OGDENSBURG — Following a lengthy discussion during the July City Council meeting on Monday night, councilors decided to table a resolution requesting the state take “immediate action” to address the various deteriorating buildings on St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center land.
Councilors shared concerns on the “strong” wording of the resolution and what kind of message it would send to the state and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, especially as another round of prison closures are expected to be announced some time soon.
In December of last year, days before Christmas, the state announced that three prisons would close March 1 of this year, two of which were in the north country — Watertown Correctional Facility and the Clinton Annex. Fourteen of the 20 state prisons and correction facilities closed over the last decade have taken place upstate, or north of Dutchess County.
Ogdensburg has two correction facilities — Riverview Correctional Facility and Ogdensburg Correctional Facility, both of which are medium-security state prisons for men.
The state was expected to announce additional prison closures at the end of May with the goal to shutter more facilities by Labor Day, but the closures have yet to be announced. The state has to give 90 days notice in order to close a prison, so the Labor Day timeframe goal has already passed.
Councilors said they supported the resolution, written by councilor and Deputy Mayor John A. Rishe, in its entirety, but said they were worried about the message it would send on the heels of an important announcement.
“It is an issue that I have been concerned about for a long time,” Mr. Rishe said Monday after introducing the resolution, “and every year as time goes by, these buildings (at the psychiatric center) get worse and worse and worse.
“There is no effort to maintain them at all,” he added.
The state “abandoned” the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center in the early 1980s, according to the resolution, and as a result, dozens of old, deteriorating stone buildings remain. The buildings have been empty since the mid-1990s, when the center’s operations were consolidated into new buildings. Those new buildings stand among the abandoned ones.
The state has taken no action over the past 30 years to stabilize these “cultural and historical structures,” the council states in its tabled resolution. New York “continues to neglect these buildings to the point that they have become a public health hazard and a blight” on the city.
The resolution, if passed, would have officially requested on behalf of the city that the state appropriate funds to clean up, stabilize and secure the structures by conducting an inventory and analysis of the historic buildings to determine which can be saved and which need to be demolished. The resolution also requests appropriated funding to develop a master plan for the redevelopment of the more than 250 acres of land and buildings at the former psychiatric center campus.
The psychiatric center is located along the St. Lawrence River on Chimney Point, where there are dozens of old, deteriorating stone buildings — many of which are collapsing in on themselves.
“If it was a private person doing this,” Mr. Rishe said Monday, “there would be some authority after them.”