State Funds Could Save Greystone's Kirkbride Building, Official Says

Parsippany councilman said Sen. Anthony Bucco is 'optimistic' he can get state money to preserve the main structure, but not the wings.

As municipalities and county officials take sides over the preservation of the historic Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital, Adam McGovern, trustee of the all-volunteer group Preserve Greystone, stopped by the Parsippany council meeting last week to thank them for their resolution, which goes against a bill recently introduced by senators Joe Pennacchio and Anthony Bucco. 

"The dialogue is going to be continuing and I thank you for (passing a resolution against the Senators' bill)," said McGovern to the township council.

"I want to thank you for all your efforts on behalf of the township," replied Parsippany Councilman Michael dePierro. "I did get a chance to speak with Senator Bucco over the holidays and explain to him why we passed our resolution and why we are concerned that if there is no option for any commercial enterprise to be present, then no commercial body will be interested in investing if there is nothing in it for them," said dePierro. "No one is going to do this out of the goodness of their heart. There has to be some commercial advantage for them. I explained this to him and ... he claimed he understood that and he is optimistic that he will be able to obtain state money to preserve the main building, not the wings that have no roofs anymore, but just a major portion of that main structure ... That's why he pushed to introduce that bill."

"I think there needs to be a more meaningful and complete dialogue about the building ... yes the roof (of the wings) are in disrepair, but I've had a number of engineers from all ends of the spectrum ... tell me that that building can withstand an A-bomb," said McGovern. "I think there are some missing steps there in terms of the State coming back to the people who have proposed ideas for the whole building." He added that federal money could be more of a possibility if the State looks into preserving the entire building instead of just the main structure. 

DePierro added that he mentioned to Senator Bucco, "If the State is going to spend $10 million to tear the structure down, why can't they give that towards some developer who would want to reconstruct it because they have to spend the money anyways ... but that would have to be worked out with the freeholders."  

The Senators' bill states that there might be a way to limit the sale of remaining parts of the Greystone property that is owned by the state and have that land be maintained as open space by Morris County.

The Parsippany Council passed unanimously 5-0 last month a resolution that "rebukes" the senators’ bill  "urging them to withdraw their bill" and their "resolution urges the State to also designate the (Kirkbride) building as historic, which would protect it from being demolished," said Jonathan Nelson, the councilman who drafted the bill.

However, Senator Pennacchio said the bill “doesn’t preclude the saving of Kirkbride at all.”

The Morris County Freeholders discussed the bill the day before Christmas eve. McGovern applauded the Parsippany council's actions toward the bill last week.

"I think that this is a brave move move because as it turned out the Freeholders voted unanimously in the other direction, but i think it's a good move to keep the dialogue open in a way a way that is overdue," said McGovern. "A number of us went to the Freeholders meeting and there was no such dialogue, so I thank you."

Also, Morris Plains passed a resolution in support of the bill recently, opposite of the resolution Parsippany passed just last month. Greystone has been a controversial topic with its $50 million demolition price tag that was determined after Gov. Chris Christie announced plans in late 2011 to remediate and convert Greystone Park in Parsippany—about 165 acres.

“We are concerned that both State and County are turning their nose up at $100 million worth of private investment that could give the buildings a new purpose, thus preserving them for future generations, and sparing the taxpayers the terrible cost of their destruction,”  Preserve Greystone’s president John Huebner said.


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