RAHWAY – Five years after the new Rahway Public Library building opened, it is still two-thirds empty.
City officials decided to replace the old library destroyed by Hurricane Floyd with a public-private partnership integrating a new library with office space, funded by federal and state money along with contributions from a private developer.
The library, housed on the building’s bottom floor, opened in 2004. The top two floors, with 40,000 square feet of office space, are still empty.
According to city officials, a New York investment group bought the building in January with expectations that a government agency was going to move in, but that didn’t happen.
“The economy is right now the problem, but the guy that bought it is a pretty big player. He has a couple million square feet,” Mayor James Kennedy said. “I’m sure he didn’t do it without realizing what he was getting into.”
Rahway is collecting taxes on the building’s empty floors; the property’s owners paid $94,549 last year, officials said. But Rahway Republican Party Chairman Patrick Cassio argued that the deal cost taxpayers money, because the building was more expensive to build with two top floors, which haven’t generated much revenue.
Cassio also disputes the effect of the economy on the difficulty in finding tenants. “If it was such a great location, why didn’t we get a tenant?” he asked. “If they want to blame the recession, it started in 2008.”
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