Cortlandt Vets Push to Make Montrose V.A. State, Federal Landmark
CORTLANDT, N.Y. ━ After learning that five unused buildings at the Montrose V.A. are scheduled to be demolished, the Town of Cortlandt and its veterans groups are applying to make it a state and national landmark.
The Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington, D.C. has ordered Buildings 8,9, 10, 11 and 25 – 25 percent of the buildings – be torn down, which Town Supervisor Linda Puglisi and local veterans believe would lead to the closure of many services for veterans.
“Instead of increasing and improving the care being given to our veterans, the administration plans on shrinking and dissolving the care facilities at Montrose in a blatant attempt at reducing the ‘footprint’ of the facility,” said Willy Nazario, state commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart. “By doing so, the administration will have more ‘evidence’ that the facility is no longer needed.”
Nazario also serves on the Cortlandt-Hudson Valley Veteran’s Committee, which has a subcommittee leading the charge to get the V.A. designated a historic landmark. It has the support of the town and is circulating a petition among veterans groups and the larger community to drum up support.
“Right now we’re petitioning the state and federal government at the same time to make it a landmark,” said Neil Gross, commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH) Chapter 21. “And if that happens then nothing can be disturbed or destroyed there. It’s a landmark as well as a federal facility.”
Additionally, veterans groups, like the MOPH, are trying to get more services added to what is now offered at the Montrose V.A.
“It’s a multi-pronged approach we’re taking to get this facility kept open,” Gross said.
At a September meeting of the V.A. Volunteer Services, Nazario asked if the MOPH could use building 11 for a non-profit that would hire unemployed veterans.
“The facilities director accidentally said, ‘we plan on tearing down buildings 8,9, 10, 11 and 25,’” Gross said. “He said it just like that. You could hear a gasp go around the room.”
A spokesman from the V.A. declined to comment immediately in favor of researching the topic.
A few days later, Nazario and Gross met with Puglisi and dozens of others to talk about how to prevent the closures. In addition to the petition to get it designated a landmark, there will be a rally at 4 p.m. Oct. 23 on the front lawn of the V.A., which is off of Route 9A and Old Albany Post Road.
“Right now, more than anything, we have to keep the facility open,” Gross said. “It’s a premier PTSD [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder] unit there. We have people from all over.”
Every day in America, 22 servicemen and veterans commit suicide, according to the MOPH.
“The ‘premier’ PTSD unit at Montrose has serviced and continues to service our most needy veterans who are struggling to survive,” Nazario wrote in a letter to elected officials asking for support. “Thousands of new veterans being released from service and returning from Iraq and Afghanistan need these services more than ever.”
Homelessness, joblessness and hopelessness are the three main causes of suicide among veterans, said Nazario, a Purple Heart recipient who also serves on the Westchester County Veterans Advisory Board.
“The Montrose facility has the wherewithal to solve these problems at least in the Hudson Valley,” he said. “The domiciliary on campus can house homeless veterans as other facilities around the state are doing. Educational programs are in place and must be increased and improved to provide the link between school, service, employment. With these two in place at Montrose, the ‘hopelessness’ is abated and there is a future for our heroes.”
Nazario believes the Veterans Administration plans to reduce the facilities in order to prove that the V.A. is no longer needed. This, he said, would justify shutting the V.A. down.
“Once again, the veterans of the Hudson Valley receiving care and assistance from the Veterans Administration Hudson Valley Healthcare System are under attack,” Nazario said.