THE BLOG
10/28/2014 03:41 pm ET Updated Dec 28, 2014

Getting Rid of "Ghost" Structures: Perceiving the Catskills as a Place of Renewal, Not Decay

With or without the citing of one or two casino gaming destination resorts, it's certain that the Catskills encompassing both Sullivan County and southern Ulster have turned the corner and are on their way back to economic viability.

It's also certain that such a statement would be met with great skepticism and disdain from those who live here and endured an unreasonable economic hardship for the last two or three decades.

That negativity, which defines a common demoralization, in turn has fostered a lack of pride in our region in terms of aesthetics-in both how we preserve our landscape and how we enforce our building codes.

Last week, there were a number of photojournalistic articles published nationwide showcasing the rundown buildings and properties that "haunt" our region. Reuters entitled their piece: "Catskills in Decline." A Hudson Valley real estate blog posted: "Halloween Prep: Abandoned Catskills."

This is not the first national display of our disregard to rid our landscape of decrepit structures. Our own talented Rock Hill native Photographer Marissa Scheinfeld has made an art form in photographing abandoned hotels and displaying them - her most current exhibition is taking place at Yeshiva University entitled "Echoes of the Borscht Belt."

Perception is everything-and now is the time to start cleaning up our act and getting rid of the numerous eyesores that dot our landscape-and obviously now define where we live throughout the world. The resort industry's death and their long standing ruins not only defines our cynicism and struggles, but now our economic viability in the near future

We are too accepting of them, our demoralized psyches allow them to blend into the scenery as we all drive to and from work or school everyday. Over time, we have been too oblivious to these eyesores.

Obviously, those coming from suburban and city landscapes see them and shake their heads, and reporters write articles about them.

Even as we come back, our blighted landscape festering with abandoned buildings and decrepit bungalows ruins our image as a beautiful mountain destination to visit and a place to escape to live a better life.

It's just not about planting flowers in our decaying villages and hamlets to make them look better anymore. It's not enough.

The towns and county governments need to team up to begin cleaning up these eyesores by sending out crews to tear them down, or give tax breaks to their owners to rebuild them to their former architectural grandeur. The DEC in New Paltz also needs to become part of this effort by loosening regulations that have stopped fire departments from going in and burning down these eyesores.

The time is ripe for an initiative for our governments to start this concerted cleanup effort that also encompasses strict, no tolerance, code enforcement against absentee landowners, seasonal residents, and slumlords feeding off of lucrative, and decaying Section 8 housing.

The Catskills are coming back, and they need to be perceived now as a place of renewal, not decay.

Published on October 28, 2014 in Writer's Workshop of Sullivan County

kurly@stevenkurlander.com