Indoor mask mandates could wreck NYC’s post-Labor Day recovery, group warns

A brand new indoor-mask mandate proposed by the CDC would undercut efforts to attract staff again to workplaces after Labor Day — an important step wanted to prop up the struggling industrial actual property market and to guard the town’s financial system, in line with an influential enterprise advocacy group.

Although Gov. Andrew Cuomo has not but mandated indoor masking because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends, he mentioned municipalities in “high-risk” areas — which embrace New York City below CDC pointers — ought to “seriously consider it” and that he’s “studying” the proposal. Mayor Bill de Blasio mentioned he’ll announce his masking resolution on Monday.

Kathryn Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, ominously instructed The Post, “Mask mandates will reverse the momentum for bringing people back to the office.” She forecast on the finish of June that 62 p.c of workplace staff would return in September for at the very least three days every week.

That could be a major bounce over present bodily metropolis workplace occupancy of just below 25 p.c, as tallied by constructing administration and analysis agency Kastle Systems. Employee returns at a number of main banks lifted the determine from simply 20 p.c a couple of weeks in the past.

But Wylde declined this week to estimate what number of fewer staff than her 62 p.c estimate would come again if a mask mandate was in place. She as an alternative reiterated the necessity for a “federal mandate that everyone gets vaccinated.”

A person gets a shot in their upper arm
The Partnership for New York City says the easiest way ahead could be the federal government mandating vaccinations as an alternative of masks.
Getty Images

She added, “Between the failure to achieve sufficient vaccination rates … and the possible reversion to mask requirements in the office, there is great uncertainty about the pace of return to the office.”

CBRE tristate CEO Mary Ann Tighe put inoculation first, saying, “It would be so much better if, instead of masks, the city says everyone working in the city must be either vaccinated or tested weekly.”

But many actual property moguls dodged the query, modified the topic or mentioned it was too early to take a position when requested whether or not they agreed with Wylde’s grim prediction. One who didn’t wish to be named mentioned, “It’s a huge issue that people don’t want to talk about.”

Morgan Stanley
Big banks, like Morgan Stanley, led by James Gorman, are watching and ready.
South China Morning Post by way of Getty Images

Real Estate Board of New York president James Whelan mentioned REBNY has labored intently with landlords on security and “We view any additional public sector guidance regarding mask-wearing as just another piece of that conversation.” JLL regional president Peter Riguardi mentioned, “We are just now evaluating everything.”

Physically occupied workplaces are crucial to the town, which attracts the lion’s share of tax income from industrial actual estate-related taxes. Although most giant landlords nonetheless obtain full hire, that could change if tenants resolve to slash their area when present leases expire. Such losses would shrink property values and the tax income they produce.

The Post reported Wednesday that Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley were “watching” and “monitoring” the mask situation and would possibly backtrack on beforehand introduced plans to carry most workers again.

One financial institution CEO not too long ago told Post columnist Charles Gasparino that masking “defeats the purpose” of getting staff collectively in an workplace and “Masking will definitely change reopening plans.”

A woman walks past an empty commercial retail space in Midtown Manhattan
Physically occupied workplaces are crucial to the town, which attracts the lion’s share of tax income from industrial actual estate-related taxes.
Getty Images

Cuomo on Wednesday, chatting with the Association for a Better New York, once more urged corporations to “bring your employees back from remote work” by Labor Day.

Marc Holliday, CEO of the town’s largest industrial landlord, SL Green, wouldn’t speculate on any potential influence from a brand new mask rule. But he agreed with Cuomo: “The biggest issue for the success of the city is to get your employees back to work.”

He famous that every one Green staff have been within the workplace “safely even before vaccines” since mid-2020. He mentioned of the agency’s leasing success at One Vanderbilt and elsewhere, “There’s no possible way we could have done it” if everybody labored remotely.

ABNY chairman Steven Rubenstein downplayed the difficulty: “I don’t think mask policies will be the thing that slows us down. If COVID-19 cases surge, that will be the thing that slows us down.”

A spokesman for Brookfield Properties mentioned, “All signs continue to point to a substantial return post-Labor Day,” however supplied no particulars. RXR chairman/CEO Scott Rechler — who’s banged the drum since final yr over the urgency of getting staff again to their desks — declined to remark.

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