Demolition of Rockland State Hospital in New York has begun for a J.P. Morgan Chase data center.

Like other state hospitals in the state, Rockland was located in a rural area, far away from the noise and pollution of a major city. It was believed that the isolation would cure or aid them of their mental illness. Upon opening in 1931, the facility contained 5,768 beds, six cottages for children, a working farm, power plant and industrial shops.

At its peak in 1956, Rockland boasted more than 9,650 residents and a staff of 2,000.

Deinstitutionalization, the process of replacing long-term psychiatric hospitals with community mental health services, began in the 1960’s. The movement towards deinstitutionalization was born out of a socio-political movement for community-based services and open hospitals and the advent of psychotropic drugs and financial rationales.

Rockland’s resident population was gradually reduced by releasing stabilized patients, shortening inpatient stays and reducing admission and readmission rates. Programs were implemented to reduce reinforcement of dependency, hopelessness and other maladaptive behaviors.

By the 1970’s, Rockland had fewer than 600 patients, most of whom had serious mental illnesses that were not able to be treated with outpatient-based programs.

In 1985, the Rockland Campus Plan was formalized, a three-phased effort to modernize and right-size Rockland State Hospital’s campus. Many of the buildings on the campus were in poor condition, requiring major rehabilitation. By the late 1990’s, with much of Rockland underutilized or closed, the state looked to sell off 350 acres, keeping only the adult inpatient facilities, the Kline Institute and the Children’s Psychiatric Center.

JPMorgan Chase expressed interest in January 2017 in acquiring 60 acres to erect a 150,000 square-foot data center. In the proposed deal with the city, the bank would be responsible for the cleanup and demolition of around 40 abandoned buildings. The city would launch the necessary environmental review processes in return.

JPMorgan Chase offered $7.5 million for the land. A final site plan approval was granted by the city on June 14 and demolition of the majority of Rockland State Hospital began in the winter.