Judge bars Friar Tuck war games project

Acting Rensselaer Supreme Court Judge Adam Silverman sided with the town of Catskill and issued a temporary restraining order against the owners of the former Friar Tuck Inn and Resort. File photo

CATSKILL — An acting Rensselaer County Supreme Court justice ruled in favor of the town of Catskill on Thursday, granting a temporary restraining order against the owners of the former Friar Tuck Inn and Resort.

Judge Adam Silverman upheld a lawsuit filed by the town against the new owners of the Friar Tuck last week, alleging unpermitted construction and unauthorized paramilitary activity. The 200-acre property and vacant resort were purchased for $5.8 million in February 2020 by NY-32-Realty Group Inc., with Elena Fu named as the primary owner.

Thomas O’Rourke, of Cohorts Entertainment and MSATO, or Military Simulations and Tactical Operations, of Wallingford, Connecticut, had plans to film at the property April 30 to May 2. O’Rourke is seeking more than $2 million in damages if the project is canceled, according to the lawsuit.

Silverman granted the town’s request for a temporary restraining order until a preliminary injunction hearing could be held.

“Any defendant or agent, contract vendee, assignee, tenant, lessee or representative thereof served with this restraining notice is hereby forbidden to engage in, or host, military simulation games or exercises or like activity as advertised to take place from April 30 through May 2...until a hearing can be held in this matter,” according to the court order.

Additionally, Silverman granted the town permission to post notices on the gates and fences on the property about prohibited activity.

Failure to obey the order could result in imprisonment of up to six months, according to the order.

“We are reviewing [the order] and will be taking a look at all of our options,” said defense attorney Michael Brandi, of Rupp Baase Pfalzgraf Cunningham, in Buffalo.

O’Rourke filled out an application with Film in Greene, a county resource for moviemakers looking to film in the area, on April 12. O’Rourke did not go through the department for filming that took place March 13-14.

The working title for the film is listed as “Modern Combat Warriors/Tier One Championship” on the application. The film is described as a “video game comes to life action series.” No real firearms or weapons are used for the film, O’Rourke said in court papers.

The application lists a crew size of 30 to 50 people and 400 re-enactors.

Film in Greene does not issue permits, Greene County Tourism Director Heather Bagshaw said Tuesday.

“We function very differently than other film commission offices,” she said. “A lot of them get really involved in permitting and things like that. We do not have a permitting process. Our county does not require that.”

Bagshaw said she was not aware of any film permits issued at the town level.

Town Code Enforcement Officer Elliot Fishman sent a cease-and-desist letter regarding the event on March 18. At a later site visit, Fishman discovered the property was being used as a motel.

Fishman previously issued an order to vacate the building in June 2020. In August, the state Department of Labor issued a stop-work order to halt renovations that were being made without asbestos abatement, according to the lawsuit. Some of the unauthorized construction included installation of a sauna, a hot tub, a tree house and a zip line.

No work has occurred at the site since the stop-work order, Brandi said in court documents.

The town has no certificates of occupancy or building permits on file for the property, which sat vacant for many years, and the state Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, or SPDES, permit expired in 2011, according to the lawsuit.

The re-enactors will not be using any buildings or plumbing at the site and will remain 25 feet away from the buildings at all times, Brandi said. O’Rourke had ordered a dozen portable toilets and two washing stations on April 19 for the upcoming shoot.

In her account of the March event, Town Assessor Christine Julig said there were men on the balconies of the building, shooting at other participants on the ground, with what she believed to be air rifles.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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