Despite new evidence that purports to show Orange County has acted improperly in its renovation of the Orange County Government Center in Goshen, the work on the controversial building will continue. On July 21 a Supreme Court judge heard arguments in the case and on the next day denied a request for a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the ongoing, partial demolition.
Michael Sussman, the attorney for the two plaintiffs in the case, has tried to halt the demolition before and was denied by the same judge.
This time, Sussman thought he had a “blockbuster” that would make the judge, if not change his mind, at least seriously reconsider.
A day before the hearing, Sussman forwarded a letter to Justice Christopher Cahill, which appears to bear the signature of the CEO of one of the former architects on the project in August of 2014. It said the plan for the renovation of the government center was meant to “avoid the typical approvals process,” among other accusations.
The letter claims the impact of the proposed partial demolition was much greater than what was in the plan and that the plan “segmented” the work to make it appear less than it really was.
“Our primary concern at this stage of the project is that the currently proposed strategy to avoid the typical approvals process … is at best marginally feasible,” the letter reads.
It goes on to say that even if the plan did pass environmental reviews, close public scrutiny of the project would lead to legal challenges, thus delaying and increasing the cost of the project.
Epoch Times could not verify the authenticity of the letter either with the author, designLAB CEO Robert Miklos, or JMZ Architects and Planners, which was copied on the letter.
Orange County spokesman Justin Rodriguez dismissed the letter as a contract dispute between a contractor and subcontractor, and said “a new SEQRA [environmental review] was done by the Legislature after that 2014 letter, so the issue has no merit.”
Sussman responded that the letter presages what the County has done, and the current impact statement “carries forward every deficiency of its predecessor.”
He said he would submit an emergency appeal to the Second Judicial Division Appellate Court in Brooklyn on Friday.
The Government Center was closed in 2011 after water damage from hurricane Irene made mold a concern and it has been vacant ever since.
Under the current proposal, one of the three divisions of the Government Center would be completely demolished, the façade of the other two divisions redone, and another structure added.
This was a compromise between those who wanted to preserve the modernist building on historical and economic grounds, and those who wanted a building that fit better with the village’s aesthetics and fixed some of the design flaws in the current building.
The current plan for partial demolition and rehabilitation received approval from the Orange County Legislature. On the afternoon of July 22 in a statement, County Executive Steve Neuhaus applauded the judge’s decision and said work on the project would continue to move forward.
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