Rep. Nan Hayworth rallied support Friday, Aug. 5, from a Buchanan audience of more than 100 veterans and others for H.R. 2642, a bill she has introduced to protect hundreds of Veterans Administration acres along the Hudson River from being turned over to developers looking to use the land to build high-end condominiums.
“Decades ago a commision was was developed – with the best of intentions – to see how some of the VA campuses across the country might be repurposed,” Hayworth told the gathering on the front lawn of Village Hall. “A proposal, called an enhanced use lease, would lease 172 of the 184 acres of the Montrose VA campus for development. Our veterans have been very concerned about this plan and I can understand why.”
H.R.2642 would prohibit the disposal of land or buildings by any means at the Montrose or Castle Point campuses of the Hudson Valley Health Care System. Both are in Hayworth’s 19th District.
The congresswoman stressed the importance of the Montrose campus’s capabilities for treating patients from the ongoing war on terror for such conditions as post-traumatic stress disorder.
“We have, through our involvment in wars such as Afghanistan and Iraq, created a new generation of need, a new generation of veterans with disorders that were a result of their service, post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. The Montrose campus has been proven to be particularly gifted by treating patients with these disorders,” she said.
Hayworth, R-Bedford, emphasized her sympathy for the veterans who vocalized their concerns to her about the use of 172 acres to build private condominiums on land that could be used to help those who fought and were debilitated in the line of service.
“I felt we had to take a stand on this and I am delighted to have a district and a community who feel as we do and support this initiative,” she said. “What I have done, what we have done, is to introduce legislation … H.R. 2642. It is intended to protect the Montrose and Castle Point [in southwestern Dutchess County] campuses, and the rest of the Hudson Valley V.A. System, from being used for the enhanced use lease program.”
Following Hayworth at the podium was Karl Rohde, a highly decorated Vietnam veteran and director of veterans affairs for Putnam County.
Rohde, nicknamed “Mr. Veteran,” likened the leasing of the V.A. hospital to putting sponsor names such as NASCAR on Air Force One or advertising on national monuments.
“If they are going to use the veterans to make money, use other things to make money. It is the wrong way to go,” Rohde said. “We have been fighting this for years. This isn’t something that just popped up. We have tried to get our senators to agree but it has fallen on deaf ears.”
Rohde stressed the horrors of the injuries that have occurred and are still occurring to the troops still fighting in the ongoing war on terror.
“We have more and more veterans with catastropic injuries, injuries that my generation of Vietnam vets wouldn’t have survived. We would have been sent home in a box. These guys are surviving. They are going to need a lot of care. This is no time to scale down,” he said.
Rohde received a warm ovation as he concluded, “Do you know why we have freedom? There are five reasons — Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard!”
Other speakers included Vietnam veteran Sal Rosario, Buchanan Mayor Sean Murray, Cortlandt Supervisor Linda Puglisi and Assemblyman Robert Castelli, R-Goldens Bridge, all of whom stressed the importance of the Montrose hospital to the community, neighboring communities and veterans.
Castelli has introduced legislation in the Assembly, A1424, that would authorize the state to acquire by grant, lease or eminent domain, and use for veterans purposes, any portions of the Montrose campus that the federal government attempts to lease for non-veterans purposes.
Video of Nan Hayworth’s entire speech as well as segments from other speeches can be seen by clicking on the above video link.