferratto delivered a report to the board about this list of offenders cataloged in a two-inch-thick, loose-leaf volume complete with rap-sheets, mug shots and all the particulars on 18 undesirables situated all around town.

Mr. Ferratto came to let the board know about these derelict buildings he has tracked down or gotten complaints about and where they stand in terms of enforcement action. He gave credit for creating the book to Building Department Clerk Marie McDermott.

Mr. Ferratto said that some time ago he and Town Supervisor Art Bassin had a discussion about the dilapidated buildings in the Ancram hamlet. The upshot was that the men agreed there must be other such unsafe structures throughout the town and Mr. Ferratto should look into it. He took a visual tour of the town and so the book was born.

All of the structures, including houses, mobile and manufactured homes, barns, sheds and silos are pictured in the book. Many are crumbling, sagging structures, some consumed by vines and nearly invisible.

The number one culprit in the book is a single-family residence at 73 Cottontail Road, owned by Hamid Essaher. The place looks like it was hit by a tornado. The structure has no siding and the tar paper is exposed and mostly peeled off. The yard is littered with junk, furniture, boards, garbage bags, a computer monitor, bicycles and a hose.

Mr. Ferratto has issued an “order to remedy” violations on the property and posted a condemnation sign.

The building inspector went through the list, noting what actions he has taken, if any, on each ailing structure and what the owner’s intentions are with regard to their properties. Most of the cases have been ongoing for years and property owners have been notified about the state of their structures, some of which are vacant but secure, one is boarded up, another is being worked on, a least two of the owners intend to take down their offending buildings.

One structure that had been a source of concern for years, Porter’s Store on Route 82 in the Ancram hamlet, was finally demolished within the past few weeks by owners Donna and Joe Hoyt, who own the adjacent Ancram Hotel, a bar and restaurant.

Mrs. Hoyt told photographer and contributor David Lee, who was taking pictures in the hamlet Tuesday, that the building had represented a sore spot between her and the town. She said the town condemned the building and requested they demolish it. The demolition cost $30,000, which she had to borrow. She has owned the restaurant next to the now-vacant lot for 32 years and her father owned it for 30 years before that. They bought the abandoned Porter’s store building in 2008 with the intent to take it down and use the space to enhance access for the restaurant but the cost became increasingly difficult.

Mr. Ferratto said the old store had been “troublesome” for some years, but gave “kudos to the Hoyts for taking it down.”

The Tinsmith house on the northeast corner of Route 82 and County Route 7, is also on the list. Though town officials were hopeful the structure would be repaired when it was purchased within the past year or so by Laura and Reginald Rifenburgh, that has not yet happened. Mr. Ferratto issued the owners a stop work order, because they were apparently doing electrical work, but neglected to get a permit. Questioned about the integrity of the structure, Mr. Ferratto said “it’s going downhill… the railing is compromised and the decking looks weary.”

Councilman David Boice wondered why the Stiehle house on the southeast corner of the hamlet intersection was not on the list. He said the structure “is not in good shape” and “has no back wall for security.”

Mr. Bassin told The Columbia Paper after the meeting that the Ancram Opera House proprietors Jeff Mousseau and Paul Ricciardi do have a building permit and are working on “tightening up” the building.

The men came before the Ancram Town Board in July of last year to seek the board’s support in their pursuit of a $20,000 State Regional Economic Development Corporation Capacity Building Grant through the Office of Community Renewal to fund a feasibility study. Mr. Mousseau and Mr. Ricciardi believe the old place might be suitable as an administrative office and intern housing for the opera house.

The grant will help determine whether their idea is possible.

If it is, then they will seek additional funding to go forward with the project.

Councilmember Bonnie Hundt told Mr. Ferratto that he and Ms. McDermott had done a great job. She asked if there was anything the town board needed to do in response.

Mr. Ferratto noted the board should be looking at the Town’s Unsafe Buildings Law and determining if it is applicable to any current cases.

The law, enacted in April 2015, allows the Town of Ancram to take actions to protect the public from unsafe buildings and structures in a state of disrepair to the point that they pose a danger to the health, safety, and welfare of members of the general public, or to adjacent properties.

The law outlines a specific enforcement process and characteristics of unsafe buildings and structures.

Mr. Bassin cautioned that “just because a building is a wreck, doesn’t mean the town is allowed to tear it down.”

Mr. Ferratto will return to the board’s next meeting July 16 at 7 p.m. for further discussion on the subject.

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