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Morris Plains ‘Strongly Opposes’ Greystone Development, Mayor Says

Dueling resolutions between Morris Plains and Parsippany come down on opposite sides of the state senators' Greystone bill.

Long-time Morris Plains Mayor Frank Druetzler didn’t mince words during Tuesday’s reorganization meeting when approaching the disposition of Greystone, and his borough's position is the polar opposite of the governing body in neighboring Parisppany. 

“We felt that the 180 acres of surplus property, much of which contains deteriorating buildings,  should go to the county for open space,” Druetzler said. “Now we hear rumblings from developers. We strongly oppose development and support open space.”

Druetzler said the borough supports the bill introduced by Senators Joseph Pennacchio and Anthony Bucco, which would limit the sale of remaining state-owned portions of the Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital property and require the land be maintained as open space.”

Right over the border the fate of what remains of Greystone is something Parsippany wants a say in, and they are doing what they can to pressure state lawmakers into backing off.

 “We have already made great progress turning the Greystone property into open space for future and current generations to enjoy,” Pennacchio said.

The senators’ bill states that remaining Greystone property owned by the state and declared as surplus can only be sold to Morris County. Morris County is limited to using the property for the following purposes: recreation, conservation, historic preservation, farmland preservation and associated public services.

That did not sit well with the Parsippany governing body.

Last month, the Parsippany Council passed unanimously 5-0 a resolution that goes against the senators’ bill.

“Our resolution rebukes the bill introduced by senators Bucco and Pennacchio by urging them to withdraw their bill,” Councilman Jonathan Nelson said. “Our resolution urges the state to also designate the (Kirbride) building as historic, which would protect it from being demolished.”

Not to be outdone, Morris Plains passed its own resolution on Dec. 30 in support of the senators bill.

Recently, non-profits have approached the Parsippany-Troy Hills council pushing for the township to save Greystone, particularly the historic Kirkbride building.

The all-volunteer group Preserve Greystone said that the senators’ statement “makes no mention of the massive historic structures on the site, including the 1876 Kirkbride Building,” which the group is actively looking to preserve along with other nonprofits.

Pennachio told the Daily Record he has been studying Greystone for years and there have been no plans that don’t involve residential or commercial development. Pennachio went as far as to call the new proposals “frightening” and said the impact on surrounding towns like Morris Plains hasn’t been considered.

“We already have a lot of traffic and not just us, but Parsippany, Morristown, Morris Township,” Morris Plains Mayor Frank Druetzler said. “Morris Plains has and continues to support the Pennachio-Bucco bill. The county has been an excellent steward for the land.”

Greystone has been a hot bed of controversy since a decision to demolish the remaining buildings came with a $50 million price tag. The decision came after Gov. Chris Christie announced plans in late 2011 to remediate and convert Greystone Park in Parsippany—about 165 acres. The park includes a sewage treatment plant, wetlands and the original psychiatric hospital, which closed in 2008.

Up until this point, the state's plan was to demolish the rest of the buildings, despite having received six formal expressions of interest from private groups, which are looking to redevelop the decaying Kirkbride Building

Several nonprofit organizations also expressed interest in the site, and last month a few approached the Parsippany township council to plead their case. 

Pennachio attended the Morris Plains reorganization meeting and was acknowledged by Druetzler.

“Senator Joe has been in the forefront of saving Greystone and I can’t thank him enough,” Druetzler said. 

Walter O. January 10, 2014 at 10:21 AM
No development, tear down the building's and leave this as open space. Parsippany council is up to no good!
Dan January 10, 2014 at 03:40 PM
If this place is left vacant too long termites will ruin it! That's what happened to a classic car I had let sit in my barn for years.....I guess we live and learn.
NHM January 11, 2014 at 12:43 PM
You can protect history and have open space BUT I am not talking about developers. Greystone is a part of American history which must be restored and protected. Have you no pride in your past? Too much has already been lost. How do you treat you own elders?
Walter O. January 11, 2014 at 01:49 PM
NHM, you bring up a good point. But as one who has worked with the mentally ill for years, I don't know if you would want to preserve the memories from Greystone. Its a good thing it shut down and a new hospital was erected. BTW…I think there is a difference between how you treat people and buildings. Maybe you have a point, but I don't see how preserving Greystone would benefit us all.
NHM January 11, 2014 at 10:48 PM
Walter O., think history - when Greystone was built it was state of the art. The architecture alone more than deserves to be saved for future generations to study and appreciate. People deserve the very best modern health care. If we don't study our history, and allow it to be buried, how will we learn from our past mistakes?
Teeluvsaruba January 13, 2014 at 10:25 AM
I agree with you NHM. The architecture of the building is beautiful and should be restored. Also we can learn from the stories that were told when it was a psych hospital. Believe me there are a few open now that could use a few lessons from what happened there.
Walter O. January 13, 2014 at 10:41 AM
To everyone looking to restore Greystone…are you also ready to open your pocket books and pay the hefty price to restore its glory!?!?

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