NYC needs to repurpose vacant office spaces to save declining economy


DMCA | PXfuel

The Editorial Board

The COVID-19 pandemic caused many office jobs to make the switch from in-person to fully or partially remote work weeks. Consequently, workers are commuting to the office less, as well as spending less in the city on train fare, in restaurants and at retail spaces, all of which drive the NYC economy.

A recent Bloomberg News analysis found that the uptick in remote work is costing New York City a shocking $12.4 billion a year. In order to counteract this major blow to the city’s economy, empty office spaces should be repurposed and used to find new ways to bring in revenue.

Manhattan’s Financial District and Midtown, neighborhoods known to experience traffic from office workers, have been especially hard hit. Office availability in Manhattan reached a record-high of 17.4% in February of last year, according to real-estate firm Colliers

“There’s no question that Midtown is going to have to reinvent itself,” said Chris Jones, a senior research fellow at the Regional Plan Association, an urban-planning group.

Office workers are not driving the economy in the same way they used to, and it is counterintuitive to continue to allow these offices to remain empty. 

One option is to convert the empty spaces into apartment buildings, just as artists converted vacant industrial spaces into living quarters in the 1960s. Now, loft apartments are considered luxury apartments in Manhattan.

Following through with this plan would be especially helpful amid the city’s housing shortage . Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine is currently working on a housing plan that identifies 171 such sites to repurpose into housing. From these, the city can build 73,000 homes.

Another way would be to cater to the student community that is required to commute to class and participate in the local economy near their school. This would be an opportunity for the city to give back to small businesses that are suffering financially from the rise in remote work.