A Waste of Space


The state of New York wastes an awful lot of taxpayer money on empty space, among other things:

More than a million square feet of state office space, roughly enough to fill the Chrysler Building, sits vacant, yet some state agencies were signing new leases as recently as December.

State agencies are paying millions of dollars to operate 850 toll-free numbers, almost half of which have not been dialed in months.   

And while the government's four major computer data centers are supposed to back up one another in the event of a crippling natural disaster or a terrorist attack, there is just one problem: All of the centers were built within a few miles of one another. Two are within sight of the State Capitol.

Albany's well-known dysfunction, it turns out, is not limited to the legislative coups, indictments and resignations that have dominated headlines in recent years. State government's daily operations — the $3 billion in goods and services New York buys every year, the real estate that state agencies own and lease, and more — are plagued by waste and often bewildering inefficiency, according to a series of audits nearing completion under Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

Why was the state paying for all that extra office space? Possibly because no one knew they were paying for all that extra office space. And why did no one know? Because no one bothered to keep track:

Some of the problems became clear to the administration before it took office, when Mr. Cuomo's transition team moved to the vacant half of a floor leased in a building on the Upper West Side by the State Department of Taxation and Finance.

Curious about why the department had so much excess space, Mr. Glaser asked state officials for an inventory of all real estate leased or owned at taxpayer expense. The answer: No such inventory existed.

Last year, the state of New York rocked a cool $8.5 billion budget gap. This year, it's projected to stare down a $10 billion shortfall.