At an open Veterans forum hosted by American Legion Post 506 in Ossining, NY, Assemblyman Greg Ball (R, C, I – Patterson) today presented an historic bi-partisan resolution that aims to maintain the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Campus of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Hudson Valley Healthcare System at Montrose.
“We need Montrose for vets, not condos,” Ball said. “Many of our young men and women are returning from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan with symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder, some with multiple amputations, and many others with pressing medical needs. We have a petition at SaveMontrose.com with 1,000 signatures in just a few short weeks, and I am aware that the American Legion and the VFW are distributing petitions as well. We need to take quick legislative action in Albany that will draw attention to this issue, and not only keep Montrose open and for vets, but enact the expansion of services on that campus.”
At the forum, Ball asked for feedback on his resolution to limit the use of the Montrose property only to Veterans. The resolution has received co-sponsorship from Assemblymembers Daniel J. Burling, Michael G. DenDekker, Sandy Galef, David G. McDonough, Michelle Schimel, and Lou Tobacco, as well as Senator Vincent Leibell.
“It is critical that the Montrose facility remain dedicated to the needs of our veterans as it was originally established to do,” said Westchester Legislator John G. Testa. “As County Legislator, I will continue to work to that end and to prevent the decline of services to those who have sacrificed so much for our country.”
Montrose’s VA facilities are currently scheduled for re-use and development, with many services shifted north to the Castle Point VA facility or west to Nyack.
Former Assemblyman Ron Tocci, who served as the Chairman on the Assembly Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and New York State Commissioner for Veterans’ Affairs, disclosed current plans to keep the front 20 acres for veteran services, including the nursing home. For the remaining 164 acres, the VA has requested proposals for re-use from groups across the country.
“For ten years, we have tried to deal with the VA, waiting for them to do something. It’s high time we forget about the VA doing anything for us. Let’s do it for ourselves,” Tocci said. “A group called the Montrose Elders, headed by Colonel John Dodson, put together a proposal that provides services exclusively for veterans, both a retirement community for veterans and spouses, as well as all the medical services that the VA has decided to phase out.”
Linda Puglisi, Town Supervisor for Cortlandt, pointed out that the Enhanced Use Lease for Montrose indicates only 12 acres will be maintained for Veteran use.
“This is what we’ve been fighting against for all these many years,” Puglisi said. “We haven’t been there promoting 400 housing units. We’ve been there defending the medical services that the Veterans need from the past, the present, and the future. These 12 acres cannot be what’s left of the 172 acres for Veterans. It’s outrageous.”
William Nazerio, Commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Chapter 21, spoke about his meetings in Washington to use Montrose for a post-traumatic stress study for women in combat.
“It’s nice to be up on the hill, but how about taking care of your house first?” Nazerio asked. “I’ve gone to Washington and I’ve met with Congressional people regarding a PTSD unit for women veterans, and nothing. As a matter of fact, is anyone here from Congressman Hall’s office? I went to 15 Congressman in Washington from New York State and I presented them with a package of what the veterans need, and they were all in total agreement to speak to Congressman Hall, form a coalition, and try to save Montrose. But he closed the door on it. Why do they have to send it out to Long Island when we have a facility here?”
“They systematically cannibalized Montrose over the years, from the 70s, to make it a prime candidate for an enhanced-use lease program,” Nazerio added.
Daniel A. Morea, Deputy Director of Yonkers’ Veterans Service Agency, pointed out that New York has the 4th largest veteran population but does not receive equitable federal funding.
Do we get money that reflects that fourth largest veteran population?” Morea asked. “Would we be talking about closing Montrose if we did? We have more seniors in this state than almost any other state who are veterans. And we can’t give them housing. What is wrong with this country when we can’t take care of our veterans’ needs? If I died tomorrow, what happens to my spouse? Those are the issues.”
Though the veterans at the forum disagreed about the best use of Montrose, they all agreed that Ball’s resolution to maintain Montrose only for Veteran use is necessary.
“This state resolution is historic and the first of it’s kind. It will send a united voice from Albany to Washington for the first time. What we don’t want to see is this valuable piece of property be redeveloped for profit while veterans get the shaft. We do not need more high-end condos for the elites, we need housing and facilities and services for our veterans, young and old,” Ball said.