The virus has changed the entire urban landscape
Andrés Correa Guatarasma / Courtesy
Owners of hotels and largely vacant office buildings in midtown Manhattan amid the pandemic could convert them into residential buildings, according to a proposal announced yesterday by Governor Andrew Cuomo.
During his 11th “State of the State” address, Cuomo said that the COVID-19 outbreak has created opportunities for innovation, particularly when it comes to create more housing as homelessness and poverty grow, while tourism is at its lowest level in history and most people continue to work from home.
No surprises, given the pandemic and the increase in online shopping and remote work, the vacancy of commercial premises and offices has increased dramatically in a city full of skyscrapers, mostly work spaces.
“The housing problem in our cities has worsened. But the growing vacancy crisis on our commercial property brings an opportunity. We should convert vacant commercial spaces into affordable and supportive housing, and we should do it now, ”Cuomo said.
The legislation would create a five-year period during which owners of office buildings and hotels in downtown Manhattan could convert them for residential use, a idea endorsed by both the New York Real Estate Board (REBNY) and the city’s Hotel Association (HANYC), highlighted New York Post.
“As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded, New York, like states around the world, must reinvent how central business districts will succeed and thrive in the 21st century,” said REBNY, who has promoted the idea of such conversions in recent months.
“New York will continue to be a global shopping center by instilling a 24/7 environment in its central business districts, simultaneously strengthening its retail and small business sectors, creating ‘walk to work environments ‘and will provide much needed and affordable housing. East forward-thinking approach it will make these areas even more attractive to cutting-edge companies and their employees, ”REBNY defended in a statement.
Vijay Dandapani, President of HANYC, commented that “The hospitality industry is the most stressed in the commercial property sector due to the almost total evaporation of revenues since March 22. No prospect of a significant revival for another three to four years, the governor’s proposal that seeks to make it easier for hotel owners and operators to maximize the value of their severely affected assets will be welcomed by many ”.
Some Midtown hotels have already closed for good. Others have been used to house the homeless or recovering coronavirus patients during the pandemic.
Cuomo’s office only gave basic details of the conversion plan yesterday and a spokesperson said it would be developed in the next few days. But some officials said they believe a state law would supersede the city’s zoning laws if there were any conflicts.
It is unclear what would happen to businesses that have employment contracts with the Hotel Trades Council (HTC) union. There is 40 thousand union workers employed in 300 hotels.
An arbitrator ruling ordered 75 NYC hotel owners to pay $ 500 million in severance pay and benefits to employees who lost their jobs during the pandemic.