For Sale: Beacon Prison

Must provide jobs, economic boost

New York State is dangling $6 million in grant money as an incentive, again, as it tries to unload the empty Beacon Correctional Facility.

The 39-acre former women’s prison, tucked behind Beacon High School and adjacent to the city’s Highway Department, comes with a “strong transit infrastructure and an economic environment friendly to a wide variety of industries,” according to a Request for Proposals (RFP) issued last month.

Before the prison opened in 1981, the site, about two-thirds of which sits inside Beacon’s city limits, was home to the Matteawan State Hospital. The RFP suggests that the property, which also includes 22 vacant buildings, could be repurposed for commercial or mixed-use development that generates jobs and economic activity. The state said it would consider residential development as a component of a mixed-use project but its preference is to not have housing dominate the site.

A separate application is required to apply for the $6 million.

The former Beacon Correctional Facility (NYS)

The City of Beacon is not likely to submit a proposal, said Mayor Randy Casale, although he said he’d personally like to see a vocational school at the location. “Kids who are out of high school need somewhere to go for job training,” he said.

State officials will lead prospective bidders on a tour of the former correctional facility on Oct. 11. Proposals are due by Dec. 20.

New York first asked for proposals for the property in 2014, a year after the prison was decommissioned. That campaign ended with only one submission, from the New York City-based Doe Fund, which wanted to create a farming and job-training center to serve homeless and impoverished people.

The Doe Fund withdrew its proposal in 2017 after a coalition of local officials — including Casale, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro and state Sen. Sue Serino — wrote a letter asking Gov. Andrew Cuomo to reject it.

Read a letter critical of this decision.

Bob LaColla, the Town of Fishkill supervisor, who also signed the letter, said the officials opposed the Doe Fund proposal because it had evolved from an economic development plan to a social-services one. The coalition was also concerned that the state would not receive any money from the sale of the site, while the Doe Fund would receive a disproportionate amount of state and federal funding for its project, according to the letter. The $6 million in grant funding was available then, as well.

LaColla said he expects there will be more proposals related to jobs and economic growth this time around. For the 12-month period ending in August, private sector jobs in Dutchess and Putnam counties grew less than 1 percent, although job growth was significantly higher elsewhere in the region, according to the state Department of Labor.

2 thoughts on “For Sale: Beacon Prison

  1. Apparently extending opportunities to those who may not have had them in the past is still unfashionable. Yes, The Doe Fund proposal included plans to train and hire youth and low income individuals, which your writer characterized as “serve[ing] homeless and impoverished people”, making it sound like a hand-out program. LaColla also uses language evocative of welfare when he claims the Doe Fund proposal “ evolved from an economic development plan to a social-services one,” and that’s the reason he and others were against it.

    The Current should ask Mr. LaColla to briefly outline how the Doe Fund proposal “evolved.” It never changed from its original plan as a food hub that would generate up to 244 jobs in the area, further described by the Poughkeepsie Journal as serving “to link Hudson Valley farms with New York City restaurants and distribution points. It proposed creating a food processing and distribution hub that would wash, pack, process and distribute produce from local, small and mid-sized farms. The site would also have a working farm. And a youth program would provide training and paid work in the culinary arts; food processing; warehouse operations; sales and marketing; and commercial driving, logistics and distribution.”

    LaColla and the other politicians who signed the letter to Cuomo (which the Poughkeepsie Journal obtained under the Freedom of Information Law request) were concerned with the payment in lieu of taxes, and there were discrepancies in terms of how much the land is actually worth. The reasons given in this article are revisionist and don’t fit the facts.

    It’s unfortunate, but the obsession with getting this land “on the tax rolls” will likely lead to a more traditional development happening at this site. The tax roll mentality is a pyramid scheme at heart, and in the end, municipalities end up giving away much more to private developers in tax breaks, services, infrastructure, etc.

    The long agricultural history of the site is emphasized several times in the State of New York’s sales pitch video above. The Doe Fund proposal worked within that history to create a new vision that also allowed for community groups to have access to the land and a role in its future. Let’s hope the new winning proposal is equally creative, and invites the community to be a part of what happens there.