But now, as the pandemic eases its grip, companies are considering not just how to safely bring back employees, but whether all of them need to come back at all. They were forced by the crisis to figure out how to function productively with workers operating from home — and realized unexpectedly that it was not all bad. If that’s the case, they are now wondering whether it’s worth continuing to spend as much money on Manhattan’s exorbitant commercial rents. They are also mindful that public health considerations might make the packed workplaces of the recent past less viable.
“Is it really necessary?” said Diane M. Ramirez, the chief executive of Halstead, the real estate company, which has more than a thousand agents in the New York region. “I’m thinking long and hard about it. Looking forward, are people going to want to crowd into offices?”
Once the dust settles, and companies make their decisions, New York City could face a real estate reckoning.
NEW YORK — A massive two-month repair project will launch Monday at the country’s busiest train station, temporarily exacerbating the daily commuting struggle during what New York’s governor has predicted will be a “summer of hell.” But it’s only a stopgap measure against a root problem it won’t solve: that one of the world’s great cities increasingly seems unable to effectively transport its workforce. At Penn Station, crowds of commuters fuming at frequent afternoon delays already wedge into narrow stairways down to the tracks, all for the privilege of standing in the aisles of packed trains for a 45-minute ride home. In the mornings, it can take 10 minutes just to climb a flight of stairs to the concourse.
The Industrial Age pattern of the daily commute to the downtown office is growing increasingly impractical and obsolete in a post-Industrial age when information and communications technology (ICT) is obviating the need for concentrations of centralized, commute-in offices like New York City’s.