State panel makes recommendations affecting closed Watertown & Ogdensburg prisons

Aerial view of Watertown Correctional Facility about a month before it closed in March 2021.
Aerial view of Watertown Correctional Facility about a month before it closed in March 2021.(WWNY)
Published: Dec. 22, 2022 at 1:06 PM EST
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ALBANY, New York (WWNY) - Requests for proposals (RFPs) on how to reuse the former Watertown Correctional Facility should be fast-tracked, a state commission said in a report released Thursday.

The Watertown prison is one of two shuttered state prisons that will be put on the front burner for RFPs. The other is Downstate Correctional Facility, which is in Fishkill in the Hudson Valley.

The 15-member New York Prison Redevelopment Commission looked at how to repurpose 12 closed prisons, including Watertown and the Ogdensburg Correctional Facility. Six of them were closed over the past couple of years. The rest have been closed longer.

The Watertown prison closed in March 2021, the Ogdensburg facility closed earlier this year.

The panel said Empire State Development (ESD), the state’s economic development arm, will start the RFPs in 2023.

The commission also recommends removing the razor wire at Ogdensburg and maintaining heat in the facility to prevent further deterioration. The state originally said it would board up the prison, drain the pipes, and keep it cold through the winter.

The panel also recommends marketing all the sites, including creating a one-stop-shopping website, and that ESD work with the affected communities to reach consensus on what to do with the vacant properties.

Due to declining prison populations, the state has closed 20 prisons in the past 15 years.