What Adams and Hochul must do to bring workers back to Manhattan

Mayor Eric Adams wants you back in the office. Last week he said of New Yorkers working from home: ‘I need them to do one more job, to get back to their jobs. Let’s raise our city. The mayor is throwing himself into the charitable impulses of lapsed commuters – but that’s not what will work. He needs them to think coming to the office is in their own interests.

Adams is right to point out that, hey, Midtown is still around. As with many of the Mayor’s initiatives, this concept may seem obvious. But that was not easy for his predecessor, Bill de Blasio, who argued that Manhattan and its office workers didn’t matter as long as working-class neighborhoods were doing well.

Yet they habit be fine as long as the core of the city remains hollow. Before COVID, 1.1 million people from Connecticut, New Jersey and elsewhere in New York came to Manhattan to work at an office every day. Now only about 28.6% are back, most not every day.

Like Adams said last week“Many of us believe we can stay home and not impact our financial ecosystem.”

They can not. Restaurants and stores in Manhattan are suffering where they have yet to close. “We’re connected,” the mayor said: Office workers buy food and clothes near where they work. As for when people should come back, the mayor added: “The deadline is now.”

New York Mayor Eric Adams announces a new subway safety plan.
Mayor Eric Adams stressed the need for workers to return to the office rather than continuing to work from home.
Andrew Schwartz/SplashNews.com

The mayor’s push for immediacy is good.

But his argument and his targets are false. No one will go to the office out of selfless impulse to support Starbucks or to support the values ​​of the Middle Eastern investment fund that owns the office building.

And they won’t go because their boss will force them. “Adams and Hochul’s back-to-work speech is helpful, but the key is that they need to introduce the employees, not the employers, who would like everyone back,” says Kathy Wylde, Partnership for the City manager. from New York. business group.

People walk in Midtown Manhattan.
Rising temperatures have drawn people out of their homes over the past week and onto the streets of Manhattan.
Matthew McDermott

They will go because they think it’s good for their. You can see a glimmer of it: last Thursday, the 65-degree day, there was a marked increase in the number of people on the streets of Midtown.

And they were all Young people – under 30 years old. It was striking to see how well-dressed the young people were. I even saw a pair of high-heeled shoes.

It makes sense: people who have never worked in a Manhattan office before want to experience the real thing. They want to meet and impress other young people. The gritty adventurism also appears to the young crowd, so they are less put off by soaring crime.

If all goes well, as the weather gets warmer, the older ones will follow the younger ones, bit by bit and grumpy, lest they be left behind. No one wants to Zoom anymore.

Problem solved – if.

Yes Adams realizes that people won’t put up with bad experiences on the streets and subways. 20-somethings may like idea of life in bad old New York; they will not tolerate reality.

New York State Governor Kathy Hochul speaks at a press conference to announce major investments to improve psychiatric support for those in crisis.
Governor Kathy Hochul joined Adams in announcing a plan to clean up the city’s subway system by cracking down on rule violations and stopping people from living on trains and in stations.
Andrew Schwartz/SplashNews.com

Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul announced a subway crime plan six weeks ago — and last Friday had to announce the same plan again. That’s because, so far, it’s not working: Violent crime on the subway in January, at 105, including two murders, was almost 60% higher than in January 2019 despite much lower attendance. .

That’s partly because the plan relies almost entirely on mental health awareness, not law enforcement. Summonses and exceptional arrests in the transit system are down 27% from January 2019, even as the underground criminal element has increased.

Without results now, people will be afraid to adopt the Adams schedule to return to work. They just won’t want to put themselves in danger. And their bosses won’t.

A general view of an apparently homeless person sleeping in a subway train.
An important aspect of Hochul and Adams’ plan is to provide homeless people living in the subway with mental health resources.
Christopher Sadowski

Second, New Yorkers will not return to the five-day-a-week in-person work week. A three-day pattern in the office means lower and different foot traffic. This has significant implications for future transit revenues, as well as the value of office and retail properties.

Mayor Eric Adams and Governor Kathy Hochul must work together to bring workers back to Manhattan.
Paul Martinka; Don Pollard

But this is a problem for the future — and the future can wait; we have our own problems right here in the present. For now, getting most people three days a week, repeatedly, would be a win.

Nicole Gelinas is editor-in-chief of the City Journal at the Manhattan Institute.

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