Suffolk real estate move stalls in Albany

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ALBANY -- A last-minute wrinkle to Suffolk County's initiative to get a quick cash infusion by executing a "sale-lease back" of county buildings has put the idea on hold in the State Legislature.

The proposal was excluded from both the State Senate and Assembly budgets voted Monday. The omission is a setback for County Executive Steve Bellone -- but how grave depended on whom you ask.

"It's not dead -- it's just not in the budget," said Assemb. Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst), dean of the Suffolk Assembly delegation. "It could come back later in the session" which runs until mid-June.

In contrast, Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) said there's still time to include the initiative in the state budget, which must be adopted by April 1. But he said Suffolk officials have to explain a significant variation to the proposal.

Bellone originally suggested allowing the county to sell the H. Lee Dennison building to private investors and lease it back. He said it would yield about $70 million.

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Days ago, he asked to include other buildings across the road from Dennison, LaValle said.

"They added new language Friday," said LaValle, dean of the Suffolk Senate delegation. "The delegation wants to talk about it. We understand the $70 million is critically important to the Suffolk County budget . . . But people are wondering: How many buildings are you using? How did you get that number [$70 million]? Is the county saying that Dennison alone doesn't get you to $70 million?"

LaValle emphatically said the proposal isn't dead, adding "it's a matter of communication" with the county.

A Bellone spokeswoman said Suffolk wants to add one building to the proposal and that the county executive was optimistic the proposal would be approved as part of the state budget.

"Discussions are ongoing and we feel confident sale-lease back will take place," Vanessa Baird-Streeter said.

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