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Cost of Clinton office raises eyebrows

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Every New Yorker knows the answer to this: How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.

How do you get to President Clinton's new office? Take the elevator up to the 56th floor of Carnegie Hall Tower.

The entire 56th floor is to be the former president's new office. It's lovely at the top, according to a real estate ad for the building, and a full 8,300 square feet.

New York real estate man Scott Durkin says there's enough space for 65 to 85 people to work comfortably.

"You can put a lot of folks, or you can put very few and have really big desks," Durkin said.

The price for the former president's new digs? About $85 per square foot, according to one source familiar with the lease -- At 8,300 square feet, that comes to approximately $700,000 in rent per year.

"There's no question that it's arrogant," says Gary Ruskin of the Congressional Accountability Project. "It's a slap at the taxpayers. It shows tremendous disrespect for the taxpayers and we hope that he'll change his mind, pick office space that's cheaper, and show more respect for us taxpayers."

Clinton's anticipated annual rent is significantly higher than that of other living past presidents. From Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter in the low hundred thousands, to Ronald Reagan in the mid-$300,000s, to George Bush at $180,000.

office building
Clinton's new office takes up the entire 56th floor of the Carnegie Hall Tower  

The General Services Administration is responsible for identifying suitable space and negotiating the lease.

The real estate agent representing the former president says the price being paid for the space above Carnegie Hall is well within the range set by the GSA and is at or below the market rate for similar such properties in New York City.

But some Republicans are critical.

Congressman Ernest Istook, chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Treasury, the Postal Service and General Government, warned the GSA in a letter not to exceed the regularly mandated annual rent of $228,000.

Clinton responded to the growing controversy Friday, saying he'll limit the taxpayer contribution to the lease to about what Reagan pays per square foot and his foundation will make up the difference.

"You know, I'm not going to let the taxpayers get gigged out of this," Clinton said. "But I mean, it's New York. It's part of being in New York, and I'm glad to be here. But I don't want the taxpayers to get taken for a ride on the lease, and you don't have to worry about that."



RELATED STORIES:
GOP congressman seeks to limit Clinton office expenditure
February 1, 2001

RELATED SITES:
Carnegie Hall Tower
U.S. General Services Administration

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