City government isn’t what it used to be. Payrolls have been downsized; agencies have been consolidated. The need for vast amounts of office space in downtown Manhattan, therefore, has decreased. So what to do with all those city-owned buildings, many of them near City Hall?
Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith has a remarkably clear idea: Sell ‘em.
Mr. Goldsmith, who was brought to City Hall from Indianapolis because of his reputation as an innovator and a problem-solver, recently unveiled plans to begin identifying buildings that might be transferred to private hands for the right price. While City Hall hasn’t decided on specific addresses, there’s no question that it could turn a tidy profit by selling just a few of the buildings it owns on lower Broadway, Chambers Street, Reade Street and other downtown locations.
This is a no-brainer. The city’s huge physical presence downtown is a relic of the bad-old days of sprawling, inefficient municipal services. Years of smart-sizing government have led to lots of unused space, and not just in city-owned buildings. Mr. Goldsmith already has begun to cut the amount of office space that the city leases from private landlords. The city leases more than 12 million square feet of office space, but Mr. Goldsmith hopes to reduce that figure by at least a million square feet, saving the city millions of dollars in rent payments every year.
Disposing of municipal assets, of course, is not a solution to a short-term fiscal crisis. And that’s not the way the proposed sales are being presented. Rather, it’s a simple recognition of reality. The city doesn’t need all this space anymore. So why hold on to underutilized buildings?
Common sense doesn’t always prevail in government and politics. In this case, however, it appears that common sense will, in fact, win out. That’s all good.