By Briana Vannozzi
Piece by piece the historic Kirkbride Building at Greystone Park is coming down. All 675,000 square feet of the former psychiatric hospital will be demolished and turned into green space, if the state has its way.
“We think it’s a terrible use of taxpayer resources. To waste the $50 million or more that’s going to be done just to take it down rather than put it back as a functioning building that can be a pride of the community,” said Preserve Greystone Board Member Adam McGovern.
Members of the Preserve Greystone group have been working tirelessly to keep the historic buildings on the property — which dates back to 1876 — intact. They’ve lost two appeals to stop the demolition and now it’s their final push.
“So we’re going to keep letting our voices be heard in a way the state did not allow access for to begin with and unfortunately pursue the case in the courts and see if the system can work on that end,” McGovern said.
A rally held over the weekend drew hundreds of supporters, many frustrated by the lack of communication from the county and state.
“The state didn’t seem to be receptive to any kind of public input. Neither the state or the county level was there ever a public hearing where people were invited to give their input, which is very unusual for a project of this size,” said Preserve Greystone Board Member Lynn Brunskill.
The state argues the building is “too far gone” to save, revitalization would be too costly. But there were in fact seven proposals submitted to redevelop Greystone, and as the Star-Ledger first reported, several developers say their requests were never even acknowledged.
When asked why he thinks those proposals were denied, McGovern said, “It really mystifies us because when you have private developers of world class stature coming forth to offer upwards of a hundred million dollars to take this property off the state’s hands and revitalize it for the community, we have no idea why the state would walk away from that.”
“In addition we’ve heard a lot of issues where preservationists have been told not to talk to the press, have been told that they’re not allowed to essentially do their jobs,” Brunskill said.
This was once a sprawling campus. In the late 1800s, early 1900s Greystone was a state-of-the-art facility. But today, piles of brick and rubble line the old building.
“Special deals are done all the time for arenas for any number of projects that the state has the political will,” McGovern said.
Attorneys for Preserve Greystone won’t comment on potential legal proceedings and the state didn’t provide information on developers. Demolition is slated to be complete by February 2016.