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Building Congress supports federal decision.

The New York Building Congress has announced its "strong approval" of Secretary of Defense Les Aspin's decision this month to postpone and review an Army Corps of Engineers' plan of reorganization to close or shrink its offices in New York City and Buffalo.

Congress President Louis J. Coletti said that, if implemented, such changes would be "devastating for New York architects, engineers, construction managers and contractors. But the plan," he continued, "also will have a severe negative impact on the New York economy, as well as on the city's construction community, which already is experiencing more than 50 percent unemployment."

He estimated that annual economic losses to New York State because of the closings would total some $112 million, including $4.2 million in wages, family spending and taxes, and over $70 million in contracts to local firms. He said that employment losses in New York City as a direct result of the reorganization would total 470 jobs, but a domino effect would mark this as only the beginning of a longer line of job loses in architectural and engineering firms. Buffalo would lose 141 jobs, for a total loss to the state of 611 jobs directly related to Army Corps work.

Coletti noted that New York's U.S. Senators, Daniel P. Moynihan and Alfonse M. D'Amato, and New York City Mayor David Dinkins, are supporting Secretary Aspin's decision to postpone and review implementation of the reorganization plan.

The Building Congress, Coletti pointed out, has been urging the Army Engineering Corps not to close its New York operations, and he commended the new Defense Secretary for his willingness to reexamine the reorganization plan.

He urged Aspin to consider the plan in terms of its effect on the New York region and to determine whether closing the Corps' New York offices is necessary to achieve the reorganization's stated goal of cost-efficiency.

Coletti pointed out that a study prepared in response to the "Base Realignment and Closure Act of 1990" (BRAC) reduced the number of Corps offices nationally, but left the New York Divison open.

"Under the BRAC plan, which was formulated on the same criteria as the current reorganizational plan, the Army came to the clear conclusion that the New York Division needed to be maintained," the Congress officer said.

The reorganization plan also is being opposed by the New Jersey Alliance for Action because it will reduce the staffs of New York City and Philadelphia Army Corps offices, both of which also serve New Jersey, Coletti pointed out.

The overall reorganization plan for the Corps of Engineers involves several steps, including the downsizing of its civil works division headquarters throughout the country in fiscal 1993, the removal of technical and policy review work from division offices, and a shifting of architectural and engineering work - now done locally - to 15 technical centers nationwide. Nationally, the proposed reorganization will merge 11 existing offices into six at an expected saving of $115 million and a reduction of 2,600 positions.

In New York, the plan calls for the North Atlantic Division (NAD) office in New York City to be relocated to Boston. In addition, two primary Corps districts that service New York State --the Buffalo and New York City districts-- would be significantly reduced in size and mission. Following the pr oposed reorganization, the Corps' offices in these districts, Coletti noted, would have no planning, engineering, environmental or real estate expertise, but would consist of relatively small project management offices, and construction and operations offices.

Coletti pointed out that the Corps' New York District offices use local architectural and engineering firms extensively. These contracts, under the reorganization plan, would be shifted to the proposed technical centers.

Presently, about $4.5 million in projects and studies are being designed by the Corps' districts in the New York-New Jersey region.

"The transfer of design matters to technical centers unfamiliar with the projects or the region will result in schedule delays and cost increases," Coletti predicted. "In addition, shifting the work to other areas would mean a diminished commitment to and less institutional knowledge about the work, and this could result in loss of this construction."
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Title Annotation:New York Building Congress approves plan by Secretary of Defense Les Aspin to postpone downsizing plans for Army Corps of Engineers offices in two New York locations
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Feb 17, 1993
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