SYLVAN BEACH — From their living room or dining table, Ed and Marilyn Kohler can see boats passing in the canal at Mariner’s Landing mobile-home and RV park, including sometimes tour craft Ed might have built in the commercial boat yard he used to run in Baldwinsville.
Marilyn and Ed used to come to the marina there in their own boat and liked it so much that after years of post-retirement travel, first by water and then through a succession of motor homes they wore out, they finally put down the proverbial stakes three years ago, buying a mobile home already on the site, rehabbing it and making it their retirement home.
Their mobile home doesn’t look mobile: It has a built-on porch, neatly trimmed shrubs, a parking pad and a storage shed. But on April 15, the Kohlers and other residents, seasonal or the 15 to 18 who live there year-round, got letters from the landowner, the Oneida Indian Nation, that they must leave by Oct. 1. It was a shock. Ed, 88, is a Navy veteran who says he has four battle stars, and is disabled and dealing with serious health issues.
“We completely remodeled the inside and the outside. We put more into the place than we paid for and losing it is breaking our hearts,” Ed Kohler said. “We don’t really know what we’re going to do next, ‘cause we don’t have that much money left. ... 88 is not a very young age. I probably can’t do again what I have done here.”
Those affected include 36 year-round residents, said Gabriel Creo, who with his wife Elizabeth, fear the loss of improvements they’ve made, as well as perhaps their homes themselves.
The residents met Monday evening to explore their options. Ed Kohler said he has retained an out-of-town lawyer and is examining legal options.
They might have a difficult case, said David DeSantis, a member of the Sylvan Verona Beach Association board. A lawyer but not representing the residents, DeSantis said generally six months’ notice is sufficient in such a situation, and while Oct. 1 is not quite that, he said it’s his opinion the difference would likely not have much effect beyond a short delay.
A statement from the Oneida Indian Nation said it’s offering help in addition to giving six month’s notice. RV tenants by definition can be moved without much of a process, said the statement released by Nation spokesman Joel Barkin.
“As for the mobile home tenants, it was with them in mind that the timeline to implement the redevelopment plan was delayed in order to give tenants, who all have month-to-month leases, six months to make new arrangements.
“The Oneida Indian Nation is redeveloping the land around its marina Mariner’s Landing which includes the mobile home/RV park. The redevelopment will increase accessibility to the marina and allow for a greater number of people to utilize and enjoy the location. Recognizing the disruption for all of Mariner’s Landing’s month-to-month renters, the timeline to implement this plan was delayed in order to give tenants six months to make new arrangements. The final month of rent was also waived for each of the tenants. More details about the redevelopment will be announced in the coming months.”
In addition, Barkin listed other points of assistance:
Marina staff is arranging a moving specialist/real estate professional to help tenants is identifying alternative locations.
All tenants will receive a resource packet that contains key information to ease their transition.
Marina staff will be engaging multiple local moving companies in order to assist in secure quotes, explore possible options for group discounts, and ensure that tenants receive a fair price
At no cost to the tenants—marina staff will facilitate the donation and/or proper disposal of all items that tenants wish to discard.
The Nation also provided a list of RV and mobile home sites. The closest is 18 miles away; they range from Blossville and Kirkville to Lee Center and Clinton.
That’s not much solace to the Creos. Gabriel said they picked Sylvan Beach for its proximity to the water.
“I’m a boater. I love boats. I love being near the water. Being near the water, it’s got a certain magic to it.”
Gabriel Creo said most of the residents are like they are: Retirees who invested signficant savings into their homes and never thought they’d have a problem with the leased land. Even if they can afford the moving, many of the improvements can’t be moved and can’t be moved.
The Kohlers said they were given assurances by a then-manager at the park that there’d be no problem with the leased land, and they had come to love the place and its residents — only to have that manager leave since last fall.
“It sounds naive when you think back on it that we would go ahead and do that, but at the time everybody was so reassuring,” Marilyn Kohler said. “People had been here 30 years and they all — they laughed; they said there’s absolutely no way they’re ever going to do anything to change … We didn’t have a lot of money, and so we took the chance. And it was fine for three years.”
The Creos home is typical of many of the year-round residents. It has a traditional peaked roof of asphalt shingles, a window-walled porch, an asphalt parking pad and walkway, trimmed shrubs, a clothes line, bird feeders, two miniature lighthouse fixtures, a wrought-iron handrail, and solitary electric candles in some windows.
Creo said he’s learned that costs of moving homes more than 10 to 15 years old can be very high or even impossible because of fear of frame damage — not to mention the issue of finding a place to move to.
“It felt like a tsunami hit, only FEMA isn’t coming to help,” he said.