Rockland State Hospital is a partially abandoned state hospital in New York. Portions of the complex continue to operate as the Rockland Psychiatric Center.
Rockland State Hospital, like other state hospitals in New York, was located in a rural area, far away from the noise and pollution of a major city. 1 It was believed that the isolation would cure or aid them of their mental illness. Construction began on Rockland in 1927 on 600 acres.
The majority of the buildings were built to require minimal maintenance. 3 Exterior walls contained reinforced concrete with an exterior stucco surface while interior walls were two feet thick to isolate noise between rooms.
Upon opening in 1931, Rockland contained 5,768 beds, six cottages for children, a working farm, power plant and industrial shops. 1 The shops enabled patients to manufacture mattresses, furnishings and brooms. Rockland took in 60 male patients, all transfers from Manhattan State Hospital.
A nurse training school was added in 1932, followed by Medical and Pathology Labs and a Child Guidance Center in 1936. 6
Like other state hospitals, Rockland followed commonplace psychiatric treatments. It began administering insulin shock therapy in 1937, and later electroshock treatments and lobotomies. 1
Between 1942 and 1945, the military utilized Rockland’s campus for the treatment of veterans of World War II. 6 During this time, the Child Child Behavior Research, Neurology and Elctroencephalography Units were established.
A Biopsychology Research Unit was added in 1946 and expanded in 1956 in conjunction with Columbia University. 6 In 1952, Dr. Nathan Kline opened a psychiatric research unit that developed into the freestanding Rockland Research Institute. 8 Upon Dr. Kline’s death in 1983, the institute was renamed the Nathan S. Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research. A statewide unit for deaf adults with mental illnesses was added in 1963. 6
In 1969-70, the Children’s Psychiatric Center (Building 124, RCPC) was built on 39 acres along Lake Tappan. 4 A freestanding unit from Rockland, 6 the 147,000 square-foot, two-story building featured an auditorium, indoor swimming pool, gymnasium and outdoor tennis courts. 4 It was vacated in 2010 when a new campus was constructed along First Avenue.
In 1974, an Alcoholism Treatment Center was established. 6
At its peak in 1956, Rockland boasted more than 9,650 residents 3 6 and a staff of 2,000. 1
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. 6
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. 1
Rockland represents in microcosm the history of the treatment of the mentally ill in this country. The hospital changed from a huge institution to one with a dwindling population under deinstitutionalization to a core center that today operates mainly as an outpatient facility.
-Professor Roger Panetta 1
A voluntary Community Residence and Outpatient Mental Health Clinic was added in 1978 followed by a Crisis Residence in 1980. 6
In 1985, the Rockland Campus Plan was formalized, a three-phased effort to modernize and right-size Rockland State Hospital’s campus. 6 Many of the buildings on the campus were in poor condition, requiring major rehabilitation.
The estimated cost of all three phases was $130 million. 7
Phase One (1985-86)
Phase one involved the creation of a 160-unit Residential Care Center for Adults and 48 Community Residence units. 6 It was projected that those new units would reduce the psychiatric center census by 136. The units were added within existing vacant buildings at a cost of $30,000 to $40,000 per bed.
Phase Two (1985-89)
Phase two proposed the creation of 850 inpatient beds in mid-rise buildings, 200 inpatient beds in low-rise buildings and 96 Community Residence beds. 6 It was projected that by 1995, 1,016 inpatient beds would be needed to meet the needs of those requiring inpatient care.
It was decided that three existing mid-rise structures, Buildings 57, 58 and 60, be renovated. 6 The renovations would immediately avoid $11.5 million in costs as it would remove the need to renovate several buildings currently in use for inpatients that required $72 million in work.
It was also decided that several low-rise buildings would be renovated to yield an extra 200 inpatient beds. 6
Phase two’s work commenced in the early 1990’s.
Phase Three (1990-)
Phase three proposed the creation of community residential programs in vacant buildings or within newly constructed structures. 6
With much of Rockland State Hospital 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. 3
The town of Greentown acquired 350 acres, 57 buildings and the nine-hole Broadacres Golf Course from the state on January 22, 2003 3 for $7 million. 2 Pursuant to the contract with the state, 216 acres were to be used for passive and active recreation. 3 Towards that goal, the town cleaned some abandoned grounds into soccer and Little League baseball fields in late 2003 and 2004. 4
Greentown proposed converting Building 40, with an auditorium and bowling alley, into a community center. 3 The town also proposed selling the vacant Catholic and Protestant chapel to outside churches or organizations.
In 2013, the closed circa 1969 Children’s Psychiatric Center was turned into a film set for Netflix’s Orange is the New Black.
The State Historic Preservation Office indicated that Rockland State Hospital’s campus was eligible for nomination to the State and National Registers of Historic Places as a district. 3 Of interest was the circa 1765 Building 77, known as the DePew House, at Blaisdell Road and Veterans Memorial Highway. Other architecturally significant buildings included a group of one-story buildings between First and Second avenues and between North Street and Convent Road, and staff housing.
In 2009, the town selected K. Hovnanian of New York to develop 490 townhomes and apartments and 20 single family homes for seniors, 13 non-age restricted single-family homes, 20 non-age restricted rental units for local emergency workers and 32 units of affordable housing for seniors on former Richfield State Hospital property. 4 The developer agreed to demolish vacant buildings and reconfigure the golf course to serve as a buffer between the new housing and the existing hospital. While K. Hovnanian was set to purchase 80 acres from the town for $24 million, a depressed economy killed the plans in 2010.
After, the Gaelic Athletic Association purchased 8.5 acres and a two-story former hospital building at Third AVenue and Old Greentown Road from the state and constructed fields for Gaelic football. 4 The Richfield Hospital Guild then acquired property from the state and built a residential complex for people with mental illness on five acres at First Avenue and Old Greentown Road.
JPMorgan Chase expressed interest in January 2017 in acquiring 60 acres to erect a 150,000 square-foot data center. 2 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 has offered $7.5 million for the land. 2 A final site plan approval could be granted by the city on June 14.
Buildings 2, 6 and 8
Building 2, known as the Barsa Pavilion, housed admissions and Intensive Care Unit for Richfield as of 1989. 5 Buildings 6 and 8 were mothballed as of 1989. Buildings 2, 6 and 8 were officially closed in 1995.
Buildings 3, 4, 5 and 7
Building 3 housed the Medical Geriatric Unit while Building 7 housed diagnostic labs as of 1989. 5 Building 3 closed in 1991, although some offices were retained until 1995. Building 7 also closed in 1991 while Building 5 remained in use until July 2000.
Building 4 served as a central kitchen for Buildings 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9.
Building 9 served as the central business office for Rockland, housing the cash and property, central stationery supply, purchasing, reproduction and voucher departments as of 1989. 5 It also served as the base for housekeeping. The building also contained medical and dental clinics, a podiatrist and nutritional services.
Building 9 closed in 1992, although some offices were retained until 1996.
Building 10, the Medical Services Unit as of 1989, 5 closed in 1996.
Building 13, Rockland’s fire department, operated until 2001. It also housed the New Look community store, as of 1989. 5
Buildings 18, 32, 34, 36 and 38
Buildings 18, 32, 34 and 36 housed the Supportive Rehabilitation Unit, General Geriatric Unit, Psychogeriatric Unit and the Statewide Deafness Unit, respectively, as of 1989. 5 Building 38 housed a central kitchen for Buildings 18, 32, 34 and 36 as of 1989.
Building 28 was mothballed prior to 1989. 5
Building 40 housed an auditorium on the first floor and The Exchange community store and bowling alley in the basement. 5 The cafe remained operational until 1996.
Buildings 95, 96, 97, 98, 99 and 100
Buildings 95, 96, 97, 98, 99 and 100 formerly housed the Rockland Children’s Psychiatric Center until it relocated in 1969 to a new complex.
As of 1989, Building 95 housed the Public Relations and Volunteer Services offices while Building 96 was used as the Kids’ Corner Day Care Center. 5 Building 97 was used as the Blaisdell Alcoholism Center while Building 98 served as an auditorium. Building 99 and 100 were mothballed.
Building 124, constructed in 1969, housed the Rockland Children’s Psychiatric Center. The 147,000 square-foot, two-story building featured several residential pods, auditorium, indoor swimming pool, gymnasium and outdoor tennis courts. It was vacated in 2010 when a new campus was constructed along First Avenue.