DEC FIRMS UP PLANS FOR TOWER

ELIZABETH BENJAMIN Staff writer
Section: CAPITAL REGION,  Page: B7

Date: Thursday, February 4, 1999

In 1997, Gov. George Pataki announced a new 14-story headquarters would be built for the state Department of Environmental Conservation as part of a plan to bring thousands of state workers downtown to revitalize the capital city. One year later, when Pataki signed what is now known as the ``Albany Plan'' at City Hall, the DEC building had grown to 15 floors.


Now, the height of the office tower at 625 Broadway has changed again. This time, it is down to 13 floors.


A state Office of General Services spokeswoman said the change occurred sometime last year after completion of an environmental impact study. OGS is going to construct the $60 million office building and DEC will sign a lease purchase agreement with the state.


``OGS was asked to optimize the space based on a report done by the DEC,'' said Suzanne Morris, adding that 15 stories had been the ``outside limit'' for the proposed building.


DEC spokesman Gary Sheffer said his agency's plans to relocate about 1,700 employees to the downtown building have not changed. Thirteen floors will be enough room to accommodate workers from the headquarters at 50 and 80 Wolf Road in Colonie as well as from a field office in Latham.


``We're going to have more than adequate space for all our employees,'' Sheffer said.


DEC considered relocating some employees from its Delmar offices as well, putting the estimated number of workers in its new Broadway building at 1,800. But that plan has been scrapped, and the Delmar employees will remain where they are, Sheffer said.


Last spring, the governor and Mayor Jerry Jennings said they hoped construction would begin in fall 1998. That schedule was held up by a lawsuit against he city filed in the fall by the Public Employees Federation, which represents white-collar state workers.


The lawsuit claimed that the city had not sufficiently considered the impact the Albany Plan would have on already congested traffic and the downtown parking crunch.


The Albany Plan also includes a new headquarters for the state comptroller's office on State Street, a 2,400-car parking garage at Madison Avenue and Eagle Street and the Dormitory Authority's Broadway headquarters, which was completed last year.


In January, state Supreme Court Justice Harold Hughes dismissed the PEF lawsuit, which sought to require the city to revisit environmental impact studies for the DEC building or provide more parking spaces for the agency's employees. Jennings has promised 1,350 parking spots for the 1,700 DEC workers coming to downtown.


Jennings said he expects construction on the DEC building to begin this spring and take 18 to 24 months to complete.