New York Faces Lasting Financial Toll Whilst Pandemic Passes

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“It’s gone from feeling super lonely and now it feels pretty normal,” added Mr. Gray.

Wall Street and the banking sector are pillars of the city’s economy, and they are among the most aggressive industries when it comes to getting employees to return to the office. James Gorman, Morgan Stanley’s chief executive officer, told investors and analysts this month, “If you want to get paid in New York, you have to be in New York.”

Many firms, including Blackstone and Morgan Stanley, have huge real estate holdings or loans to the industry, so their pursuit of the return of workers is more than just civic pride. Technology companies like Facebook and Google are becoming increasingly important employers as well as large commercial tenants and are expanding their office space. However, they were more flexible when it came to keeping employees working remotely.

Updated

June 20, 2021, 12:00 PM ET

Google, which has 11,000 employees in New York and plans to add 3,000 over the next few years, plans to return to its West Chelsea offices in September, but employees only need to come three days a week. The company also stated that up to 20 percent of its employees can apply for full-time work remotely.

The decision of even a small fraction of the workforce at Google and other companies to stay home for part or all of the week could have a significant economic impact.

Even if only 10 percent of Manhattan office workers work remotely most of the time, it means more than 100,000 people a day don’t pick up coffee and bagels on their way to work or a drink afterwards, said James Parrott, an economist at the Center for New York City Affairs at the New School.

“I expect a lot of people will return, but not all,” he said. “We could lose some business in the neighborhood as a result.”

The lack of employees hurts people like Danuta Klosinski, 60, who has been cleaning office buildings in Manhattan for 20 years. She is one of more than 3,000 office cleaners who remain unemployed, according to Denis Johnston, a vice president of her Local 32BJ union of the Service Employees International Union.