Photo Set: Rockland Psychiatric Center

Yesterday, I posted about my visit to The Living Museum at Rockland Psychiatric Center. It was an unexpected surprise when my OMH colleagues arrived at Rockland with enough time ahead of their meeting that we spent about twenty minutes driving through the sprawling campus. Rockland opened in 1931 –when it accepted 60 male patients– to ease overcrowding at Manhattan State Hospital. At it’s peak, Rockland may have had as many as 9,000 patients and 2,000 staff. (Asylum Projects website, aylumprojects.org).

Post-deinstitutionalization, Rockland seems to have been abandoned in stages. Closest to the road, many of the buildings are so overgrown as to be difficult to photograph through brush. Closer to the administration building (and the modern hospital complex) the buildings are abandoned, and derelict, but covered with ivy of vivid color –since it seems my trip to Rockland coincided with the areas peak time for fall foliage.
Since it is so expensive to knock down the large, old buildings, they are allowed to stand and decay. Closer to the administration building, however, it appears some some of the older campus is being re-purposed for out-patient, vocational and other therapeutic purposes. A walking path goes right through the abandoned parts of the campus. None of the buildings are fenced off from the rest of the campus –which still hosts a variety of patient services and hospital/rehabilitation services. When I had finished my meeting and tour with the director of the Living Museum, I spent about an hour walking the grounds and taking pictures.  Some of the photos were taken from the car as I first arrived.

[click on the photos to view them full sized]

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Currently, Rockland serves a patient (historically speaking) small population between various programs. They are some of the regions most severely ill. A large part of their current population is also deaf. Nonetheless, I felt quite welcome in the cafe and other patients areas. I chatted briefly with patients and peer mentors. One woman who I spoke to was deaf. I explained with a mix of gesture and spoken language (since many deaf can lip-read to an extent) that I was interested in the art and visting because of that. As it turned out, I later saw her working away in the Living Museum (art therapy studio at Rockland) doing a reproduction of an impressionist piece.

[I want to present a brief afterword: I hope in my presentation here, people find respect and sensitivity to my subject matter. Remember these are places where the mentally ill lived a part of their lives, where people worked. There are, I found after my return home, two cemeteries (one contemporary, and one older) on the grounds of the hospital.  May they all rest in peace.]

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