Thoughts On Greystone

Posted: Sunday June 1, 2013

I hadn't been able to sleep for days. I felt no pain as the thorns tore gashes in my skin, and blood dripped from the fresh lacerations within my legs. My shoes were soaked upon slipping into a narrow stream hidden within the darkness. None of this phased me. I pushed through like a tank, sloshing through swamp, kicking up mud, and ripping past ivy and tall grasses, all while exhibiting the stamina of an escaped inmate running from the law, except for the fact that I was not running away from, but rather running toward an institution.

Upon reaching the edge of the woods line, a silhouette of the massive gothic Kirkbride Plan designed building loomed beneath a dark purple, predawn sky. Above, the stars in the night sky had already begun to disappear upon arrival of the sun's first rays which clawed just inches above the horizon. "Shit, time's ticking", I realized! The building stared at me with its lifeless boarded and caged-up windows, which seemed to suck me in, hypnotize me. But I knew the shadowed shallow eyes were just a tease and to not fall for their call, for there is no conceivable way in through the windows, attempting to do so would at best just waste precious darkness, at worst attract the oppressed swine. Hugging the comfort of the woods line, the search continued. My muscles were tense, wound and ready to send my body catapulting head first into the security of the adjacent briars and bushes upon moments notice of any sight of approaching headlights.

In the distance a few interior lights remained powered, illuminating a handful of random rooms within the upper floors of the recently vacated administration building situated toward the front center of the hospital. Moving in closer, the monstrous stone and brick fortress appeared impenetrable, but closer inspection of its numerous narrow corners and decaying crevices yielded a vulnerability. Slipping in under the cover of the last of the darkness my heart nearly exploded, I was so excited I thought I was going to barf. All the nights of missed sleep stemming from the thought of this very moment no longer mattered, for I was now living a dream. I was finally inside Greystone and I was nearly petrified with exhilaration.

I've since spent hours upon hours wandering the decaying halls, miles of tunnels, exploring the dozens of wards and hundreds of rooms within the extensive hospital, numerous times over the past years. But every time I think back to that first adventure into Greystone, an internal flame of adrenaline flares up within my chest, the rising heat tingles my mind, and in that brief moment I feel an overwhelming sense of purpose. My seemingly physical fascination with Greystone was first soldered during my pre-teen years upon initially discovering and reading about the massive abandoned complex within issues of Weird NJ magazine. I was captivated that such a colossal structure could be left to rot and felt an immediate instinctual urge to experience the insanity for myself. The desire to discover its secrets and become lost within the internal labyrinth of endless colorful arched hallways lined with layers of peeling paint which I had seen so beautifully photographed in the pages of the magazine, became ever etched into my young brain. At that age however such an adventure was far fetched, existing just as a fantasy to fuel my pipe dreams. But it is these big dreams that are the most important in life, because upon fulling such goals, the sense of accomplishment which follows forever alters ones mind, scarring the brain with a mental tattoo which only you can see and understand the complete meaning off.

In recent months the remaining former buildings at Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital, especially in regard to the historic main Kirkbride structure have become a heated topic of publicity, as supposed plans for demolition of the remaining buildings to take place within a "matter of months" threaten the existence of the historic late 1800s campus. The buildings at Greystone are certainly no stranger toward demolition as many of the shuttered structures have been leveled over the years and the land redeveloped, turned into private ballfields known today as Central Park of Morris County. Recently The State of New Jersey publicly announced plans to demolished the remaining main historic Kirkbride building, detailing efforts to turn the massive footprint into more additional park land and ball fields, you'll never be able to use without a permit. However negligence practiced by the State of New Jersey whom owns the remaining defunct hospital complex needs to be further analyzed in order to understand the scope and underlying truth concerning the demolition situation at the former Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital.

As one who runs and maintains a personal website dedicated to adventure, photography, and writing, specifically in regard to exploring abandoned and publicly forbidden locations, it is often perceived that I am an advocate for historical preservation. This is not the case. I am an advocate for adventure and curiosity but I fully recognize that abandoned buildings are modern ruins, they're liability time-bombs, perhaps even eyes sores according to some, but most troubling, they no longer serve purpose to the general public. I understand that demolition often precedes progress, and if the advancement born from progress will benefit the greater good of a population or community than often history becomes pushed to the side for the better. Such may seem the case for Greystone or at least the State would like you believe so. However because of the derelict condition the former hospital has been allowed to slide into, it currently stands merely as a hindrance towards the greater population, for it no longer serves purpose to the greater community, as the building once did. Instead its history flakes away like the paint on the very walls, the roof crumbles, and the elements slowly erode the stone castle into the ground. But only when threats of demolition ring do people raise amuck about history for preservation's stake. For if the threat of demolition were absent like it had been for so many decades prior, Greystone would continue to rot, useless, unnoticed, uncared for, with no voice. But there's much more here at stake than history, there's a massive intact physical building rotting, an opportunity for purpose, purposely abandoned. But for what reason? Why?

Certainly likeminded people like myself illegally reclaim and repurpose such abandoned spaces like Greystone for hobby and fun, and additionally many others enter with varying agendas of their own. However upon either preservation or demolition of a structure, such personal gains are lost, thus the fate of Greystone is a lose lose situation in regard to my selfish personal explorative interests and personal gains regardless if demolition or historic efforts are to be imposed. And so my stance on the preservation issue is independent and selfish, I do not support demolition or preservation. Rather, I support having a good time in abandoned spaces while they last. The problem with my interests are they completely revolve around reclaiming the plentiful scraps a wasteful society leaves behind which are quite fruitful in modern society. Now remove the waste, fix the society and so disappear a large chunk of my curiosities and my hobby becomes curbed or inexistent. So in a bit of a twisted manner I appreciate the State of New Jersey for all that our representatives and local governments have not done to care for Greystone. Positively, such neglect in turn has fueled my imagination, birthing a personal hobby, perhaps even an obsession. I have learned to follow my curiosity, to adventure and explore, regardless of what peoples or laws prohibit. But as a rational thinking individual I can understand beyond my own desires and I can see Greystone as it truly exists, a hindrance to the general population, a now useless space taking up space, dangerous, off limits, wasted. While this is all great for me, it does nothing to benefit the greater population.

So for those who do assume a definitive opinion on the preservation and/or demolition issue, perhaps the single most important question, hypothetically as massive as the asylum itself, which should be asked of the State of New Jersey is simple: What does the State do with Greystone? The solution however has long been decided. It is in place right now, an ongoing, 24/7/365 long term solution. The costs associated with properly demolishing the main Kirkbride building in accordance to environmental laws and regulations might seem exorbitant, but the reality is it's a non-issue, for of-course the State and government have such pocket money to spend, however those funds would never be directly funneled into a project so petty as demolishing a hospital, rather, such money must be instead poured into funding military, war, oil, killing people, bloating the economy, lining the pockets of politicians, war on drugs, incarceration. The State will instead dwindle funds, grants, and bonds to help diminish demolition costs, while the entire project will still cost tax-payers 50.7 million dollars.

In my tooling about the Internet I've dabbled though the feasibility assessment report which was created by the State of NJ in 2013 to study the feasibility of possibly redeveloping the Kirkbride. I have also read through the 6 proposals outlining redevelopment plans which have been submitted to the State by unaffiliated groups but have gone seemingly unrecognized, at least in terms of official comment by the State. Well, ignorance here makes perfect sense, it falls beautifully in line with the State's plan. Simply, The State of New Jersey doesn't give a fuck about Greystone. Since the first wards were abandoned decades ago, up to the final closure of the administration section of the Kirkbride in 2008, the state has long since stop giving shits about the former hospital, and for good reason. Greystone to the State is just some bastard child left on a stoop that just won't die. Essentially The State of NJ is no different than that scumbag parent whom refuses to pay child support, except they can get away with it.

The single most pressing issue stalling both demolition or preservation is simple, both plans require effort. Effort; By the State? The Government? Politicians? Hell no! Effort is expensive, time consuming, arduous. Effort requires labor, money, thinking, change, and well none of those characteristics the State of NJ exhibits nor has the ability to act upon. The only aspect the State cares about is controlling people, that's the agenda of any government, and well, greed too. The State doesn't care about saving Greystone, it doesn't care about restoring Greystone, it doesn't care about demolishing Greystone (legally), if any one thing at all, the State is pissed it owns Greystone, because it's just a big mess, a money pit. If any thought is sparked within the cobweb infused minds of State officials and politicians at all, it's how to rid themselves of such a responsibility.

So, what does the State do with Greystone? Well, it continues to follow the plan set in place all along. Time will take care of Greystone, let nature take over, let the kids have run of the place, let the elements in, such will destroy the place cheaper than any legally hired law abiding demolition crew ever could and while perhaps not as fast, time is not an overwhelming issue here, for much of the building has been rotting for decades already, crumbling away at a respectable rate now. Perhaps a suspicious fire or some chump falling down an open elevator shaft will be all it takes to quickly spark action and amass public outcry for an immediate emergency demolition of unsafe structures, a scenario in which funds always seem to flow free. This is what the State wants, it's what they're getting. Go ahead, sign the petition, email the governor, raise awareness, hold meetings, have events, post banners, yard signs, none of this matters, for we're all just players in game the state is winning, so stop playing, because you're only getting played.

If the State truly cared about Greystone, the Kirkbride would be cared for, the property would be cleaned up, the identifying personal and patient records, files, reports scattered about floors would be removed, the environmental hazards contained, the furniture would have been salvaged decades ago; too late now. Perhaps a repurpose plan would have been instituted? Maybe the building would still be in use, serving its original purpose and benefiting the general public as a place or refuge, an institution offering mental support for the masses of people whom clearly still need help, an asylum. If the State ever cared, none of this would be an issue.

But such ideas don't support the government fueled, consumption based, spoon fed society we live in currently. We must always build and buy new things, generic, cheap, and outsourced shit. Discard and abandon the former things simply because it's not new, humans and buildings alike, in favor for money's sake. Dollar figures first, than things, than war. You; spend and buy more and then some more and some more after that. Don't have money? Put it on credit; pay that shit off later or preferably, never. Litter the Earth with the old and let it crumble within its very last place of use, there's no time to clean up, reuse, or repurpose, Dr. Phil is on. But don't worry about the trash, wasted infrastructure, the environment, we'll just build another Earth. The almighty, all powerful politicians can do that.

White BPA plastic picket fences, an SUV, retail stores, bacon double cheeseburgers, money, sex, iPhones, overgrown yard with a rusty swing-set, an ass too fat or crippled to leave the couch, thus forever enslaved onto government subsidies and benefits. Stay mentally sick, stay greedy America. Back in the day we'd send you to an asylum for help, but well the only structures left are abandoned or overflowing, and plus you probably don't have insurance anyway. So here's a pill instead, it might fuck with your mind, but you're already fucked. Maybe you'll snap, than we can put you in an institution, you know, a nice jail with free meals three times a day, a permanent vacation of sorts.

Modern-day American, it's the Governments's quickly unfolding dream land. Greystone? That insignificant shit pile of stones and asbestos is just a byproduct of our own waste, a shit pile left behind by the dogs of authority. Slap a fence around and it and forget about it. Done, easy! Fuck it, we built a new Greystone anyway, it's beautiful and overpopulated just like the former facility, just more cameras and barbwire this time, you know, to keep you safe.

Wake up. At the end of the day the State of New Jersey may own Gresytone, but don't let the State own you. The buildings truly belong to the tax payers, the former patients, the people who care, and you regardless of your motives. Sneak in and explore, you deserve it, you know you're curious! Greystone isn't going anywhere anytime fast, it is going piece by piece, everyday, slowly. Go and watch, now!

Scroll left and right to view the entirety of the above panoramic image, detailing the expansive of the Kirkbride!

The above trailer for a soon to be released documentary put together to raise awareness about Gresystone was created and edited by my friends Christina and Rusty. While I am not an advocate for demolition or preservation, the video clip certainly accurately highlights the current derelict status of the Kirkbride structure as well as what the building represents to others.

« Previous Entry Next Entry