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U.S. AGENCIES URGED TO REMAIN DOWNTOWN

Efforts are stepping up to fight a proposed move of two federal offices and 630 jobs from downtown to the suburbs.

Some downtown business leaders also oppose the plan to relocate some operations of the Internal Revenue Service and the Defense Department.

"We believe the federal government is abandoning its commitment to the downtown business area," said Richard T. Reinhard, executive director of Buffalo Place, which runs the downtown transit mall and advocates developing the downtown business district.

Reinhard and County Legislator Joan K. Bozer, R-Buffalo, said that relocation would hurt downtown shopping and restaurants, as well as reduce the number of riders using Metro Rail. They also said it would undermine efforts to lure business and the public downtown.

Mrs. Bozer said she soon would introduce a resolution asking the Legislature to express opposition to the plan to Rep. Henry J. Nowak, D-Buffalo, and Sens. Alfonse M. D'Amato, R-N.Y., and Daniel P. Moynihan, D-N.Y.

Mrs. Bozer said she sees little opposition from other legislators, whose districts might benefit economically by having federal offices relocated there.

Meanwhile, Ellicott Common Council Member James Pitts -- a member of the Buffalo Place board of directors -- already has introduced a similar resolution in the Common Council. A public hearing on the proposals will be held at 10 a.m. July 11 in Council Chambers, Pitts said. Lawmakers argue such a move violates a 1978 presidential order directing the General Services Administration, the government's property management agent, to give first preference to downtown locations.

"That order does exist; however, there frequently are other factors taken into consideration by the (General Services Administration) in determining whether to locate in a central business area," said Renee Miscione, a spokeswoman for the agency. "There are many times justifiable exceptions to the rule."

As long as an agency's request for new or expanded space calls for some part in a downtown area, the General Services Administration is likely to accept terms of the request, Ms. Miscione said. Since the defense office -- which employs 130 people in Buffalo -- has excluded a city area from its request, she said her agency "is taking a harder look at its solicitation (for space)," she added.

She said that if the IRS moved some operations -- namely its taxpayer-services division -- to the suburbs, "400 to 500 jobs would be created." Ms. Miscione also doubted Reinhard's claim that a move from downtown would cause relocation of hundreds of IRS employees, many of whom depend on public transit to get to work.

"There would be approximately 100 people or less that would be relocated," Ms. Miscione said.

General Services Administration officials, who are overseeing negotiations for relocation for both offices, said no decisions have been made on locations.

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