How Manhattan Office Life Is Changing

Even after the pandemic ends, remote work is likely to endure, and companies are rethinking their spaces.,


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It’s Monday.

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Weather: Bright and windy, with gusts above 50 m.p.h. High in the mid-50s.

Alternate-side parking: Suspended today for Passover.

Credit…Jonah Markowitz for The New York Times

When the pandemic hit, Manhattan businesses emptied out. A year later, about 90 percent of office workers are still working remotely, according to a recent survey of major employers by the Partnership for New York City, a business group.

While some real estate experts predict a rebound in occupancy rates in the summer months, it is increasingly likely that work life in New York is undergoing a sea change, as companies and their workers embrace remote work.

[No city in the United States, and perhaps the world, must reckon with this transformation in office life more than New York.]

Spotify’s headquarters, which fill 16 floors of 4 World Trade Center, may never be full again: The company has told its employees they can work anywhere, even in another state.

MediaMath, an advertising tech company in the same building, is planning to abandon its space, a decision fueled by its remote-work arrangements during the pandemic.

In Midtown Manhattan, Salesforce expects workers to be in the office just one to three days a week.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. is considering a work model where employees would rotate between working remotely and in the office.

“I could find few people, including myself, who think we are going to go back to the way it was,” said Joseph J. Palermo, the chief operating officer of the law firm Lowenstein Sandler, which is weighing whether to renew its lease.

A permanent shift in how and where people work could have serious consequences for the city.

Roughly half the city’s tax revenue, which pays for services like schools and sanitation, comes from property taxes, and commercial buildings contribute almost half of that revenue. For the first time in more than two decades, New York expects property tax receipts to decline.

The technology sector broadly is going against the grain: It has expanded its footprint in New York during the pandemic. Facebook has added 1 million square feet of Manhattan office space, and Apple has added two floors in a Midtown building.

For some companies, remote work has downsides. Companies are struggling to foster workplace cultures and make employees, especially new hires, feel welcome.

“Zoom and Teams are great,” said Andrea L. Calvaruso, a lawyer at the firm Kelley Drye who is the chair of its trademark and copyright group. But she added, “There’s no substitute for sitting down in a beautiful new collaborative and working together without distractions.”

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The Mini Crossword: Here is today’s puzzle.

A housing inspector has been suspended after he was accused of using a racist slur in a letter to describe the Asian tenants of an Upper East Side apartment. [Gothamist]

The body of a man in his 30s was found in a pond at Morningside Park in Harlem, the police said. [Daily News]

The police chief of Southampton Village made more than $440,000 last year, when the small Long Island town reported no homicides, rapes, robberies or aggravated assaults. [N.Y. Post]

The Times’s Colin Moynihan writes:

Like many cultural organizations, the Irish Repertory Theater in Manhattan has streamed pandemic programming on its website.

But recently, the theater added a new sort of broadcast to its repertoire, setting up two 60-inch screens in windows that face the sidewalk, installing speakers on the building facade and airing a collection of films that show people reading poems in Ireland, London and New York.

In the past year, theaters and other performing arts institutions in New York have turned to creative means to bring works to the public, sometimes also injecting a bit of life into otherwise shuttered facades. Those arrangements continue, even as New York has announced that arts venues can reopen in April at one-third capacity, and some outdoor performances, like Shakespeare in the Park, are scheduled to resume.

Pop-up concerts have been arranged by the Kaufman Music Center on the Upper West Side, in a storefront north of Columbus Circle. At Playwrights Horizons in Midtown, the Mexican-American artist Ken Gonzales-Day is placing photographs of sculptures of human figures in display cases, encouraging viewers to reckon with definitions of beauty and race.

And last December in Downtown Brooklyn, behind glass, the Brooklyn Ballet staged nine 20-minute shows of select dances from its “Nutcracker.”

“I think there is something special about encountering the arts in an unexpected way in the city,” said Amy Holmes, the executive director of the Adrian Brinkerhoff Poetry Foundation.

It’s Monday — embrace change.


Dear Diary:

My boyfriend and I had begun to take bike rides around Central Park, sometimes in the evening.

One night around dusk, close to Halloween, we were coming around the corner near the Shakespeare statue when I heard a musician deep in the shadows playing the opening chords to “Stairway to Heaven.”

“Spooooooky,” I said out loud, turning around and expecting to see my boyfriend.

“Spooky,” came the reply, not from my boyfriend but from a blond woman on a cruiser bike as she breezed past me in the fading light.

— Katherine Barton

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