Demolition of Butterfield Hospital Approved

Historic District Review Board votes 4-1 

By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong

Before their vote, HDRB members finalize their resolution on demolition of the old hospital; left to right: Kathleen Foley, Peter Downey, Al Zgolinski, Carolyn Bachan, Marie Early. Photo by L.S. Armstrong
Before their vote, HDRB members finalize their resolution on demolition of the old hospital; left to right: Kathleen Foley, Peter Downey, Al Zgolinski, Carolyn Bachan, Marie Early. Photo by L.S. Armstrong

The Cold Spring Historic District Review Board voted 4 to 1 on Wednesday night (Dec. 19) to allow demolition of the former Butterfield Hospital building. As conditions for its approval, it demanded a professional architectural and historical photographic survey of the structure before demolition and retention and re-use of an interior memorial arch from the hospital.

In a resolution it continued to cobble together as it deliberated, the board based its decision on a lack of sufficient historic architectural merit to warrant saving the hospital — a conglomeration of 1925, 1941 and 1963 pieces, with the latter obliterating much of the original ’20s construction. Because HDRB members often had seemed opposed to demolition of the building, describing its links to significant figures from the past and architectural relevance, the vote came as a bit of a surprise.

Paul Guillaro of Butterfield Realty LLC, the property’s owner, publicly thanked the board after the vote, commending its hard work.

The action capped several months of uncertainty about Guillaro’s request to remove the hospital, a key element of his plans to create a complex with three single-family homes, multi-government municipal building and senior-community center, post office, condominiums for retirement-age buyers, and commercial “square” along Route 9D.

The Butterfield parcel lies within the village’s historic district, over which the HDRB exercises jurisdiction. The property’s fate has been discussed at numerous, often tense forums, including a Dec. 18 meeting of the Cold Spring Village Board, where some residents objected to various aspects of Guillaro’s plans or to village decision-making associated with the project.

HDRB board members Marie Early, Carolyn Bachan, Peter Downey, and Kathleen Foley constituted the HDRB majority supporting demolition; Chairman Al Zgolinski cast the sole “no” vote.

The board termed demolition “appropriate to the purposes for which the historic district was created. The condition of the structure and the history of changes during radical expansions eliminated the more significant architectural features of the building. There is, accordingly, little left of the structure worthy of preservation.” Furthermore, the board declared, “the condition of the building is largely beyond effective salvage” and its “removal does not do damage to the [historic] or nearby parcels.”

Zgolinski said he voted against demolition because, given the mandate of Cold Spring’s historic preservation law to protect the district’s historic resources, “to me it is unambiguous that history matters in our historic district. I find the building is associated with personages who had a significant impact on the history of Cold Spring” and that portions were designed by notable architects. “Most importantly, I find that the Butterfield Hospital, when it was operational, was a significant civic institution in the village.”

He also maintained “that the onus of proving that the building is not historic is on the applicant.” In this case, which he called “the most arduous” of his tenure on the HDRB, “the applicant has not demonstrated that demolition is justified,” he concluded.

10 Responses to "Demolition of Butterfield Hospital Approved"

  1. Kathleen E. Foley   December 20, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    Liz, I would hardly say that we “cobbled together” the resolution. What you saw was careful deliberation of every aspect of the resolution to ensure that it properly documented our process and findings, and was legally sound. Cobbling implies thoughtlessness and stumbling. You know that wasn’t the case.

  2. Stephanie Hawkins   December 20, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    For those who attended last night, the decision rendered by the HDRB and the formal statements made by three of its members were far more complex and nuanced than what is represented here.

    That its decision may surprise people highlights the fact that the application before the HDRB was not a simple choice between razing an ugly building or preserving historic fabric. In a carefully worded decision, the HDRB outlined extensive findings of fact and findings of law to support its approval, including the determination that the Butterfield hospital ‘possesses features and history that contribute to advancing the purpose of the District to preserve and protect the Village’s “historic aesthetic, architectural and cultural heritage” as expressed in Section 64-1(B)(2) of the Code.’

    To their credit, and pursuant to their mandate, the members of the HDRB conducted a thorough and deliberative review of Paul Guillaro’s application. I respect their service to the Village and I’m thankful for their willingness to proceed with such integrity.

  3. Tom Rolston   December 20, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    Thank God one group in this town has some reasoning. I am very happy for all of us.

  4. Donna Anderson   December 20, 2012 at 9:10 pm

    I was there last night at the HDRB meeting and left with admiration of this review board. No stone was unturned. They were very careful with their review line by line as to show this. It was at times frustrating sitting there for 1 1/2 hrs hearing this go on but it had to be done and after the vote the individual members reasoning for voting the way they did. I have been there representing the seniors who need a meeting place where it is safe and handicapped accessible and Paul Guillaro will have this for us in the buildings he is going to provide. We have a long way to go before this is a reality but every step is worth it to me. I have been trying to get a Senior Center for our Philipstown Seniors for 10 years and finally we just might see a light at the end of the tunnel. I would like the again thank the HDRB for their very trying job.

  5. mm
    Stephanie Hawkins   January 2, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    The critical question surrounding the Butterfield Hospital property is whether or not Putnam County is going to pay for facilities there. County Legislators Mary Conklin and Sam Oliverio have presented factual answers to that question, but our Village Board, with the exception of Trustee Matt Francisco, appears not to care.

    They should care, especially when the answer amounts to “No, Putnam County has no real plan in place to fund facilities.”

    While this answer may disappoint Mayor Gallagher and our Cold Spring senior citizens, it’s a real answer, based in fact. Wishful thinking isn’t going to get us a senior center. Real dollar commitments from Putnam County will. And despite a lot of talk from other legislators and the County Executive, those real dollars have not been committed. Of the five Village Board members, only Trustee Francisco followed up Conklin’s letter to the Village Board to confirm these facts.

    Meanwhile, we have a mayor and several Village Board members moving ahead, not based on facts, but on fantasy. Our citizenry deserves better.

  6. Charles E. Hustis III   January 2, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    I agree with Stephanie on the financials question with regards to Putnam County commitment at Butterfield. These questions are important for a complete and thorough understanding on where this project goes. January 29th holds the public hearing on a different zoning approach for the Butterfield project and I encourage all those involved to attend and be heard. Please give the Village Board your feelings on the zoning change and whether to rezone the property or not, based on the proposed zoning code change.

    Butterfield, in my opinion, gives us as a community something to digest in regards to how we move forward as a village. This project is a test case and one must complete a thorough analysis and that is the only way that one can arrive at a complete conclusion. The healing process must begin in this village in order for all to live in peace and harmony in Cold Spring. The divisions need to cease and more bonds need to be formed in order to improve the quality of life.

    2012 was a year that saw ups and downs for people, based on individual situations. Let us pray for the condition of the human race and pray especially for an end to violence, murder, rape, and all other afflictions of mind, body, and soul.

    Before I conclude, I would like to wish the entire Village of Cold Spring residents a healthy and happy New Year.

  7. Michael Armstrong   January 2, 2013 at 6:52 pm

    Stephanie Hawkins suggests that the County, Town and Village’s commitment to moving offices to a Butterfield Municipal Facility were not “real,” represent instead, “wishful thinking,” and “a lot of talk.” I think this mistakes the process – that of developing a general plan and vision for Butterfield with and for the public – for something it is not, final negotiations on a contract, on a deal. What is happening is an extended public dialogue that involves a private developer and several levels of government, with ideas proposed for public evaluation, revised and tested step by step. At each stage, the question is asked, does it make sense to invest in additional development of this concept, or not? Commitments by all parties have been necessarily hedged, as they always are in the early and middle stages of any negotiation. But that doesn’t mean they are meaningless. It doesn’t mean they are deceptive.

    This is about vision, not fantasy. It is important that the people in this community be engaged in the process, ask challenging questions, and express their views of the proposals and ideas as they are presented. We should all try to help shape the vision, hold leadership accountable – and bring good things to this community.

  8. Michael Robinson   January 3, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    Mike, I agree with you that a party has to hedge their positions in the beginning stages of such a development and that what is happening is not a final negotiation. But don’t you need to read the tea leaves a little? When the Town says they have had no discussion of moving to Butterfield, no one at the county except for O’Dell has championed it at what point do you stop using them as arguments for your project? And do you categorize the dogging of the HDRB with legal and personal threats the “revising and testing, step by step “of the process? The Mayor and the other paper have been insinuating that everyone is on-board for this ride except for those pesky boards and that pesky public, but in fact we’re finding out that there’s much less interest than has been propagandized. You used the word “hedge.” Well, when you hedge a bet, at least you’ve put some money down on one side before putting more money down on the other. Sort of seems like they’ve put no money down at all. We need to have people like Stephanie screaming that the emperor has no clothes.

  9. John Plummer   January 3, 2013 at 7:50 pm

    The bottom line is that this Butterfield development is absolutely being sold — by Mayor Gallagher, Executive Odell, Legislator Tamagna and incoming Legislator Scuccimarra (among others) — as a place to house multiple municipal facilities for both Putnam County and the Town of Philipstown, but no one is committing any money.

    Of course they’re not: this is a terrible economy, and strapped governments are in absolutely no position to expand their services or rent rooms in fancy new Municipal McMansions. Philipstown Board Member Merandy made this clear when he spoke at Cold Spring Village Hall, but his words went unreported in The Paper/philipstown.info. Legislator Conklin also made it clear in a letter read at Village Hall, which also went unreported in The Paper/philipstown.info. Why are these important voices not worthy of reporting here?

    Putnam County built a new courthouse facility in 2008, to the tune of $18 million, the same year they proposed a 40% tax hike in order to make up shortfalls. Are we to seriously believe the County is suddenly flush AND looking to build/rent/outfit new facilities? The economy hasn’t improved. And not a single dollar has been dedicated by County, Town or Village to even study the idea. So when Gallagher, Odell, Tamagna and Scuccimarra talk AS IF they are committed, it’s certainly not meaningless, but it sure isn’t lining up with what other public officials are saying, or what the governments are doing. As the saying goes, “talk is cheap.”

    Meanwhile, there are a handful of vocal, active citizens engaged in the process, asking good questions. The essential question, as Stephanie Hawkins asks in her comment above, is whether or not Putnam County is going to put up money for facilities. And the only way Odell, Tamagna, or Barbara Scuccimarra can answer that question honestly is through action in their budget. Until our village gets a real answer, we shouldn’t rush to allow development. Because if buildings are built and the County doesn’t come in, what does?

  10. Stephanie Hawkins   January 4, 2013 at 12:48 am

    While reflecting on the commitments to moving municipal offices to Butterfield it’s important to keep the facts straight: 
     
    In his October perspective Mayor Gallagher disclaimed the Village’s commitment saying:  “Will the Village end up taking space at Butterfield …? We don’t yet know….”
     
    Unreported in dot-info but certainly noteworthy: At the November Public Hearing for Butterfield rezoning County Executive Odell would not confirm for the Village Board that any commitment had been made by the County Legislature to fund offices at Butterfield.
     
    At the December 18th Village Board Meeting Town Councilman Merandy reminded the Village Board that the Town is not committed: “There’s no commitment from the town [government] for this project or a commitment that we are ‘in’ regardless of what the financial amounts are. We don’t know what the costs are going to be.”

    Unreported in dot-info, but certainly noteworthy: At the December 18th Village Board Meeting a letter from Chairwoman, Legislator Conklin was read aloud, clarifying for the Village Board that the County is not committed: the “Legislature had no prior knowledge of any recent proposals from the County Executive and has not received any requests to discuss any new proposals through the Legislative Committee process…….Therefore the County Executive’s opinion regarding the Butterfield Hospital Proejct should not be interpreted as having the support of the Putnam County Legislature at this time”
     
    Certainly these are meaningful statements and they should be kept in mind when people speak of Village, Town and County commitments to moving offices to Butterfield.