Long Beach mulls lawsuit over abandoned Soviet submarine

Submarines were designed to be covert, but this one has become a glaring eyesore for Long Beach.

The Foxtrot-class Soviet submarine, known as the Scorpion, was moored next to the Queen Mary as a tourist attraction for nearly two decades before it was closed to the public in 2015 after it fell into disrepair. The sub has since sat abandoned and infested with raccoons.

Now, Long Beach is considering filing a lawsuit to force the responsible party to remove the corroded relic, out of concern that it could sink and damage the Queen Mary, Deputy City Attorney Rich Anthony said on Tuesday.

But figuring out who exactly is responsible has been a challenge.

Palm Springs resident Ed Skowron, owner of a company called Newco Pty Ltd., bought the vessel for $970,000 and transported it to the Queen Mary on a heavy-lift ship in 1998.

In 2019, Newco Pty was reportedly in the process of selling the vessel to a mystery buyer, but it is unclear if that sale went through.

The Queen Mary’s troubled former operator Urban Commons, which took over the ship in 2016, leased the submarine from Newco before falling into bankruptcy this year.

Long Beach in bankruptcy court documents initially said Urban Commons was responsible for the rusted submarine, along with a litany of failed Queen Mary lease obligations. But the city now says Newco is responsible for removing the sub.

In an August demand letter sent to Newco Pty lawyer Robert Lisnow, the city says that Newco canceled its limited liability company status in June 2020 and abandoned the Scorpion on city property. The city is demanding that Newco, Skowron and Stanley Pearlman, who is listed as a vice president for Newco, remove the sub.

Anthony said neither Lisnow nor Skowron has responded to the city demand letter. Neither could be reached for comment Tuesday. Anthony said Pearlman responded by stating that he is an employee for Newco and not responsible.

The city could take further legal action, but it’s unclear if Skowron, a widower in his late 80s, has the millions of dollars it would cost to remove the submarine.

The project would be a major undertaking as the vessel spans the length of a football field and sits behind a thick rock wall surrounding the Queen Mary.

“The environmental hazard that the Scorpion poses to the Harbor and the coastline may also require federal and state intervention,” the city said in its letter.

An inspection earlier this year found that the sub was flooding in some areas and does not have a bilge pump, leaving it in danger of rolling and possibly damaging the hull of the Queen Mary.

The city has said the sub could pose an environmental hazard or public safety threat if it is left abandoned.

Former Queen Mary inspector Ed Pribonic for years documented concerns about the sub in his monthly inspection reports, even noting a family of raccoons that had moved in before being trapped and relocated in 2018.

The concern over the sub comes as the city is considering the future costs for the aging Queen Mary.

Long Beach owns the ship but for decades has leased it to a string of failed operators. Urban Commons earlier this year gave up the lease in bankruptcy court, giving Long Beach control of the ship and leaving the city on the hook for millions of dollars in urgent repairs.

The ship remains closed as the city lays plans to fund the repairs.

How Long Beach leaders charted a disastrous course for the Queen Mary

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Kelly Puente is an award-winning general assignment and special projects reporter at the Long Beach Post. She has worked as a journalist in Long Beach since 2006, covering everything from education and crime to courts and breaking news. Kelly previously worked at the Long Beach Press-Telegram and the Orange County Register before joining the Post in 2018. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public policy and administration at Cal State Long Beach. Reach her at [email protected].
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