Sussman supports sale, replacement of Government Center

Goshen attorney Michael Sussman has offered a proposal for the sale and replacement of the Orange County Government Center that he contends could knit together the various interests of the county’s office and court needs, the Village of Goshen and its downtown businesses, and groups that have fought to preserve the 45-year-old architectural landmark designed by Paul Rudolph.

Sussman, a Democratic activist who has spoken out before during the long debate over the fate of the closed Government Center, held a press conference about his suggestion last week, and has since released a statement and video of his announcement. He said he supports architect Gene Kaufman’s plan to buy the Government Center and convert it into an arts center, but suggests he pay $15 million rather than $5 million, with the added condition that Kaufman then be given a contract to design a new Government Center that would be built nearby to house county offices and courts.

Sussman said his idea would preserve Rudolph’s design and head off a $74 million plan to overhaul and expand the complex that includes a four-story addition Sussman described as “hideous.” It also would allow the county to commission a modern complex while directing some cash to both the county and the Village of Goshen. Of that $15 million suggested purchase price, Sussman said $3 million should go to the Village of Goshen and $12 million should go to the county (about the same amount as the current operating deficit).

“I think it gives the village a double whammy,” he said, meaning the combined foot traffic that both a government complex and an arts center would bring.

He opposes the idea of selling the Government Center and continuing to lease space for county employees in three buildings on Matthews Street. “I don’t believe we should have ‘government by diaspora,'” he said. “I don’t believe we should have government spread out in four, five or six locations.”

County officials are preparing to solicit bids to demolish one of three buildings in the Government Center complex and gut the other two — the first stage of the $74 million project that will proceed unless at least 14 of 21 lawmakers decide otherwise. It would take a supermajority vote for the Legislature to override Neuhaus’ veto of a law that would have authorized the sale of the Government Center and to accept Kaufman’s purchase offer.

Sussman said in his announcement that Kaufman should have first rights but that the county should solicit another round of bids if Kaufman was unwilling to raise his price under the terms Sussman suggested.



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