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NY State leasing space despite vacant buildings

November 18, 2011 8:12:17 PM PST
It's one auction, but the story behind the state's selling of a beautiful brick home in Brooklyn reveals much about how poorly New York state manages the properties they own.

$810,000 is the winning bid for the property which the state bought 3 years ago for nearly $1.5 million.

They buyer got the home for more than a half million dollars less than the state paid for it.

The stately brick property was supposed to be a group-assisted living home, but historic preservation rules barred installing fire escapes, something the state failed to find out before buying it.

The home sat empty for three years while the state paid its property taxes.

They finally unloaded it at this recent auction taking a nearly $600,000 loss.

"It was acquired for a purpose and not used and now we have to dispose of it the best we can," said Thomas Pohl, of the NY Office of General Services.

"It's a $600,000 loss to the state because of a bureaucratic bungle," State Senator Michael Gianaris said.

State Senator Michael Gianaris who as a member of the General Assembly's Finance Committee worries this auction may reflect a broader problem of taxpayer dollars squandered by state mismanagement of its buildings valued at more than $17 billion.

"How many more of these things are going on that we don't know about in the state," Gianaris said.

In Manhattan alone, the state owns and manages more than a billion dollars worth of real estate.

About 25% of it is unused.

Half of the building that houses the office for the New York is empty.

The State Office for the Aging is in another building, but it's nearly 40% vacant.

A huge state-owned office building in Harlem is at least 30% empty, yet right next door the state office of Temporary Disability Assistance is leasing 20,000 square feet of space it no longer needs or uses.

"When agencies aren't doing their jobs properly the state can lose millions and millions of dollars," Gianaris said.

Think about it: leasing office space when you own millions of square feet that sit empty.

It's like paying rent to a landlord when you own a home.

Eyewitness News is told that the Cuomo Administration is looking at ways to better manage the state's buildings, including moving agencies from leased offices into state-owned vacant buildings.

It's simple common sense, yet it's taken the state years to figure out.

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