BY JORDAN GIBBONS
U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) organized a meeting Tuesday morning with the Social Security Administration, the General Services Administration, Greater Jamaica Development Corporation and representatives from U.S. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Charles Schumer (D-NY) to discuss plans on utilizing the empty space at the Joseph P. Addabbo Federal Building.
In April, the PRESS of Southeast Queens reported that the building, which serves as the SSA’s Northeastern Program Service Center, was severely underutilized because of staff attrition, transfers and layoffs.
A study on the facility revealed that it holds only half of the nearly 3,000 jobs that it was designed to hold.
Meeks said that he was pleased to get everyone together to find out about the progress being made at the Federal level.
“I think that we have an update on what is going on,” he said. “It was great in regards to communication.”
He said that the GSA and the SSA will provide progress reports every two to three months. The SSA is undergoing a process to find out how much space they will need. Within the next six months, they will have a plan on how they will use the space.
If there is leftover room after the SSA fills its needs, which Meeks said he expects there to be, they will look into other Federal agencies that could be brought into the building to use the space.
Meeks said they will see what other Federal buildings have expiring leases so they can consolidate their offices and save taxpayer dollars.
If all of the Federal agencies are adequately supplied with space, State and then City agencies will be considered.
“Should that fail, then they will look at private partnerships,” Meeks said. “But, there is a lot of sensitive information in that building.”
Schumer became involved in the discussion when he sent a letter to Administrator Dan Tangherlini at the GSA in August, urging the GSA to address the situation.
Associate Administrator Lisa Austin at the GSA responded to him last week in a letter stating that the “GSA anticipates developing a strategy and coming up with an estimate within the next 12 months. GSA will then be in a better position to have more detailed discussions with interested stakeholders.”
Schumer said that the underutilized setup at the building is not only wasteful but hurtful to the local economy and that is why he pushed the GSA to do more to fully occupy the building.
“It’s good news that GSA is beginning the effort to find new tenants for a renovated building and I will push the agency to stay ahead of their 12-month timeline because we must maximize the building’s use as soon as possible,” he said.
President of Greater Jamaica, Carlisle Towery, sat in on the discussion and said it was a very productive meeting and he was pleased with Meeks’ leadership on the issue.
He was actively involved in the planning of the building’s original construction in the 1980s and he said that putting jobs in Jamaica makes sense for the City and its residents.
One point that he said he made to the GSA and SSA is that 80 percent of Federal, State and City jobs are in Manhattan, while Queens only has six percent.
He said that creating more jobs in Jamaica would be more convenient for Queens residents and specifically Southeast Queens, because of the long commute they have to endure to get to work.
“It really feels good that its going to be fully utilized,” he said. “It’s quite an important employer and economic generator; not just in Jamaica, but in Queens.”
Reach Reporter Jordan Gibbons at (718) 357-7400 Ext. 123, firstname.lastname@example.org or @jgibbons2.