Mayor Eric Adams is softening his tone on in-person work, admitting Monday that the Big Apple “may not have central business districts anymore” as white collar workers increasingly embrace working from home.
“What we want to do post-COVID is now define, ‘what does the work week look like,’ and how do we build local ecosystems in our community,” Hizzoner said during a Q&A session at a tech event.
“We may not have central business districts anymore. I don’t know that, but we can’t stumble into this.”
Adams, Gov. Kathy Hochul and other New York politicians have repeatedly urged white collar workers to return to offices, warning that restaurants and other service businesses in neighborhoods like Midtown and the Financial District will go out of business without commuters.
“It’s time to get back to work,” Adams admonished New Yorkers in February. “You can’t tell me you’re afraid of COVID on Monday and I see you in a nightclub on Sunday.”
While Adams took a softer tone toward remote work during his comments on Monday at a Tech: NYC and Center for an Urban Future event, the mayor reiterated his concerns about remote work’s impact on service workers.
“If I’m an attorney and I can work from home, what do I say to that bus driver that can’t or that school service worker that can’t?” Adams said. “So when we start dividing the country to say, ‘those who work from home can — and they know they are the higher income earners — and those low income earners can’t,’ that brings a real challenge for us.”
“We have to be delicate, smart and have equity in mind as we navigate what that future of work looks like,” the mayor added.
Big Apple workers who want to stay home have cited concerns about rising crime, including the apparently random murder of a Goldman Sachs employee on the Q train in May.
New York office occupancy stood at just 41.2% at the end of June and has remained relatively stagnant throughout the summer, according to building swipe data reported by the Wall Street Journal.
Adams spokesman Fabien Levy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.