OGDENSBURG — Efforts that began about six years ago to transfer state-owned land into city ownership for redevelopment are again in progress.
Councilors during a special meeting Tuesday morning unanimously passed a resolution in support of an Assembly and Senate bill that would authorize the state Commissioner of General Services to convey real property at the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center to city ownership.
The original resolution was only in support of the Assembly bill, but Mayor Jeffrey M. Skelly introduced an amendment to include the Senate version of the bill. Assemblyman Mark C. Walczyk, R-Watertown, introduced the Assembly version on Feb. 4, and Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, introduced the Senate version of the bill on April 6.
Councilors John A. Rishe, Steven M. Fisher, William B. Dillabough, Daniel E. Skamperle, Nichole L. Kennedy and Mayor Skelly all voted in favor of the amendment and the resolution. Councilor Michael B. Powers was not in attendance at the special meeting Tuesday and therefore did not vote.
The bill, according to City Manager Stephen P. Jellie, is continuing Sen. Ritchie’s efforts with a task force she initially started a number of years ago to work at conveying parcels of land owned by the psychiatric center into city ownership for further redevelopment and reuse.
There are four parcels of land, referred to as A, B, C and D, that the city is attempting to acquire from the state-owned St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center. This bill, Mr. Jellie said, is in reference to parcel B, which is commonly referred to as Chimney Point. Mr. Jellie told councilors that the parcel is a 50-acre piece of land with “a lot” of waterfront, adding that his recommendation is to move forward with the resolution in support of the legislation pending in the state Legislature.
“There certainly will be a lot of work to be done,” Mr. Jellie said, adding, “I think this sets the stage again for us to continue moving toward the redevelopment of vacant or unused property of the psychiatric center.”
Sen. Ritchie first introduced the legislation in the Senate on June 12, 2015. That bill stated the city would take control of psychiatric center land, which includes the waterfront property at Point Airy, also known as Chimney Point; a wooded area close to the Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority’s industrial park; undeveloped land along Route 37; and the property on which the Ag Energy LP cogeneration plant sits — parcels A, B, C and D.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed the legislation about a year later in July 2016 allowing the sale of the land from the state to the city. But the sale still has yet to happen.
“They’ve met, they’ve complained, they’ve put up obstacle, they just haven’t done it,” Mr. Rishe said of the state’s stalled efforts to transfer the land into city ownership.
The bill is consistent with the city’s newly adopted community development plan that outlines a way in which unused parcels of land across the city can get back into city or private ownership to further the redevelopment of the city, Mr. Rishe added.
The majority of the city’s waterfront land alone is owned by the state or the Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority, and the state owns roughly a quarter of the city’s land mass, the councilor said.
“There’s a lot of unused land that could be returned,” he added, “so we appreciate the senator and the assemblyman’s efforts on our behalf.”