A marketing study conducted two years ago projected 150,000 visitors a year to Sing Sing and Ossining, where the prison is located, generating $20 million in revenue for the state and Westchester County.
"We really think this could become the Alcatraz of the East," Deputy County Executive Lawrence Schwartz said. "This could be a major tourist attraction."
Built by inmates in 1825, Sing Sing is one of the country's best-known prisons, in part because it's where Thomas Edison's first electric chair was put into service.
Scores of movies, many starring James Cagney, were set at the prison, and prison jargon such as "the Big Sleep," "the Big House" and "up the river" was coined there.
Despite its death-house legacy, politicians say Sing Sing is appropriate as a tourist attraction.
"Would you tell people not to go to the Holocaust museum?" Schwartz said. "It's part of history."