When are New York City’s skyscrapers going to be full again and what are we going to do about all those vacancies? No big American city experienced more disruption from the double whammy of COVID-19 and remote work than New York, and it will likely be years before we find our way to the new normal. The city’s buildings and their uses will need to be rethought, whether that means converting offices into condominiums or rental apartments or shops or restaurants or vertical farms.
To get from here to there, the most important thing that City Hall can do is to eliminate the silly rules that straitjacket the uses of particular buildings, and move toward a tax code that offers equal treatment to all forms of real estate.
How empty are New York’s offices today? Kastle Systems provides access control, with the help of smartphones and fobs, for thousands of buildings nationwide. While their buildings don’t perfectly represent the city as a whole, the data still provides a reasonable week-by-week measure of office use.
Edward L. Glaeser is the Glimp professor of economics at Harvard University, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, and contributing editor at City Journal.
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