About the same time her husband was giving up a penthouse suite in favor of less fancy accommodations in Harlem, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton was signing a $514,148-a-year lease on the most expensive hometown office of any U.S. senator.
The space is on the 26th floor of an East Side skyscraper.
Jim Kennedy, Clinton's spokesman, said that much of the office space is taken up by a group of about 60 volunteers working on various constituent-related issues.
"This is labor-intensive, and that's about five times as many volunteers as the average Senate office has working on constituent casework," he said.
It will be the most expensive hometown office of any senator, according to the General Services Administration. The rent is $90,000 a year more than that paid by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and more than double the $209,532 paid by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., for offices one block away.
"Every year, somebody in the Senate has to have the most expensive offices and, probably through history, given the price of real estate, it is somebody from New York," he said.
Controversy erupted last month over former President Clinton's plan to lease a penthouse suite for $800,000 a year, at taxpayer expense, in the Carnegie Towers on W 57th Street. Under attack from critics, Clinton opted for more modest space in a new Harlem office building, where he is paying $210,000 a year.
Kennedy said Sen. Clinton had not followed suit "because we believe that as a senator, her offices should be centrally located."
Kennedy said Clinton is saving taxpayers money by moving into 780 Third Ave. rather than taking over the more glamorous Chrysler Building offices of her predecessor, Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Moynihan was paying $280,000 a year, but that would have jumped to $627,000 under a new lease, he said.
He said that the suite is listed at 7,909 square feet but that actual usable space is 5,650 square feet.
Clinton is paying $91 a square foot for the usable space, Kennedy said, just under the limit of $91.14 per square foot set by the GSA.