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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and REBNY president James Whelan (Credit: Cuomo by Michael Brochstein / Echoes Wire/Barcroft Media via Getty Images, Whelan by Axel Dupeux)

New York Building Owners Hashing out Return-To-Work Plan

Projects that could transform chunks of the tri-state get new lease on life due to density concerns

Owners of New York City’s largest office buildings are drawing up a plan for returning the city’s 1.5 million office workers to their desks.

The Real Estate Board of New York — whose members own properties such as the Empire State Building, One World Trade Center and Rockefeller Center — is in discussions with state officials about guidelines for reopening the city, sources familiar with talks told The Real Deal.

The talks, which were described as being in the early stages, are focused on what percentage of the workforce will initially be allowed to return to work as the state peels back its shelter-in-place order, and what levels of density are appropriate in buildings.

A spokesperson for REBNY confirmed the discussions and said the talks are ongoing. A representative for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

New York City’s office buildings have stood largely empty for seven weeks since Cuomo began ordering non-essential workers to stay home beginning in mid-March. About a week and a half ago the governor extended New York’s shutdown until May 15, but on Sunday laid out a game plan for reopening the state.

Cuomo has tapped three of his former top aides — Blackstone senior director Bill Mulrow, MacAndrews & Forbes vice president Steven Cohen and former secretary to the governor Larry Schwartz — to work on reopening, and has organized a coalition of seven East Coast states to coordinate the region’s efforts. His current secretary, Melissa DeRosa, is on that task force.

Deloitte is also working on the plan, Reuters reported.

In shutting down New York, Cuomo initially limited non-essential workplaces to 50 percent occupancy, then 25 percent, then zero. He has said the reopening would follow a similar path in reverse, along with social distancing and other measures to minimize spread of the coronavirus. That is the consensus of the return-to-work discussions.

It poses challenges in office buildings, such as how to keep people safely apart in common areas such as lobbies, elevators and bathrooms.

Contact Rich Bockmann at [email protected] or 908-415-5229

[The Real Deal]

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