The Ups and Downs of Remote Work in New York – The New York Times

Posted By on April 13, 2022

Good morning. Its Tuesday. Well look at how the pandemic is rewriting the people-in-offices model that sustained Manhattan for generations. And, a playwright who decided not to change the name of her play.

You cant stay home in your pajamas all day, Mayor Eric Adams has said.

He and Gov. Kathy Hochul, who have accelerated the return-to-office push, might well be shouting into the wind. Society is changing around them, and the idea that it takes an office to do office work is being rethought.

My colleagues Dana Rubinstein and Nicole Hong write that the list of New York companies that are changing the way they work keeps growing as the city moves beyond the this-is-only-temporary mind-set from the early weeks of the pandemic. For example:

PwC, a global consulting firm whose American headquarters are in New York City, has told 40,000 employees in this country that they can work remotely forever. Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, a white-shoe law firm with about 300 lawyers in New York, says its staff can live anywhere in the country. Verizon now lets hybrid employees workers who have not been required to return to the office every day as pandemic restrictions have eased go in as many days a week as they want. Or as few.

And Penguin Random House, the publishing house with roughly 2,500 employees in the New York City area, has no mandatory return-to-office plans at all. Theres not going to be some date where were going to be like, OK, everybody back in the pool, said Paige McInerney, the companys director of human resources.

With fewer workers in cubicles, the average New York City office worker is predicted to reduce annual spending near the office by $6,730 from a prepandemic total of around $13,700, according to research from economists at Instituto Tecnolgico Autnomo de Mxico, Stanford University and the University of Chicago. That was the largest drop of any major city.

And if fewer people are squeezing into office elevators and crowding around coffee machines and snack tables, the citys real estate-reliant tax base will feel the pinch. Manhattan office buildings underwrote more than a quarter of the citys property tax revenues before the pandemic, according to the state comptrollers office.

Already, many coffee shops, dry cleaners and other small businesses that served commuters have closed. Vacant storefronts have increased across Manhattan, according to the city comptrollers office. In some parts of Midtown, one in three retail spaces is empty.

Even so, policymakers have barely begun to address what that could mean for schools, parks and the police, all of which depend on tax revenues. Public transit could face service cuts that would disproportionately harm workers who still must show up every day. And the state has yet to move toward relaxing zoning regulations that hamper the conversion of office buildings to residential housing, including low-income units. A new $100 million fund authorized last year to help developers convert empty hotels into housing has not been touched, blocked by regulatory hurdles.

Officials have also been slow to consider repurposing Midtown office buildings for start-up incubators, educational institutions or entertainment promoters, said Brad Lander, New York Citys comptroller. Adams has so far proposed creating a joint city and state panel to study the future of work and its implications for the city. He and the governor have also put a priority on making the subway system safer, so that office workers feel more comfortable commuting.

We are not going back to 100 percent Midtown office occupancy, Lander said. The sooner that stakeholders come to grips with that reality, the sooner we can take smart action.


Prepare for a chance of showers in the morning, with gusty winds and temps in the mid-70s as it becomes gradually sunny throughout the day. The evening will be partly cloudy, with temps dropping to the low 50s.

alternate-side parking

In effect until Thursday (Holy Thursday).

Mayor Adams, working remotely after announcing on Sunday that he had tested positive for the coronavirus, designated Juneteenth June 19, the holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States a paid holiday for city workers.

Adams said that the move was long overdue and that it was time for our city to finally do whats right. It aligned the city with the federal government and New York State.

It also fulfilled a promise Adamss predecessor, Bill de Blasio, made in 2020 less than a month after George Floyd was murdered by the police in Minneapolis but failed to fulfill. That year and again last year, municipal workers who wanted to celebrate Juneteenth had to draw on pre-existing paid time off.

No longer, Adams said in a statement. As the second Black mayor of New York City, he said, I know that I stand on the shoulders of countless heroes and sheroes who put their lives on the line to secure a more perfect union.

The title is what it is

If this were a play, the stage directions would say that four people are seated at dinner in 2017 a woman who is herself a playwright and whose latest work has just had a reading; her husband; her father-in-law; and 12-year-old teenage son.

I think Im going to change the title, the playwright says. I dont want to freak people out.

The father-in-law thunders: You cant change the title. The title is what it is. The titles explaining what theyre getting. If they dont like it, they dont have to come see it.

The playwright, Michelle Kholos Brooks, would later say she remembered thinking, This is a guy who knows what hes talking about.

Her father-in-law is Mel Brooks. The title of her play is H*tlers Tasters. Performances begin on Thursday at Theater Row on West 42nd Street. The director is Sara Norris, the artistic director of the New Light Theater Project, which is presenting the play. More about the asterisk in a moment.

It is her imagined account of the German girls who were assigned to sample Hitlers meals in case there was an attempt to poison him. The story surfaced a decade ago, when Margot Wlk, then 95, was quoted as saying she had been a taster at Hitlers bunker in occupied Poland.

Brooks said that when she wrote the first draft, she called it Hitlers Tasters as a little bit of a placeholder.

Then I had the first workshop reading, she said, and nobody said anything.

Theres been some pushback, Brooks said. In Los Angeles, she said, we had one reviewer who refused to review it for the three days we were open before Covid shut us down. She changed the I to an asterisk because algorithms in some search engines apparently saw the name and listed the play as hate speech, she said.

The title isnt I Love Hitler; the title is Hitlers Tasters, she said. Were talking about a real person in history, you know. Just because you dont say his name doesnt mean he didnt exist. She said that knowing about dictators had become all the more relevant since Russia invaded Ukraine. World War II is very much in the rear view for young people, she said. The level of Holocaust denial right now is staggering. And here we have Putin.


Dear Diary:

I was waiting for a bus at the corner of 85th Street and Fifth Avenue, near what is called Ancient Playground, where a young boy and his grandfather were playing with a beach ball.

Suddenly, a gust of wind blew the ball over the playground fence. A man walking his dog stopped the ball, picked it up, walked toward the fence and tried to throw it back over.

The ball went even higher in the air and was on its way onto Fifth Avenue when a cabby parked nearby jumped out of his taxi, grabbed the ball and ran it back toward the boy and his grandfather.

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The Ups and Downs of Remote Work in New York - The New York Times

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