BY ROBERT KNIGHT
ROCKLAND COUNTY TIMES
Orangetown’s Town Board gave a unanimous tentative approval Tuesday for JPMorgan Chase Bank to begin construction of the firm’s new multi-million dollar data storage bank in Orangeburg.
Chase is in the process of purchasing 61 acres of the former Rockland Psychiatric Center campus in Orangeburg from the township, which in turn had purchased it from the state more than a decade ago. The town has been trying to re-peddle it to private investors ever since, and put it back on the tax rolls.
Several housing schemes, ranging from single-family homes to apartments to condominiums were proposed over the past decade, but none could pass muster with town officials, area residents or with the Pearl River School District, within whose territory the site lies. If approved, the housing schemes would have resulted in hundreds or thousands of new housing units, generating hundreds of new students for the already financially beleaguered district.
As approved on a unanimous vote Tuesday evening, the Town Board resolution paves the way to start the sale process by re-zoning the 61 acres, along with several others nearby acres as well, from the current R-80 zone to a newly created R PC-OP district.
R-80 is Orangetown’s “holding pattern” zone in which land is zoned for only one use: single-family housing on lots of two acres or more in size. On 61 acres, and allowing for roads, sidewalks and other easements, a maximum of about 55-60 homes could probably be built. Because of the expense of buying the land, demolishing 41 contaminated buildings already on the site along with remediating the heavily contaminated site and constructing the large new homes, no one has even submitted a bid on the land since the town gave it the “holding pattern” designation.
Under the OP zoning, which stands for “office-park” use, the site can only be used for that purpose. The zone was specifically created by Orangetown to accommodate data centers, of which three have already been constructed in the township within the past five years: Verizon, Bloomburg LLP and 1547, all also coincidentally on the former RPC property about a half-mile south of the proposed Chase site.
According to Chase’s attorney, Brian Quinn, Chase wants to purchase the 61 acres directly from Orangetown, at a price yet to be negotiated.
Chase would then spend about $40 million to demolish the 40 existing buildings on the site and the remediate the contaminated soil, removing it for disposal at designated waste depositories around the country.
Chase would then spend several hundred million constructing its new major data center for the eastern U.S., initially 200,000 square feet in size but planned for doubling within the following year or two. Construction is planned to start this fall, with completion a year later.
Quinn said although the building itself will be “huge,” it will only house about 30 workers on the average shift, with highly trained specialty employees working three shifts a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
That will bring about 100 high paying jobs to Orangetown, Quinn said, along with huge tax ratables Chase will pay to Orangetown, Rockland County and the Pearl River School District, with no requirement for any additional services.
Quinn said Chase would landscape the entire site to Orangetown’s requirements, surround it with low-level lighting and high quality security fencing and gating, since the facility is off limits to all non-employees and visitors.
Several generators will be built into the structure but will only become operational if the main power from O & R shuts off for any reason. Quinn said a constant source of power is an “absolute” requirement for a data center, and is already employed at the three existing plants in the area.
Quinn also told the Town Board’s public hearing that he, Chase and others affiliated with the project are still exploring the issue of whether four large murals from the 1930’s, located in one of the 40 structures to be demolished, can be saved. The murals were painted on the interior walls of the original Rockland Children’s Psychiatric Center about 1933 by an artist hired by theFederal Works Progress Administration or WPA, the federal government’s anti-poverty and depression program at the time. The murals are severely deteriorated, Quinn noted, and it is considered “doubtful” they can be salvaged, although photographing them extensively may be an alternative, he added.
Quinn is working with local historians on that aspect of the project.
Several area residents spoke both this Tuesday and last Tuesday about the project, all giving it their strong support. There have been no objections from any source so far, and all five Town Board members, including three Republicans and two Democrats, appear to also strongly support the effort.
In other business Tuesday, Town Supervisor Andrew Stewart announced the following items would be on upcoming Town Board meeting agendas.
- March 28, Al Samuels of the Rockland Business Association will present that group’s recently published white paper on “A Crushing Burden: Why is Rockland so Heavily Taxed?” at an 8 p.m. workshop meeting.
- April 4, the Orangetown Police Department Youth Court will hold its annual graduation ceremony at 6:30 p.m. in the Town Hall courtroom, prior to a Town Board meeting.
- April 4, 8 p.m. the Town Board will hold a business meeting at 8 p.m. starting with a public hearing on a proposed ordinance that if approved, would require the owners of all LLC’s to identify the personal owners of all properties in town, instead of being able to hide behind “limited liability companies.” It is part of the town’s ongoing effort to halt “blockbusting” in Orangetown
- March 23, tonight’s (Thursday) Justice Court appearance for ALUF Plastics Corp. In Orangeburg has been postponed to Thursday, May 18 “due to the filing of Performance Standard Review papers by the firm, which is expected to be heard by the town Zoning Board of Appeals on May 3.