2012-08-22 / Front Page

Perspective: Our Hospital’s History, Future

Mayor on Butterfield
SETH GALLAGHER


Editor’s Note: This is a special Perspectives opinion piece. We are placing it here because of the critical nature of the project to Cold Spring’s future.

I would like to address some of the questions posed to me and correct the misrepresentation of my comment in Carol Lahey Hopper’s letter of 8/15/12. Likewise, I want to bring her and other readers up to date on discussions they may have missed at previous public meetings.

I would also like to note the danger in considering only one component of a project (the historical nature of part or the whole of the existing building) without considering the dramatic effects that changes to it can have on the other important connected components. As an elected official it is my responsibility not only to consider the effects of the demolition or non-demolition of part or the whole hospital building, but also to consider the effects that chosen action will have on: 1) the preservation of the attached Lahey Pavilion; 2) the establishment of a new, upgraded, and sorely needed Senior center; and 3) preserving the existence of a Post Office, a critical public service, here in the Village. It is important to keep in mind that considering only one aspect of the whole project means ignoring the resulting repercussions that can have very negative effects on the Village and its residents.

Concerning remarks I made to Mr. Zgolinski that he was “pushing the definition of historic,” I stand by that, since what he was referring to was saving only the 1963 addition to the hospital, as opposed to saving the original part of the building and the 1940s wing. The ‘60s addition to the building has no direct connection to Julia Butterfield and has what I believe is limited to no architectural value. The 1963 addition severely altered the original façade through its construction, completely hiding the front of the original hospital building. It actually prevents appreciation of what was once a very attractive and historic structure. Mr. Zgolinski also stated that preservation of the ‘63 addition be considered even if that preservation meant demolition of the Carolyn Lahey Pavilion. It was in this context that I vociferously defended the preservation of a building providing actual medical services (the Lahey Pavilion), but not considered “historic” by Mr. Zgolinski, over the preservation of a building almost certain never to have any medical use in the future.

While the historic importance and need to preserve the pre-1960s parts of the hospital can and will be debated, I have yet to hear a persuasive argument as to why the 1963 addition is more historic than other 1960s structures in the Village historic district, and that if deemed to be so, how it reaches a level of importance that would require preservation.

Regarding the decision to preserve part or all of the hospital building, we should consider those repercussions that would result from that decision. Preserving the building has been raised several times and was reviewed by the Village’s planning consultant and discussed with the public at the April Butterfield community design workshop (attended by over 80 participants). The planner had considered what preserving the hospital building would mean to the development of the rest of the property. His conclusion, presented to the public, was that to preserve the hospital building would also require the demolition of the Lahey pavilion in order accommodate for all changes (including creating sufficient parking, the preservation of the lawn, etc.) that would be needed in order to redevelop the property. At that workshop only a small minority expressed preference that the hospital building be preserved. Whatever happens, any permit to demolish the hospital building will require Historic District Review Board approval and will include an opportunity for public comment.

To me, preserving the only medical services building in Cold Spring is of paramount importance, and one that I could not even think about sacrificing. I also believe that to have some medical use on the Butterfield site preserves a part of the legacy that Julia Butterfield intended through her original gift of the property and hospital, as well as to the memory of Carolyn Lahey, a woman who likewise dedicated her life to providing medical services for the local community. To me, the spirit of community service lives on more in the Butterfield property’s Lahey pavilion, than it does in salvaging the decaying, former medical facility for some currently unknown non-medical purpose. his brings me to my last observation. What sacrifice are we willing to accept in order to preserve all or part of the currently derelict building? Since the property is private, the owner has the right to develop it in several different ways, or not at all. It would be very difficult to force the owner to rehabilitate the hospital building. If the owner was required to salvage the old hospital structure the current plans for redevelopment would be dramatically altered. It would also delay the redevelopment for years. Fallout for the Village would undoubtedly include 1) the loss of our best opportunity at working with the County to upgrade our senior support and meal facilities; 2) the loss of an increased County presence in western Putnam, which would have brought a greater return of tax dollars that currently flow mostly from Philipstown and Cold Spring to Carmel; and 3) the loss of our Post Office in Cold Spring. With no other viable locations in the Village, Butterfield is currently the only option left on the table. If the property owner decides the Butterfield project does not satisfy his needs, we lose our Post Office forever along with the new senior center and municipal building.

There are many moving parts to a redevelopment project such as this.

And yes, the Village does have influence on what that project will ultimately turn out to be. But what we do not have is the unilateral power to design all components of the project, and certainly not to do so at the same time we are requesting that the owner voluntarily accommodate the very specific and urgent needs of the Village.

— Seth Gallagher, Mayor
Village of Cold Spring

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