The demolition of the Rockland State Hospital in New York has commenced, paving the way for a new J.P. Morgan Chase data center. Rockland, like other state hospitals, was situated in a rural area, far from the hustle and bustle of city life. The isolation was thought to aid in the treatment of mental illness. When it opened in 1931, the facility had 5,768 beds, six children’s cottages, a working farm, a power plant, and industrial shops.
In 1956, Rockland peaked with over 9,650 residents and a staff of 2,000. However, the process of deinstitutionalization, which aimed to replace long-term psychiatric hospitals with community mental health services, began in the 1960s. This movement was driven by a desire for community-based services, open hospitals, the development of psychotropic drugs, and financial considerations.
As a result, Rockland’s population gradually decreased through the release of stabilized patients, shorter inpatient stays, and reduced admission and readmission rates. Programs were introduced to reduce dependency, hopelessness, and other maladaptive behaviors. By the 1970s, Rockland had fewer than 600 patients, mostly those with severe mental illnesses that could not be treated through outpatient programs.
In 1985, the Rockland Campus Plan was formalized, a three-phase effort to modernize and right-size the campus. Many of the buildings were in poor condition and required major rehabilitation. By the late 1990s, with much of Rockland underutilized or closed, the state sought to sell off 350 acres, retaining only the adult inpatient facilities, the Kline Institute, and the Children’s Psychiatric Center.
In January 2017, JPMorgan Chase expressed interest in acquiring 60 acres to build a 150,000-square-foot data center. In the proposed deal with the city, the bank would be responsible for cleaning up and demolishing around 40 abandoned buildings, while the city would initiate the necessary environmental review processes. JPMorgan Chase offered $7.5 million for the land, and on June 14, the city granted final site plan approval. Demolition of the majority of Rockland State Hospital began that winter.