Greystone Bill Might Save Kirkbride Building

With lines being drawn in Parsippany and Morris Plains, there might be a proviso in the senators bill to appease both sides.

Morris Plains wants Greystone as open space.

Parsippany wants the historic buildings saved.

 State lawmakers want…both?

According to Parsippany councilman Michael diPierro, there might be room in the Pennachio-Bucco bill for just such an arrangement.

"I did get a chance to speak with Senator Bucco over the holidays and explained 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," diPierro said. "No one is going to do this out of the goodness of their heart.”

According to diPierro, Bucco said he understood there has to be some commercial advantage for developers and that he was “optimistic that he will be able to obtain state money to preserve the main building.

diPierro said that the money would preserve only the main building and “not the wings that have no roofs anymore.”

Adam McGovern, trustee of the all-volunteer group Preserve Greystone, said that there needs to be a more meaningful and complete dialogue about the buildings.

"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," McGovern said. "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."

McGovern 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. 

diPierro said that if the state is going to spend $10 million to tear the structure down, the money should be shunted to a developer would want to reconstruct it.

That decision would have to be worked out with the freeholders.

Against reconstructing the site is the governing body of Morris Plains. Long-time Morris Plains Mayor Frank Druetzler didn’t mince words during his reorganization meeting earlier this month when approaching the disposition of Greystone, and his borough's position is the polar opposite of the governing body in neighboring Parisppany. 

“We felt that the 180 acres of surplus property, much of which contains deteriorating buildings, should go to the county for open space,” Druetzler said. “Now we hear rumblings from developers. We strongly oppose development and support open space.”

Last month, the Parsippany Council passed unanimously 5-0 a resolution that goes against the senators’ bill.

Not to be outdone, Morris Plains passed its own resolution on Dec. 30 in support of the senators bill.

Greystone has been a hot bed of controversy since a decision to demolish the remaining buildings came with a $50 million price tag. The decision came after Gov. Chris Christie announced plans in late 2011 to remediate and convert Greystone Park in Parsippany—about 165 acres. The park includes a sewage treatment plant, wetlands and the original psychiatric hospital, which closed in 2008.

Up until this point, the state's plan was to demolish the rest of the buildings, despite having received six formal expressions of interest from private groups, which are looking to redevelop the decaying Kirkbride Building

J. B. January 15, 2014 at 03:47 PM
I'm getting tired of this story. When is the State and Morris Plains going to realize they have a historic structure on their hands? The Morris Plains mayor just wants soccer fields and is overreacting to "development" as he puts it which doesn't mean condos or shopping centers (which I don't want either), it means preserving the historic building. Keep the massive center building which has an amazing chapel, an organ, colossal rooms for events or Morris Plains council meetings! Use the building for that purpose. Maybe keep just the first wings on both sides of the center building and preserve as a museum to honor all those who suffered there. This is not rocket science and these politicians have to complicate everything when they don't even listen to the people.
Walter O. January 16, 2014 at 12:28 PM
JB, the Mayor has listened to the people and the people of Morris Plains want open land. Not only will it take a boat load of money to repair the building ('s), but additional monies to maintain and up keep. I'm all for history, but we don't need to save everything that's old. Open space is needed and as a resident of MP, I support our mayor.
Michelle Gerber January 17, 2014 at 09:02 AM
Not all of the people of Morris Plains want that building raised to the ground for more ballfields and such. Walter O, if you had actually read the different proposals for the kirkbride, you would know that the only money that these enterprises asked for was what the state would have to pay anyway- money for asbestos clean up. As for not preserving everything that is old: Greystone is the one of the last kirkbride buildings in the country. It also was the largest building in the country prior to the Pentagon being built. There is significant historical importance attached to this place AND it is a stone's throw from the working psychiatric facility. You are supporting freeholders that are concerned with more traffic on the roads, to the detriment of long term job acquisition. Seriously think about what fixing and using that building can mean for our economy. And open spaces? Poor argument.
Walter O. January 17, 2014 at 09:34 AM
Michelle, I hear you, couldn't disagree with you more. Several points...do you really think the money used to tear down the building is sufficient enough to bring it back to life and code? Highly doubt it. Secondly, what long term jobs are you referring to? What do you know that the rest of us don't? Please share, I be convinced if you have concrete information. Lastly, I am very aware of its historical nature, and on a weekly basis walk my dogs through the park and surrounding property. I see more and more people coming out and enjoying the open space. To say traffic is not a concern would be an understatement! You obviously don't live in Morris Plains and see all the cars cutting through Greystone from all points west in the morning and the opposite in the evening! With all the new development and companies moving into MP it's only going to get worse. This isn't an argument, it's an opinion shared by the great majority of residents in MP. You obviously don't live in the area.
Christian J. VanAntwerpen January 19, 2014 at 01:20 PM
Green space can be acquired anywhere.. These buildings are a dying breed of architecture and NEED to be preserved. If people are wanting to develop these spaces.. it means more jobs, more infrastructure, and keeps a very unique piece of american history in your backyard. The Village at Grand Traverse Commons in Michigan redeveloped their Kirkbride and have kept ALL historic savable structures on their campus. Over time the entire property will be redeveloped. Now for all you green space people.. Its still very much park land. They have a world class arboretum as well as bike and hiking trails. This debate, from an outsiders standpoint, is pretty stupid because if BOTH Parsippany and Morris Plains worked together... both of their objectives COULD be met and also would be great allies in redeveloping this property. It would also possibly be enough strength to stand up to the State of New Jersey's decision to want to demolish. It makes no sense to let a state level decision take away the possibilities of change dictated by regional and local ideas. This quarreling at the local level will not encourage the saving of this structure, nor proper use of the additional land at Greystone. In my opinion, both Morris Plains and Parsippany need to figure out how to work together to save this building and this land before the state of NJ makes up its mind on what to do with these... or if you rather they just knock the structure down and leave the taxpayers with the bill... that too is another option. its your land, its your building


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