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Prison

Livingston Correctional Facility

And then there were 52. 

The state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision confirmed Wednesday that Lincoln Correctional Facility in Manhattan and Livingston Correctional Facility in western New York have officially closed. 

The facilities — Lincoln was a minimum security prison, while Livingston was a medium security prison — closed Sept. 1, according to DOCCS. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed closing two prisons in his state budget plan earlier this year. The final 2019-20 state budget included language allowing for the closure of up to three correctional facilities

The Cuomo administration opted to close two facilities. The closures were announced in May. 

At the time of the announcement, Lincoln Correctional Facility had 133 inmates and 113 employees. The prison's capacity was 284 inmates. Livingston's capacity was 874 and held 806 inmates as of mid-May. The prison employed 327 people. 

Since Cuomo took office in 2011, the state shuttered 15 correctional facilities. The closures were possible, the state says, because the crime rate is at an all-time low and a declining inmate population means fewer prisons are needed. 

"These new closures are another step toward reversing the era of mass incarceration and recognizing that there are more effective alternatives to lengthy imprisonment," Cuomo said in February.

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The latest round of closures leave the state with 52 correctional facilities. The employees affected by the closing of the two prisons were offered positions within DOCCS or another state agency. 

While one of the prisons that closed is in New York City, the other is in an upstate county — Livingston — where the facility was a major employer. A neighboring prison, Groveland, remains open. But state and local officials who represent Livingston County worry about the effects of the closure. 

Livingston County Administrator Ian Coyle told The Citizen in July that he filed a Freedom of Information Law request for more information about why Livingston was selected. In an email to The Citizen Friday, Coyle said he's still waiting for a response to his FOIL request. 

Now that the prison is closed, the focus shifts to reusing the facility. It has been challenging for the state to find new uses for many of the prisons that have closed. Butler Correctional Facility, a medium security prison in Wayne County that closed in 2014, has been vacant for five years. There has been minimal interest in the site. 

The state is planning to auction the prison later this year. 

Empire State Development will play a role in identifying a reuse for Livingston. Coyle is already working on that at the county level. 

"Prison redevelopments, from an adaptive reuse perspective, are quite challenging but we have begun putting the (former) prison area into regional requests for site inventories for the attraction of economic development projects," he said. 

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Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.

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Online producer and politics reporter

I have been The Citizen's online producer and politics reporter since December 2009. I'm the author of the Eye on NY blog and write the weekly Eye on NY column that appears every Sunday in the print edition of The Citizen and online at auburnpub.com.