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* This article first appeared in The Times Herald-Record on October 26, 2001. Used by permission.



October 26, 2001

Plan to sell buildings sweetens Middletown land deal

By Jay Stapleton
The Times Herald-Record

Middletown Officials announced yesterday that in a sweetheart deal the city has purchased 175 acres and 25 buildings on the grounds of the former Middletown State Hospital for $600,000.
Even better than the purchase price for a parcel appraised at more than $1.5 million was the announcement that a tenant, Cornell Cooperative Extension, will buy the two buildings it uses.
The price? "Almost the entire amount" that the city paid for the 175 acres, Mayor Joseph DeStefano said.
"It's a good deal for Cornell Cooperative," said DeStefano. "It's a great deal for the city."
With the deal, which closed Wednesday at the Empire State Development Corp. in Manhattan, the city became the owner of the buildings, some of which are empty, and acres of woods and rolling lawns between Monhagen Avenue and County Route 78.
The city also became the landlord of Emergency Housing, Cornell Cooperative Extension and several other tenants that pay $400,000 in rent a year.
The city will pay close to $100,000 per year to maintain its portion of the Middletown Community Campus.
The Middletown Psychiatric Center and state alcohol treatment center continue to be owned by the state, along with about 50 acres.
With economic development in mind, the city plans on selling off parcels for commercial and office space. "It has potential," DeStefano said. "This is an opportunity to compete with corporate park development."
The city is meeting with representatives of the Orange County Partnership to discuss marketing the property. "We're looking to bring jobs to Orange County," the mayor said.
Sen. William Larkin, R-C Cornwall, was credited with making the purchase possible by city officials.
First opened as an asylum in 1874, the psychiatric hospital grew to hold 3,638 residents in 1958 before downsizing gradually shrunk the number to 149 residents by last year. Gov. George Pataki has proposed closing the facility on the remaining property by 2004 to save money a proposal that is being fought by local union groups and politicians.
Considering the role the former state hospital played in the history and growth of the city, county Legislator Jeff Berkman called the purchase a "significant event and achievement."
"It's a beautiful, pristine piece of property," said DeStefano. "We didn't think this day would ever come."


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