The Norman Transcript

Nation/World

October 20, 2013

Sandy-damaged prison to be sold in NYC hotspot

NEW YORK — On a recent morning on the west side of Manhattan, Wendy Featherstone showed off a prime piece of real estate that many New Yorkers don’t know exists.

The eight-story brick building in Chelsea’s gallery district has three terraces, one with views of the Statue of Liberty and cruise ships docking along the Hudson River. There’s an indoor pool, basketball court and even a private chapel with stained-glass windows.

Featherstone isn’t a pushy real estate agent — she’s a prison superintendent. The property once was a medium-security women’s lockup called Bayview Correctional Facility. And those terraces? They’re really caged-in recreation areas.

The superintendent ran Bayview until Superstorm Sandy made the Hudson surge and sent a wall of water into a facility as she and her workers helplessly looked on.

“You know in the “Ten Commandments,” the way the water is when they part the sea? That’s how the water was coming down,” she recalled as she walked an empty cell block. “It was the river. The river was in here.”

Featherstone rode out the storm on a cot in her second-floor office after the power went out. The water receded and no one was harmed. But a year later, the Bayview Correctional Facility remains empty.

The 153 women — serving time for robberies, assaults and lesser crimes — were evacuated a few days before the storm to upstate prisons and never came back. The flooding destroyed boilers and damaged electrical equipment, causing $600,000 in damage. The state’s current budget called for the facility to close by the end of the fiscal year as a cost-saving measure, leaving the building in limbo.

The state has sold other shuttered prisons elsewhere to local governments that have turned them into business parks or to private buyers at auction. The Empire State Development agency is still assessing the best use for Bayview, but its location alone suggests it has more potential than the typical redevelopment stepchild.

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