Former HRPC Fire Ruled Incendiary
At 3:30 a.m. Friday, April, 27, the Fairview Fire Department Chief Chris Maeder was notified of a smoke report nearby Fulton Street. Members and volunteers of the department were dispatched to the scene immediately, and upon further investigation, they discovered a large fire in one of the main administration buildings of the former Hudson River Psychiatric Center (HRPC).
The fire, which spread to adjacent buildings, necessitating a crew of 75 firefighters from multiple agencies, was determined incendiary, or intentionally set, by the Dutchess County Fire Investigative Unit.
“[When I heard the report],I had a feeling that it may be a re- sult of a fire on the old HRPC cam- pus. I Was not surprised when I heard the upgrade in the alarm,” Maeder said.
The HRPC property has undergone a number of structure fires within recent years, including another arson incident last May.
“We have done multiple in- tentionally set fires at the HRPC site as there are multiple vacant buildings,” Maeder said. “Damage from these fires have varied from just contents to the en- tire building being consumed.”
The Fairview FD is currently working alongside law enforcement to identify the person responsible, but no suspects have yet been named.
According to Maeder, the property owner, EFG/DRA Heritage, LL, is offering a $5000 reward for any information that leads to an arrest.
No dispatched personnel incurred any injuries from the fire. The members and volunteers worked until 5:22 p.m. Friday before determining the fire had completely subsided. When asked about the extent of the damage, Maeder said, “the rooftop of the building is completely burned off.”
The HRPC property, due to its accessibility and abandonment, has attracted a number of trespassers with whom both Marist and the town of Poughkeepsie are making efforts to deter.
Marist Safety and Security Director John Blaisdell has sent numerous emails to students dis- couraging them from trespassing at the HRPC property. In the past, law enforcement is known to offer warnings for first-time trespass offenders, but according to Marist junior Justin DiBiase, a volunteer for the Fairview Fire Department, this will no longer be the case.
“It’s extremely dangerous, I don’t think they are going to give any warnings now that there have been two fires, and they both have been intentionally set. They are not happy,” DiBiase said. “I know in the past they used to give warnings, but now they are taking it very seriously. One of the buildings on the property is deemed to have a collapse warning, which is why John Blaisdell sends out emails about not going there.”
According to an article in the Poughkeepsie Journal, the EFG/ DRA Heritage, LLC, intends to de- molish the area and transform the site into “750 residential units, including multifamily apart- ments, townhouses and detached single-family homes, as well as 350,000 square feet of retail space and 80,000 square feet of hotel space.” This project is estimated to cost a quarter of a billion dollars, and take up to a decade to complete. It is referred to as the “largest planned residential and retail developments in Dutchess county history.”
Maeder and local law enforcement reiterate the seriousness of this situation, and urge anyonewith information to come forward.