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Who gets state rent checks?

Updated: 11/25/2013 7:05 PM
Created: 11/25/2013 5:32 PM WNYT.com
By: Bill Lambdin

The State of New York pays out tens of millions of taxpayer dollars every year to rent office space in the Capital Region. That's your money.

NewsChannel 13 found out where it's going, but it's much harder to say who's actually getting it. That's why NewsChannel 13 set out to learn who is collecting the rent checks and what, if any, link they might have to politically well connected people.

1 Commerce Plaza is one of the best locations in Albany. Across the street from the State Education Building, the Alfred E Smith state offices and also, the Capitol outside your office window.

Documents obtained by NewsChannel 13 under the Freedom of Information Law show New York State pays almost $6 million in rent each year for space here, and it all traces back to a run of the mill row house in Brooklyn.

New York State rents space for the agencies Health, State, Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, Homeland Security, Developmental Disabilities and Higher Education.

They pay another $850 thousand in annual leases at 845 and 875 Central Avenue.

All that money traces back to the Brooklyn row house.

A search of public documents gives us the names David Stern management at 2164 82nd St. Brooklyn and David Shemano, CEO of Stern management, at 2158 associated with numerous LLC's, Limited Liability Companies, listing the Brooklyn addresses.

A man that was confronted did not hang around long enough to answer any questions. He made it clear he wasn't interested in talking to us once we told him we were from an Albany TV station, heading inside without further discussion.

We shared our findings with Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group.

The whole story raises a lot of questions. The unwillingness of anyone to tell you who is behind it. The fact that you have to sort of be Sherlock Holmes to figure it out,” says Horner.

Albany city tax rolls list two LLC's and Carrow Real Estate as owners of 1 Commerce Plaza. Vice President Nancy Koller said they don't own the building, despite what city records say. Koller said the building is owned by private investors she would not disclose and then stopped returning further phone calls.

We asked the state's Office of General Services for the names of the people to whom they pay rent.

“If it's going to a home in Brooklyn, is it really going there or is that just a way station and is it going to somewhere else,” says Barbara Bartoletti, of the League of Women Voters.

We also tried a second time for answers at the Brooklyn row house, but were turned away again.

NewsChannel 13 will continue to stay on the Office of General Services, demanding the rental information involving taxpayer money the law allows us to receive.

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