City Deals on Harlem Office Space for Clinton

The city of New York has cut a deal that could pave the way for former President Clinton to set up his new headquarters on the top floor of a Harlem office tower.

In a joint news conference today, New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., said the city and the building's landlord had agreed to switch a city claim on the space to a different floor at a less expensive price.

‘An Excellent Agreement’

The switch will allow Cogswell Realty Group, which owns the 14-story office tower at 55 West 125th St., to negotiate with the federal government on terms to place Clinton's office on the 14th floor. Sources say the Secret Service insists Clinton take an office on a top floor for security reasons.

"Earlier today we reached agreement, and I think it's an excellent agreement," Giuliani told reporters. "I think everyone now will be able to be satisfied by this. … I believe that President Clinton's being in New York, particularly in Harlem, is a very good thing."

Rangel, who represents Harlem, helped broker the deal with the city.

"The whole community is very excited by this. We have been very, very good to President Clinton, and I think in some ways it's his way of saying 'thank you,'" said Rangel.

Previously, Giuliani had said the city's Administration for Child Services had an "ironclad" lease at $30 per square foot on the office space Clinton wanted. Today's deal with Cogswell moves part of the city's lease to the building's sixth floor at a new rate of $25 per square foot, Giuliani said.

The deal, which will have the city agency occupying four lower floors, is expected to save the city about $150,000, The Associated Press reported. In addition, the city has guarantees that citizens using the offices on West 125th Street will have unrestricted access.

Tough Negotiations

Clinton expressed a desire to rent the Harlem office space after a furor erupted over earlier plans to set up his taxpayer-subsidized shop in a posh, $800,000 office in midtown Manhattan. But it turned out that the lease on the 17,303-square-foot office was held by the Administration for Child Services, which handles foster care for abused children.

While the agency signed the lease in December, it had not yet set up its office there. Giuliani said he was willing to negotiate with the former president, but wanted to make sure it was worth the city's while to find new digs.

And to make the negotiations even trickier, there's no love lost between Giuliani and Clinton. The Republican mayor ran against Clinton's wife for the Senate before dropping out.

Today, Giuliani denied reports he decided to end the dispute after receiving pressure from high-level Republican political forces.

"The story is totally untrue, we have received no communication, not a word, a signal, nothing, zero and I would be willing to say it under oath if you'd like," Giuliani said.

Setting Up Shop in Empowerment Zone

Clinton's move to West 125th Street would situate him within an "empowerment zone" established under his administration.

It was Rangel who first suggested the former president move to Harlem. "If he's going to do good," the congressman said earlier this week, "he should do it in a place where he is wanted."

Indeed, Clinton was given a hero's welcome by neighborhood residents when he toured the office building on Tuesday.

Office space in Harlem costs on average about a third of what taxpayers would have spent on the space Clinton had been looking at in Carnegie Hall Tower in midtown Manhattan. And moving into an empowerment zone, a designation intended to boost investment in flagging communities, entitles Clinton to a range of special tax breaks.

ABCNEWS' Jackie Judd and Angela Fernandez contributed to this report.

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