The Orange County Government Center, located on Main Street in Goshen, New York, is as its name suggests the main office of the government of Orange County. It houses most county officials' offices and meetings of the county legislature. The records of Orange County Court and all deeds and mortgages filed in the county are kept there as well. An office of the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles is located on the first floor. It was designed by noted architect and dean of the Yale School of Architecture Paul Rudolph in 1963 and built in 1967.
A courtyard divides the portion of the building hosting the executive and legislative branches from the half that hosted County Court until the late 1990s, when the state's Court Facilities Capital Review Board deemed the old courthouse unfit for use. A new addition was built to its north to house the courts and opened in the early 2000s, at considerable cost and frequent delay.
Its architecture has been subject to some criticism. At the time of its construction it was called a "monstrosity". "If I took a poll in town, it would be demolished tomorrow," County Executive Edward Diana said in 2010. That year he proposed a replacement building, but the county legislature balked at the $114 million cost during difficult economic times.
The building has had problems over its life. It leaked severely enough after a heavy storm in 1970 that the Finance Department had to stretch a tarpaulin across the ceiling. Today many of its 87 roofs leak and it has also become expensive to heat.
So great are these problems, that when Diana considered demolishing it to build a new one in early 2004 the objections raised were purely financial. However, the costs of doing so are prohibitive enough that the idea has been dropped. At the same time it is uncertain whether it would be feasible to repair the building, and demolition is still the strongest possibility.
Renovate or Demolish
There have been some architects who have urged the building's preservation, however, pointing to its historic value, Rudolph's stature as an architect, and the imaginative use of space within the building. The Paul Rudolph Foundation has been working to preserve both it and Chorley School in nearby Middletown, which has been slated for demolition. Some even consider it beautiful. New York's State Historic Preservation Office has found it eligible for listing on the state and National Registers of Historic Places, and an online campaign has begun to save it for both historic and economic reasons.
In 2011, flood damage from Hurricane Irene closed the building for over a week. Mould had been growing in spaces in some rooms, including the grand jury room, and there were concerns it might become unsafe for use by those with respiratory problems. The day after it reopened, the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee deluged the area, and on September 8, it was closed again until further notice. The following week, Diana pressed county legislators to make a decision soon on whether to renovate the building or restore it.
On October 13, 2011, it was reported that the World Monuments Fund, citing its architecture, had added the Government Center to its biennial list of worldwide cultural heritage sites at risk. As of year-end, the county-under pressure from the state's Office of Court Administration (OCA)-announced an emergency plan to open temporary courtroom space nearby in January, while development of a two-year restoration project proceeds.
Near the end of the year the OCA sent Diana a strongly worded letter complaining that his office had not yet informed them as to the county's plans to replace closed courtrooms. "Our judges and staff are doing the best that they can, sharing courtrooms and chambers in other facilities, staggering appointment calendars and delaying trials," said Ronald Younkins, chief of operations for the OCA. "The situation is unacceptable and unfair to the judges, court staff, litigants, the bar, jurors and the public at large."
Younkins said that two OCA employees and an architect with the state's Dormitory Authority who had toured the building had written reports saying the damage to the courts could be repaired for as little as $381,000 rather than replacing the entire building. Diana, he said, had also missed a deadline the previous week to submit long-term plans to the OCA. The agency threatened to withhold state aid to the county. Diana responded that the reports the OCA cited did not go into sufficient detail as to how the work could be done cheaply, and he had believed those issues had been previously resolved.
The building narrowly escaped the bulldozer after county legislators, in April 2012, voted 11-10 to not issue a bond that would fund its demolition.