Preserve Greystone prepares for its day in court, May 13

Scene from 'Greystone Lost,' by Rich Modzeleski
Scene from 'Greystone Lost,' by Rich Modzeleski
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Scene from 'Greystone Lost,' by Rich Modzeleski
Scene from ‘Greystone Lost,’ by Rich Modzeleski

Preserve Greystone finally will get its day in court, on Wednesday, May 13, 2015, in hopes of halting the “barbaric destruction” of the 139-year-old Kirkbride Building that started last month.

In legal papers filed ahead of the hearing — scheduled for 3 pm before Superior Court Judge Stephan Hansbury in Morristown — attorney James Sullivan Jr. argues that the state Treasury department’s decision to demolish the building is “arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable.”

It’s an “unlawful encroachment” because the building is eligible for listing in the state and national Registers of Historic Places, Sullivan maintains.

The demolition also encroaches upon the historic value of the Illumination Gas Plant, another building on the former Greystone Park State Psychiatric Hospital campus that is listed on the state historic register, asserts the Preserve Greystone brief.

The Treasury department contends Preserve Greystone is in the wrong court.

Appeals already are pending in the state Appellate Division, noted state Deputy Attorney General Philip Espinosa in a legal brief.

“Simply put, in an effort to circumvent the Appellate Division’s jurisdiction, and possibly find a refuge from its string of legal losses, Preserve Greystone has filed this improper order … in this court,” Espinosa writes.

Once a beacon of progressive care for the mentally ill, the 675,000-square-foot asylum designed by Thomas Kirkbride sustained decades of neglect and was closed in 2008.

The state launched a $34 million demolition after deeming the Second Empire Victorian structure too costly to save, despite seven proposals by redevelopers. Preserve Greystone, a grass-roots group that has collected 4,000 signatures demanding preservation of the Kirkbride building, now seeks to save the central portion.

Sullivan, who is working pro bono, claims the demolition company “has vindictively accelerated its efforts” to render court intervention moot, to the point of endangering workers’ lives. Northstar Contracting Group Inc. has incurred $54,000 in fines from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, according to the legal papers.

About 300 people came to the grounds, on the border of Parsippany and Morris Plains, for a protest rally last month. Preserve Greystone is urging citizens to arrive early on Wednesday and show support by attending the hearing.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Let’s support this preservation! Let’s find out why the public wasn’t advised of the seven proposals, why we didn’t have a vote on the matter, why the demolition started before the taxpayers had a chance to express their choices. The committee has such a valid case – let’s stand behind them – it’s tomorrow!!

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