Letter to Gov. Cuomo: Wassaic DDSO Site Needs Action!

Dear Governor Cuomo,

I am writing to express my concerns regarding the long delay in finding proper re-use for the Taconic Developmental Disabilities Services Office campus in Amenia’s hamlet of Wassaic.

Over the past two years, I have met with constituents and town leaders who are eager to see the DDSO site brought back to life and once again transformed into a revenue source for the local economy. This institution, now closed, has been an anchor in the Wassaic community and a major employer in this region since as early as 1930. Since its closure in 2014, local residents and potential investors alike have been alarmed to see this magnificent resource, with breathtaking views of the Harlem Valley, deteriorate into a neglected site resulting in dilapidation, vandalism, and deterioration of historic architecture and loss of revenue.

Members of the community have already made major strides in improving the hamlet and many envision a redeveloped DDSO site as a major piece of this progression. However, they remain hesitant to move forward with plans because of the uncertain future of the site. In addition to this uncertainty, there is also a lack of maintenance at the campus. There are reports of an increased number of break-ins, property vandalism, including the theft of copper pipes, insufficient security, a lack of upkeep for the water mains — which could lead to a disastrous break, and no efforts to remediate the known asbestos contamination in the old architecture.

New York has already invested over $31 million in state funding to keep the infrastructure in working condition, including a sewer treatment plant on site which could be built out to service the surrounding community. It would be a significant loss to let that investment fall to the wayside. With the proper zoning already in place and with committed care for the facility — which has been lacking as of late — the remaining 348 acres on this campus could become a perfect spot for an enterprising entrepreneur to invest.

The owners of the non-state held portion of the site have been engaging in discussions with investors eager to transform the campus. Personally, I believe a film or post-production studio for the growing Hudson Valley film industry would be one fantastic use of the space. With its scenic views, proximity to the Wassaic Project, and easy access to the Harlem Line trains, the site is a natural asset for an arts centered smart growth community with plenty of room for housing, studio space, support businesses and farming.

There is great potential for this site, and the time to act is now. We, and the community, have waited for more than a year now for the Office for Persons with Developmental Disabilities to consider their options. There is real interest in moving forward and as the representative serving this region, I would be happy to work on exploring re-use to make this facility, once again, a stimulator for our local economy and for New York state.

This letter, sent to Gov. Cuomo on September 21, 2015, was also published in the Poughkeepsie Journal. 

About Diner Dialogues

Didi Barrett was elected to the New York State Assembly in a special election in March 2012 and re-elected to a full term in November 2012. Her district, the 106th AD, covers some of the most beautiful parts of Columbia and Dutchess Counties. She has deep roots in the Hudson Valley and came to elected office after a career as a community activist, writer and longtime leader of not-for-profit organizations. Didi is passionate about the agricultural, natural, cultural and historic resources of the Hudson Valley and their critical importance as economic engines and job generators. She is also a great fan of the iconic diners that dot the region. As a member of the Assembly she serves on the Committees on Aging; Agriculture; Economic Development, Job Creation, Commerce and Industry; Mental Health; Tourism, Parks, Arts and Sports Development and Veterans Affairs.
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