Thursday, Aug. 20 appearance scheduled for brother-owners; Neighbors discuss situation with Rockland County Times
BY ROBERT KNIGHT AND JAMES BERNICK
The now infamous party house at 7 O’Grady Court in an upscale Pearl River neighborhood appears to have gone dark, at least for the time being. The Airbnb and Homeaway.com rental listings for the home have disappeared, and the for-sale sign that stood in the front yard for months is nowhere to be found. The two brothers who own the Pearl River mansion, which has regularly been rented for photo shoots and parties, including ones alleged to being raucous and “sexy,” are due in Orangetown Court today to answer charges filed against them by the town’s Building Department for alleged illegal use of a single-family home for non-residential purposes.
Building Inspector John Giardiello said earlier this month that formal charges were served against brothers Gevork (also known by the English translation of George) and Amen Khrimian, and they were due to be answered during the daytime court of Town Justice Richard Finning today Thursday, August 20 at the Town Hall in Orangeburg. Court was scheduled to start at 9:30 a.m.
The Khrimian house is a three-year-old three-story frame, brick, mortar and stone 7,000-square-foot mansion, located on the western shore of the Lake Tappan Reservoir off Sickletown Road, just north of the one-way railroad tunnel. It contains six official bedrooms, a swimming pool and other amenities, and had been listed on websites as having sleeping accommodations for up to 32 persons per night on everything from cots to king size beds.
The brothers had apparently been renting the house for several months, and been heavily promoting its availability on two vacation websites, Airbnb.com and Homeaway.com.
The group of angry neighbors, including former Town Councilman Edward Fisher reported at public Town Board meetings, in angry letters, and in confrontations with town officials, that activities at the property include sex parties, filming shoots of all types, including X-rated movies; bachelor parties, wedding receptions, family gatherings, business and getaway weekends and groups of skimpily-clad people just roaming about and cavorting freely for no observable reason.
Another neighbor, well known local attorney Donald Brenner, is the group’s attorney and spokesman.
The Khrimian brothers have reportedly never actually lived there, but obtained a Certificate of Occupancy from Orangetown on Jan. 19, 2012 as a single family residence. Their actual home addresses are outside of Orangetown altogether, with “George” living close enough that he is able to check the premises almost daily, checking guests in and out and attending to their needs before departing for his own residence in Suffern.
Whether Khrimian’s lucrative rental business is closed or is merely in hibernation in response to media scrutiny remains to be seen. Though he is pursuing his case fervently, Brenner feels that current ordinances may not go far enough. While things have died down for the moment, “It could come right back- here or anywhere else. This is not going away. It’s very tempting for people to do these sorts of things, but it’s wrong.”
Brenner’s proposed solution: “The penalties for these violations need to be made much greater. Our hope is that they write a law that will prohibit any similar commercial operation in a residential area.”
Not everyone concerned agrees with Mr. Brenner’s firebrand rhetoric however.
One neighborhood resident who declined to be named suggested a slightly more measured approach to the issue, “If there aren’t ordinances that cover the situation, then there need to be, but let’s find out first.” He continued, “I honestly think it’s going to resolve itself by the time all is said and done. I just don’t know the timeline.”
He also offered his perspective on how things have been handled so far, “People that live here have done a pretty good job of articulating the situation- the media has, as well. At this point it’s almost overkill.”
Nevertheless, he too expressed unambiguous reservations about the way the house has been used: “I don’t think it’s the greatest idea for anybody in the neighborhood to turn a house into a commercial business venture. When you bring in 120 strangers for a wedding that lacks security, you open yourself up to a range of potential problems.”
Asked if he worried about the situation or its effect on property values, the anonymous neighbor smiled wryly, “I’ve personally been amused.”
While those in opposition have clearly been most vocal, some neighbors don’t believe that the rental house is a problem at all.
After subduing her bold if diminutive Yorkshire Terrier, local resident Bella Svensson offered a countervailing perspective to that of her neighbors. Svensson, who lives on an adjacent street but shares a backyard with 7 O’Grady Court, suggested, “The reaction has been tremendously out of proportion. The whole thing is very overblown. There’s been no disturbance to us.”
As for the mysterious owner George, “I don’t know the guy that owns it, but they have never bothered us. And the renters seem to be nice people.”
She also disputed some of the allegations of debauchery having occurred at the house: “You’re talking about one incident. There was no nudity. They were filming a video, not pornography. The girls were in bikinis and thongs, but you see worse things in Sports Illustrated.”
“They were not hiding anything. The video shoot was only once.” Svensson further suggested that this video shoot was hardly representative of typical renters. “They’ve had kids parties there- a lot of them. They’ve had wedding parties. It’s been quiet- music playing, but no complaints. It wasn’t bad.”
Overall, she said, “I’ve thrown worse parties than that for my daughter’s graduation. My windows shake from my neighbors’ parties more than from [the rental house]. It’s not a big deal.”
Svensson left us with an item of gossip unconfirmed by Rockland County Times, “Nicole Kidman rented the house for several months last year while filming nearby. Maybe we should get her to move back in.”
According to Inspector Giardiello, whose full title is the director of the town’s Office of Building, Zoning, Planning Administration and Enforcement, or OBZPAE; the Khrimians are now being charged with violating the following town laws and codes:
1. Renting a single-family residence for commercial purposes, when the law mandates that it can only be used for occupancy by a single family.
2. Promoting commercial film shoots on the property without the proper filming permits.
Giardiello, Brenner, Code Enforcement Officer Paul Witte and others say additional charges could also be brought against the Khrimian brothers, including:
1. Violations of noise ordinances by hosting loud parties that far exceed town decibel limits and often last throughout the night and weekends.
2. Violations of trash ordinances, with weekend parties frequently followed by eight large trash cans in front of the house filled with junk and empty liquor containers, when a maximum of two is the town limit.
3. Parking violations, with as many as 20 cars parked in the driveway and on the street for some of the larger gatherings, blocking neighbors’ access to their own homes, and for passage of emergency vehicles.
Town officials say proof that the house is being rented commercially is readily available on the Internet under the two websites listed earlier. Not only do they list the hourly, daily and weekend rates but offer maid service and other amenities, specify that the owners do not live there and will not be present during rental periods, and specify check-in and check-out times for all stays. They also post monthly calendars listing confirmed rental dates and still available dates up to three months in advance.
They also list several pages of reviews by satisfied tenants who openly brag about the parties, weddings, social events, film shoots and other functions they have held at the O’Grady Court house over the past few months, with many promising to return as soon as possible.
The Brenners and other neighbors have also complained of seeing trucks and vans unloading crates of beer and liquor at the house in advance of weekend rentals, and warned that if liquor is being sold or served at the premises, the owners could be subject to a $10,000 penalty for not having a license to dispense alcohol.
Giardiello said in his opinion the uses of a one-family home in a single-family residential zoning district are quite simple and easy to understand and follow.
It means a house is designed, constructed and outfitted to accommodate a single family, of whatever size. That can be a single person, a couple, a family, and even relatives, such as grandparents, siblings, etc.
If the house has sufficient space, the owner(s) may rent out a bedroom on a permanent or short-term basis to a relative, family friend and other person, and charge for that space. In such a situation, however, Giardiello warns, the primary homeowner(s) MUST continue residing in the house themselves, and CANNOT live elsewhere. If they do, it immediately becomes a commercial rental, and illegal, he cautioned.
The single exception to that rule is if a homeowner owns a house specifically for the purpose of renting it out to another family. Giardiello says that is legal, but again, only as long as the rentee is living in the dwelling on a full-time basis.
Owner “George” Khrimian did not respond to requests for comment on the status or availability of his house.