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Goshen Commotion: Vote Expected Thursday on Endangered Paul Rudolph Building

Interior of Paul Rudolph-designed Orange County Government Center, 2010

Mark your calendars, architecturally-attuned art-lings! The Orange County Legislature is expected to vote at its meeting this Thursday afternoon, beginning at 3:30 p.m., on whether to save or demolish the flood-damaged Paul Rudolph-designed Orange County Government Center. There will be a chance for public comment on the proposed replacement of the building, which is on the World Monuments Fund’s 2012 Watch List of endangered cultural-heritage sites.

The exact time when the fate of the OCGC will come up on the agenda is uncertain, but advocates of preserving and restoring the building intend to assemble at 2:30 p.m. Thursday outside the Emergency Services Center Building, 22 Wells Farm Rd., Goshen, NY, where the legislators will meet. (I’m told there will be ample seating in the auditorium, to the left as you enter the building.)

The cause of the preservationists got a boost yesterday from the local newspaper, the Times Herald-Record, which published an editorial urging the legislators to take the pro-Rudolph arguments more seriously.

Noting that the legislature will vote on “a request by County Executive Ed Diana for $14.6 million to start the work necessary for demolition and preparation of plans for a new center,” the newspaper’s editorial declared:

Legislative critics of Diana’s plan have come up with several proposals that provide figures at odds with those coming from county leadership [regarding how much it would cost to renovate vs. the cost of a new building]. Yet, the loyal followers [of Diana] have no interest in giving these alternatives the attention they deserve or, in some cases, any attention at all—even if they would save a substantial amount of money.

Just last week, an architect [designLABarchitects] whose firm worked on a very similar building [Rudolph’s Claire T. Carney Library at UMass Dartmouth] with very similar problems, came to town and presented a report [my links, not theirs] showing how to save both the building and millions of tax dollars. This was not just an estimate based on square footage; this was a real example of a project completed successfully.

Those who have long wanted to tear down the Government Center have no interest in hearing that kind of talk, so they will show up this week without knowing the kind of facts that would allow them to cast an informed vote.

Also in yesterday’s Times Herald-Record, the indispensable Chris Mckenna reported that the plan to replace the Rudolph building with a new facility, estimated to cost $75 million, is unlikely to muster the “two-thirds majority [that would be needed] on the 21-member Legislature to approve bonding.’

And in more Rudolph news: Art history students at UMass Dartmouth (where renovation of the above-mentioned Rudolph-designed library is now in progress) have curated an exhibition about the architect, opening tomorrow and closing just five days later. It “examines Rudolph’s design principles and his original intent for the
campus. The exhibition challenges the misconceptions and the myths that
surround the campus and provides insight into Rudolph’s innovative
approach to modern architecture.”

Maybe it’s time for the Orange County Legislature to take a road trip, due east, to North Dartmouth, MA.

an ArtsJournal blog