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GSA-Led Team Wins Hammer Award for Disposal of Puerto Rico Properties

GSA# 9403

April 11, 1997

Contact: Darlene Meskell
or Hap Connors
202-501-1231

A multiagency team property disposal team facilitated by the General Services Administration (GSA) has been awarded Vice President Gore's Hammer Award for its environmentally, economically and culturally sensitive work in disposing of surplus Federal property in Puerto Rico.

The award was presented today by GSA Acting Administrator David J. Barram and Lisa Mallory of the Vice President's National Performance Review staff.

The team streamlined Federal real estate practices, preserved more than 700 acres of critical habitat, and resolved long-standing squatters-rights issues while disposing of the multi-million dollar properties. In the process it also developed a strategy for improving relations with the local populace and for reducing the costs of upkeep, maintenance and security.

Facilitated by GSA's Northeast Zone Office for Property Disposal, the team was composed of 11 members from GSA's Office of Property Disposal, 16 from the Naval Facilities Engineering Command, seven from the Department of Interior's Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service, and six representing Puerto Rican Government agencies.

"This team was successful on many fronts," said Barram. "While transforming the process by which Federal real estate is re-deployed, they overcame language and cultural barriers to build confidence and trust with Puerto Rican officials and dispel the widespread local perception that the U.S. Government is unresponsive, insensitive and uncaring."

This project incorporated many different transactions that resolved long-standing adverse possession issues, protected critical habitats for a variety of endangered species, including the leatherback turtle, and laid a foundation for other property disposal issues in Puerto Rico.

In the past, the Federal property disposal process in Puerto Rico was slow and fraught with bureaucratic infighting and political tension. The large number and size of Federal real estate holdings on the island has long been controversial.

Transactions in process will preserve an additional 800 acres and support eco-tourism to strengthen the struggling Puerto Rican economy. The project will also strengthen the economic viability of the Port of San Juan, which has suffered from economic disruption, inadequate facilities and systemic unemployment in recent years.

GSA's Office of Property Disposal, part of the Public Buildings Service, manages the use and disposal of surplus real property throughout the Government. It redistributes properties among Federal agencies, State and local governments and eligible nonprofit institutions and sells them competitively to the general public.

The Atlantic Division of the Naval Facilities Engineering Command manages the Navy's real property along the East Coast of the U.S. and throughout the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Mediterranean.