HUDSON VALLEY REPORTER: MONTROSE VA: DOWNSIZING WOULDN’T REDUCE SERVICES
Posted by: Brian Donnelly
MONTROSE, N.Y. – While five unused buildings at the FDR VA Hospital in Montrose may be torn down, hospital officials say it won’t result in reduced services for veterans.
Sen. Greg Ball (R – Patterson) said he met with hospital officials Wednesday to review plans for the buildings, which a local veterans group recently discovered are scheduled to be razed. Willy Nazario, state commander for the Military Order of the Purple Heart, believes taking down Buildings 8, 9, 10, 11 and 25 will lead to reduced services for veterans.
“During our meeting we received a firm commitment that we will see an expansion of services at Montrose, not the reverse,” Ball said. “Montrose is critical in our overall efforts of providing the necessary services to thousands of local veterans, including newly returned vets suffering from ailments like [post traumatic stress disorder] and [traumatic brain injury].”
While Nazario has said he wants the five buildings to be put to use, not torn down, hospital officials told Ball they are full of asbestos, lead and other toxins, and are a “lingering safety issue and a continued financial drain.”
“In the coming weeks and months we will work with Montrose to make announcements concerning future expansions, both in square footage and in services, that I believe will be applauded by veterans, as well as by the community at large,” Ball said.
Nazario said he fears tearing down these buildings will lead to developers buying the property and building homes. Cortlandt Town Supervisor Linda Puglisi has said this could be a repeat of the enhanced use lease, which would have leased 172 of the 190 acres on the Montrose campus to private developers for housing that was, “not soley for veterans.” It expired Dec. 31, 2011, ending the threat of downsizing the VA at the time, Puglisi said.
John Cliffe, chief engineer at the Montrose VA, and Michael Sabo, network director of the New York/ New Jersey Veterans Healthcare Network, met with Ball Wednesday to go over the plans for the hospital in Montrose.
Nazario, the Town of Cortlandt and Village of Buchanan recently held a rally in front of the Montrose VA protesting the proposed downsizing. Puglisi said she feared it wouldn’t stop at five buildings. The town and its veterans groups are applying to make it a state and national landmark and are circulating a petition among veterans groups and the larger community to drum up support.
“If that happens then nothing can be disturbed or destroyed there. It’s a landmark as well as a federal facility,” said Neil Gross, commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH) Chapter 21.
Ball said he will be arranging another meeting with hospital officials and will invite interested veterans and members of the community, who will be able to ask questions. (ARTICLE)