Citizens group presses Morris freeholders to save Greystone

Editor’s note: This article was submitted by Preserve Greystone, a nonprofit seeking to prevent the state from demolishing the historic Kirkbride building at the former Greystone Park State Psychiatric Hospital, straddling Morris Plains and Parsippany. State officials contend it’s too costly to renovate the 137-year-old structure.

Greystone Advocates Pack Freeholder Meeting in Gillette

More than 20 supporters of Preserve Greystone, the nonprofit advocacy group committed to saving the historic hospital site, attended the July 23, 2014, meeting of the Morris County Freeholders, held at the Long Hill Township Municipal Building in Gillette, away from the board’s usual location in Morristown.

The citizens had come to raise the issue of Greystone’s announced demolition, and the Freeholders’ involvement.

DATE WITH THE WRECKING BALL? Activists are trying to save the historic Greystone psychiatric hospital from demolition in early 2014. Photo courtesy of Preserve Greystone

The state is accepting bids to demolish the historic Kirkbride Building. Photo courtesy of Preserve Greystone

“When Freeholder Doug Cabana announced that he might seek a resolution asking the State to delay demolition by 90 days to consider developers’ proposals, it opened a dialogue that is overdue, and we ask the Freeholders to continue that public dialogue,” said Adam McGovern, a trustee of Preserve Greystone.

Cabana had publically reversed his position before the July 23 meeting. He was not in attendance at this meeting.

The night was largely tied to historic preservation in its theme, spotlighting the Freeholders’ role in helping preserve an 1850s schoolhouse in the township. Many citizens commended the Freeholders for this, and expressed hope that their support can extend to Greystone.

Rich Kalwa of Lake Hiawatha, who grew up at the site because his father worked there, cited the rich heritage of the hospital treating veterans as far back as the Civil War.

Lynn Brunskill of Mt. Tabor provided the Freeholders with documents on other “Kirkbride” style buildings, like Greystone, that have been preserved and successfully repurposed.

Marjorie Wormer, also a Preserve Greystone trustee, pointed out that mixed-use redevelopment of the Greystone Main Building would put less of a traffic burden, and set more stable traffic patterns, than the sporadic, sometimes overwhelming use caused by events at additional sports fields.

Melissa Cooke, president of the Denville Chamber of Commerce, cited the “enormous commerce and job opportunities to the local towns” that redeveloping the site would foster.

Summing up, Preserve Greystone President John Huebner said: “We are not asking the State to pay to save this building. We are asking it not to pay to destroy it. Our tax dollars will pay for that. The private sector has made it very clear that they can take it over and make it work and save the State a lot of money. This ‘free’ transfer of land to Morris County is not free.”

One of the five Freeholders in attendance, Kathy DeFillippo, responded to the 13 advocates who spoke.

“I welcome all comments. I wrote down some of the points made and will go back to my staff to discuss them.” DeFillippo noted that her email and phone number are on the County website, and she welcomed a continuing dialogue on the issue.



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