2013-01-02 / Front Page

Association Still Seeks National Park

Constitution Island
Tim Greco & Douglas Cunningham

The Warner House on Constitution Island.  File photo.The Warner House on Constitution Island. File photo.

The Constitution Island Association still hopes to turn the island and the Warner house into a national park, despite West Point’s insistence that it will maintain ownership for security and safety reasons.

Betsy Pugh, chair of the Constitution Island Association, said in a brief interview at the PCN&R that if Sen. Charles Schumer moves forward with the park plan, “We would support it.” She said it’s unclear whether Schumer will indeed move ahead: “We don’t know that.”

Her comments are the first public comment from the Association since the PCN&R disclosed that West Point has no intention of giving up the island, which is immediately across from the military academy at one of the narrowest points of the Hudson. In addition to the genuine security and historical concerns, West Point notes that the island contains unexploded munitions that would cost many millions of dollars to clean up.


Roddy MacLeod, resident manager at Constitution Island, opposes the park plan and says Association leadership is responsible for the breakdown in communications between West Point and the group. Roddy MacLeod, resident manager at Constitution Island, opposes the park plan and says Association leadership is responsible for the breakdown in communications between West Point and the group. Pugh elaborated further on her views in a letter to the editor (see page 6). She also said it was unlikely that any restoration of the famed Warner house will occur in the near term.

“I doubt it,” she said. “It’s very expensive. I don’t know, I really don’t know.”

The prospect of restoring the Warner house—and its anticipated cost—is shaping up as another one of the dividing lines between the Association, charged with maintaining the Warner house’s contents, and West Point. Academy officials believe the house could be restored for $1 million or so. In documents obtained by the PCN&R, an engineering firm estimated in 2009 a total construction cost for restoring the house of $3.8 million. The figure included archeology, contingency and management fees, as well as construction, fire protection, plumbing and mechanical items. The disparity in numbers has likely only grown, with the Association backing more elaborate projects.

Schumer gave the park plan strong backing in 2012. But the PCN&R has since learned that Schumer, once he discovered West Point’s serious objection, is no longer interested in moving ahead.

In her discussion at the PCN&R, Pugh said having the island under Department of Interior control, instead of military control, made eminent sense. “There are Department of Interior capabilities they just don’t have with historical preservation. That’s not their job,” she said of the military.

While West Point owns the island, the Warner house contents are in the hands of the Association and locked away in storage. Pugh’s comments would seem to make it more likely that little progress is to be made soon in either bringing the Warner house contents back into public view or restoring the house, considering that the Association has been unable to work with West Point thus far and now is actively seeking to have the island transferred out of West Point’s hands.

The links between the island and the Point go back even before the Warner family, to the Revolutionary War and the great chain between the sites that protected the Hudson.

Additional comment from West Point officials was not immediately available on Monday.

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