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Jaffee, Stewart Meet State Officials, Talk Rockland Psych

Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee and Orangetown Supervisor Andy Stewart sat down with representatives from the state Office of Mental Health and Office of General Services

Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee and Orangetown Town Supervisor Andy Stewart spoke Tuesday after a meeting among local officials and representatives of the state Office of Mental Health and Office of General Services.

It was the first time they had held a face-to-face meeting to discuss redevelopment for Rockland Psychiatric Center.

After the meeting, Jaffee and Stewart both said they were pleased with how the meeting went.

“It was a wonderful, cooperative discussion,” Jaffee said. “It went in a very positive direction and I’m very optimistic about moving forward.”

One big topic discussed at the meeting was the need for the town and state to work together, as each owns part of the land, in order to make the entire chunk more desirable for developers.

“At the end of the day, the town can sell parcels and the state can sell parcels, but we’re better off being able to communicate to investors these are the terms under which you can buy both,” Stewart said. “Now, I can’t tell you right now, we did not obtain a commitment from the state for any specific methodology for that. But what we did is we agreed that we need to have a method.”

He added that one method would be for the town to buy the state’s land, although that may not be what the town wants to do. The town board discussion has focused on making sure the town has some control over what is done with the land. 

“The problem with that is it would cost us a whole lot of money and we don’t really want it,” Stewart said. “We want someone else to redevelop it.”

Jaffee said that all parties at the meting plan on doing their own research about possible methods to take with the land that they will then discuss with each other.

“We walked away having homework,” she said. “Everybody has homework now.”

Stewart said that the land could ideally be split amongst recreational use, light industry office space and residential.

“The question is how to put that mix together in a way that can cover the extraordinary cost of remediation,” Stewart said. “We believe that we have to be together with the state and including their lands in the picture that we present to developers. Otherwise, it’s just not attractive enough and looks too complicated.”

Another important aspect of the meeting was simply getting state representatives down to Rockland to see the land and talk about it with local officials.

“Part of the work that we’re doing that this meeting represents is getting our project on the radar screen of very powerful and busy decision makers, whose cooperation we need,” Stewart said. “So, part of it is to have personal relationship with these agency people and to establish a certain sense of commitment on everybody’s part to follow through. And that’s an accomplishment because the fact is that with Hurricane Sandy and with the Tappan Zee Bridge and the state of the economy and so on, there’s no guarantee that the State of New York and its various agencies will pay any attention to Orangetown.”

Stewart didn’t want to give a timeline for what could possible take place moving forward. He said one big question mark is the parcel of land where the power plant is located.

“We can conceive of a development proposal taking place where there’s a sequencing process -- and most larger developments work like that anyway -- in which case, a developer might obtain development rights to the power plant parcel knowing that it will be vacated and therefore they can plan,” Stewart said. “We can all plan. That’s the kind of cooperation that makes sense in this case because we’re not going to wait three years to start thinking about what kind of redevelopment to have. But the fact is that they’re not going to be out of there for three years, so we have to make a redevelopment plan which basically documents and affirms the state’s intention and commitment to work with the town and perspective developers even though they can’t vacate the place for another three years.”

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