New York seeks ways to use closed prisons

Hochul said in her State of the State speech earlier this year that she wanted to find new ways to use the properties

Updated: May 24, 2022 - 6:36pm

Redevelopment of New York's prisons will be the task of a commission tasked with finding new ways to use state properties.

Gov. Kathy Hochul has unveiled the members this week. The move comes after she closed six such facilities last fall; New York closed more than 20 other prisons in the past 15 years.

Hochul said in her State of the State speech earlier this year that she wanted to find new ways to use the properties. To accomplish that, she has picked representatives from both the public and private sectors to serve on the commission.

The commission will be charged with finding ways “to best connect our industry and work force goals with action plans that will both save taxpayer money and bring these buildings to new life as economic engines,” she said. “Our ultimate goal is to put New Yorkers to work, and I am confident this newly formed Prison Redevelopment Commission will help create an action plan to do just that.”

Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Hope Knight, who leads the state’s economic development agency, and Ford Foundation President Darren Walker will co-chair the commission.

“Closing prisons is critical to address the blight of mass incarceration, but it can’t end there – to achieve justice for all, we must turn every stone and explore prison redevelopment opportunities that ensure individuals and communities have the economic opportunities needed to thrive,” Walker said.

Other members include New York State Department of Corrections Acting Commissioner Anthony Annucci, state Budget Director Robert Mujica, New York State Association of Counties Executive Director Steve Acquario, and New York State Economic Development Council Executive Director Ryan Silva.

The commission held its first meeting Monday and will continue meeting throughout the year. Members will receive presentations and get insights from the regions where the closed facilities are located to help them determine the best uses for the facilities.

The commission will then pen a public report that will detail its suggestions for the old prisons.

“During the department’s expansion in the early 1990s, communities across New York welcomed the development of new prisons,” Annucci said. “Today, as the incarcerated population declines and correctional facilities close, it is critical that we identify reuses for these properties to support the communities that accepted the facilities decades ago.”