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NIFA: Nassau can bid to buy building leased by OEM, police

NIFA Chairman Adam Barsky, left, takes part in

NIFA Chairman Adam Barsky, left, takes part in the finance control board's meeting Thursday night, Jan. 5, 2017, to clear the way for Nassau County to bid an undisclosed amount to purchase the Morrelly Homeland Security Center in Bethpage, where the county Office of Emergency Management and Nassau police department lease space. Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

A state oversight board in control of Nassau’s finances gave county officials the green light Thursday to bid an undisclosed amount to purchase the Morrelly Homeland Security Center in Bethpage, where the county Office of Emergency Management and Nassau police department lease space.

The Nassau Interim Finance Authority voted 4-2 at its meeting in Uniondale to allow the county to bid in the Jan. 10 auction for the three-story, 87,000-square-foot building on Grumman Road West.

NIFA Chairman Adam Barsky said the county would likely face significant costs to relocate their emergency management center if they were not successful at the auction.

“There would be cost implications and we don’t want to disrupt the county’s ability to provide services in the event of an emergency,” Barsky said.

Board members Chris Wright and Howard Weitzman voted against the property bid but said they were hamstrung by confidentiality agreements with the county — meant to ensure that details of the proposal are not made public — from detailing the reason for their opposition.

“I had substantial questions that were not answered to my satisfaction,” Wright said.

New York Commercial Bank foreclosed on the building last year after the property owner, Applied Science Center of Innovation and Excellence in Homeland Security Research, defaulted on its mortgage loan.

The Office of Emergency Management leases 5,200 square feet on the first floor, and both OEM and the Nassau police department occupy 1,900 square feet on the second floor. Nassau’s lease with Applied Science expires in 2020 and terminates with the building sale.

NIFA and county legislative officials, which granted similar approval last month, declined to say how much Nassau was prepared to bid on the property but said the price was capped at a predetermined amount.

A real estate listing for the property says bidders should expect a “minimum obligation” of $6.395 million for the former Northrop Grumman property.

Nassau would use unused capital funds and the police department’s asset-forfeiture dollars to bid on the building, said Brian Nevin, spokesman to County Executive Edward Mangano.

County officials said relocating OEM to a new space would take at least nine months and result in major costs to purchase or lease a substitute property. The state, Nevin said, also has invested $20 million in the building in recent years.

Nassau Comptroller George Maragos said last month he had been “excluded from evaluating the economic benefit of the purchase” and would not give the county approval to make a down payment — typically 10 percent of the sale price — at the auction.

Thursday, Maragos spokeswoman Carla Hall D’Ambra said the comptroller has since received a “briefing on the merits of the purchase” and now supports the bidding. “The comptroller, however, reserved the right to review and approve the final outcome if the county is the successful bidder,” she said.

The board Thursday also gave the county a two-month extension to turn over copies of contracts with every labor union in an easily digestible form.

For years, the board has complained that contract stipulations such as settlement agreements, side letters and arbitrations awards were scattered and poorly organized.

Nassau must deliver the “comprehensive” document to NIFA by March 31, according to a board resolution. The county’s labor union agreements expire at the end of 2017.

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