About 78 percent of the 160 major employers surveyed said they have adopted hybrid remote and in-person arrangements, up from 6 percent before the pandemic. Most workers plan to come into the office just a few days a week, the group said.
The seismic shift in office building usage has been one of the most challenging situations in decades for New York real estate, a bedrock industry for the city, and has upended the vast stock of offices in Manhattan, home to the two largest business districts in the country, the Financial District and Midtown.
About 19 percent of office space in Manhattan is vacant, the equivalent of 30 Empire State Buildings. That rate is up from about 12 percent before the pandemic, according to Newmark, a real estate firm. Office buildings have been more stable in Brooklyn, where the vacancy rate is also about 19 percent but has not fluctuated much since before the pandemic, Newmark said.
Daniel Ismail, the lead office analyst at Green Street, a commercial real estate research firm, predicted that the office market in Manhattan would worsen in the coming years as companies adjusted their work arrangements and as leases that were signed years ago started to expire. In general, companies that have kept offices have downsized, realizing they do not need as much space, while others have relocated to newer or renovated buildings with better amenities in transit-rich areas, he said.
Even before the pandemic, it was not uncommon for companies to move offices throughout the city or to open separate locations outside of Manhattan. The city offers a tax incentive for businesses that relocate to an outer borough, with up to $3,000 in annual business-income tax credits per employee.
Nearly 200 companies received it in 2018, for a total of $27 million in tax credits, the most recent data available, according to the city’s Department of Finance. But some office developers are betting on neighborhoods outside Manhattan becoming attractive in their own right, luring companies that specifically want to avoid the hustle-and-bustle of Midtown.
More than 1.5 million square feet of office space is under construction in Brooklyn, including a 24-story commercial building in Downtown Brooklyn.