Thatched Cottage, the once-popular wedding venue in Centerport, is empty and condemned — but up for sale again, more than a year after its bankruptcy auction.
Officials for Bethpage Federal Credit Union, one of the Thatched Cottage’s biggest creditors and the second-highest bidder in the Sept. 24, 2014, auction, obtained the property last year through a “complex bankruptcy transaction,” credit union officials said in a statement.
They declined to discuss the acquisition last week, but said in another statement that they are trying to sell the property.
A Freedom of Information request filed last month with the Town of Huntington found the credit union has not applied for permits to renovate or stabilize the building.
Town officials noted the building has been fenced, windows are boarded up, and tarps cover the roof to keep out vermin and to prevent water damage and break-ins.
“That sent the message that the property was being stabilized, waiting for a new owner to emerge from the bankruptcy proceeding, one who would make the necessary repairs,” said A.J. Carter, spokesman for Town Supervisor Frank Petrone.
Town officials said they condemned the building on Nov. 20, 2014 after receiving a package from former owner Ralph Colamussi, which included an August 2014 engineering report that found, among other things, the cottage’s main entryway was dangerous and unstable.
The report by Melville-based Galli Engineering outlined a number of problems, attributing much of the damage to superstorm Sandy and ultimately concluding, “Due to the fact that the facility receives high amounts of occupants, injury and possible loss of life is a concern. It is clearly unsafe to have guests in the lobby until the structure had been rehabilitated.”
The condemnation killed an effort by Hicksville-based Suzan Tina Properties to acquire the property. Suzan Tina had placed the winning $4.65 million bid for the site, but town officials placarded the property four days before the company’s extended deadline to close the deal.
Yama Raj, executive director of Suzan Tina, said the company lost its $651,000 deposit when the deal fell apart — but he could not justify closing on a condemned building. The company, which owns The Sterling banquet hall in Bethpage, fought forfeiture of the deposit, but ultimately lost on appeal.
Raj said the auction house and bankruptcy trustee should have notified bidders of problems severe enough to lead to condemnation. But Judge Robert Grossman of U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Central Islip disagreed, ruling in January 2015 that the property was purchased “as is” and the burden was on bidders to vet it before buying.
The judge granted turnover in March 2015 of $626,000 of the Suzan Tina deposit to the credit union, which Thatched Cottage owed $5.7 million before that transaction. The other $25,000 was turned over to R. Kenneth Barnard of Wantagh, the trustee overseeing the sale and settling of as much of Colamussi’s debt as possible. Barnard has also been pursuing money owed to Thatched Cottage to help pay off remaining debts attached to the property.
The Thatched Cottage opened in 1915 as a restaurant. Colamussi owned it for 26 years. He borrowed about $3 million for repairs — many related to Sandy — that, along with $630,000 he owes the state in sales tax, became insurmountable.