New York is once again considering state prison closures and state officials overseeing the moves say the commission in charge of making sure the sites get developed is working.

It says its commission is in place to ensure the sites get new life is working as planned.

What You Need To Know

  •  New York is considering closing another five prisons this year

  •  The state created a commission to ensure the closed sites have a shot at new life under new control

  •  Some say the process isn't doing enough to protect all prisons and are asking the state to keep North Country prisons open

“We're stewards of property,” state Assemblyman Scott Gray said. “We have a responsibility to do right by the communities."

There are concerns that history will repeat itself. Thirty-six years ago, the state shut down the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center in Ogdensburg, and it has sat vacant and falling apart ever since.

And word came down last year on a plan for the state to finally remove some of the center's buildings, Gray is looking at the cost — in the millions of dollars. He can't help but think of the recently closed prisons in Ogdensburg and Watertown.

“Is there any wonder why, when they put out requests for proposal, they're not getting any interest? It’s because it's a massive cost to repurpose these facilities,” the assemblyman said.

That's why New York, which is now considering five more prison closures this year, put together a redevelopment commission aimed at ensuring the closed sites get new life.

The commission, which is spearheaded by Empire State Development, issued a report on each closed site and their potential for future use, while also crafting the requests for proposal.

ESD says Gov. Kathy Hochul has announced requests for proposals for three different facilities — Lincoln Correctional in Harlem, Downstate Correctional in Fishkill and Bayview in Manhattan.

The process, however, maybe not as quick as some had expected.

“We were supposed to see it last fall,” Gray said of the RFP for Watertown Correctional. “There is no indication that anything is being done with any of these properties.”

Empire State Development told Spectrum News 1 that “ESD, in partnership with DOCCS and OGS are working to advance recommendations contained in the Prison Redevelopment Commission report, including recommendations for the Watertown and Ogdensburg Correctional Facilities.”

In fact, just last month, ESD officials handed over the former Livingston Correctional Facility near Rochester to Livingston County, which has plans to develop it for commercial and industrial use in an effort to bring back jobs. It's the first completed transfer for the commission.

However, Gray questions if one success over the course of nearly two years is enough. He also has another concern.

Some of the facilities, like Ogdensburg, were left with the heat on to protect the buildings from the elements. However, some were not, including Watertown. Gray says he knows how fast the buildings deteriorate and without protection, he says, they'll go just that much faster. That's a concern he worries outside entities will have as well.

“It would probably be a lot more cost effective to reopen it than it would be to tear down,” he added.