Hochul & Adams’ ‘vision’ for post-COVID New York gets it almost entirely wrong
No cheers for Mayor Eric Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul’s “shared vision” for a post-COVID-19 New York City, which they touted at an Association for a Better New York event this week.
Their assessment of the city’s current troubled economic situation under-plays the most critical issue: unchecked crime. Their prescriptions for change are vague, quixotic and mostly toothless. And though it’s nice to know they’re (supposedly) on the same page about not soaking the rich with more taxes, most of the other pages they share are wrong.
They relied on a report titled “Making New York Work For Everyone,” reflecting the efforts of the “New New York” panel they’d set up in May. The report’s themes include ever-popular bromides, “Reimagine New York’s Commercial Districts as Vibrant 24/7 Destinations” and “Working for an Equitable Future.”
Those aren’t formulas for progress, but slogans for a woke future without cars and for incremental redistribution of wealth.
The report overstated damage from the work-from-home phenomenon, which has left some office buildings half empty or worse and hurt stores and restaurants that relied on heavy office traffic.
“Let’s make Midtown more fun for office workers” was, to paraphrase, one thrust of the report — i.e., create more pedestrian-only plazas around Grand Central Terminal and automate trash collection in other cities.
Where to start slicing this baloney?
While fewer employees work in their offices than before the pandemic, the numbers Hochul and Adams relied on were significantly exaggerated. Hochul mused, “Take the same building that is 40 percent full . . . Can people live there? Can there be a childcare center there? Can there be a nice restaurant? Can we have a co-working space? Can we . . . have a tech hub, you know, bring in dorm housing for students.”
Such a statement swallows prevailing wisdom that office buildings are finished, so let’s dream up all kinds of cute ways to make them newly viable.
Yes, there’s a serious issue here — including the loss of tax revenue from fewer commercial property sales — but there’s a big difference between acknowledging that a significant problem exists and subscribing to an end-of-days economic and social nightmare.
The truth? Manhattan office buildings are on average about 60% full compared with 2019, according to just about every major commercial landlord. Yet their buildings aren’t counted in the discredited Kastle Systems “Back to Work Barometer, which “New York York” cites as gospel truth.
In fact, as The Post has reported, Kastle measures only buildings — many of them so-called “Class-B” properties — that pay to use the company’s security system. That leaves out nine of the city’s 10 largest commercial landlords, whose tenants are the major financial-service companies and law firms with the highest daily attendances. Entirely missing are the biggest owners, such as SL Green, Vornado, Related Companies, Rudin Management and Rockefeller Group.
Nor does it count towers owned by companies that occupy them, such as Morgan Stanley, some of which are virtually 100% full all week.
To the extent some office locations are in trouble, the mayor and governor’s brainstorms to tackle the problem reflect everything wrong with today’s auto-averse urban orthodoxies.
More “plazas” around Grand Central? There are already a slew of them — such as the large new one adjacent to the One Vanderbilt tower between East 42nd and 43d streets, and the one adjacent to the Park Avenue viaduct.
Even if the Department of Transportation were to ram yet another down our throats, do the mayor and governor believe they’d be enough to entice suburbanites back to their two-hour commutes after working at home for nearly three years?
As for automating trash collection: How about getting the Sanitation Department to do a better job than the one it does now, which has left streets filthier with uncollected garbage than they were under Mayor Bill de Blasio? Or eliminating the outdoor-dining sheds which make the Big Apple one big feast for rodents?
For sure, Adams and Hochul said some promising things about the mayor’s dreamed-of “city of yes.” Hochul acknowledged that the city is over-regulated and barriers are prohibitively high to transforming obsolete office buildings into apartments. But who doesn’t know that?
Both politicians call for a safer city — the need for which is the real impediment to full economic recovery. Adams publicly laments the damage caused by so-called “bail reform,” district attorneys who act more like public defenders and turn-’em-loose judges. Hochul’s commitment is a lot softer, if it exists at all.
The mayor must coax or cajole her into what she needs to do — stand up to Albany legislators who seem to enjoy watching law-abiding citizens squirm as gang members, muggers and violent crazies turn the streets lawless. Only then will we have a “New New York” that’s worthy of the name.