Sunday Summary: Ida Batters New York

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The remnants of Hurricane Ida blew through New York City last week, snarling the subway system, flooding properties and leaving at least 13 people dead, bringing back painful memories of when Hurricane Sandy decimated the city’s shores nearly a decade ago.

The record-breaking rains caused power outages and fallen trees, and Jay Martin, executive director of the Community Housing Improvement Program, estimates the damages could extend well into the billions. He pointed to roof damage, buildings leaking and boiler destructions as some of the casualties.

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Newly appointed Gov. Kathy Hochul and Sen. Charles Schumer pushed the federal government to declare a state of emergency in New York, which President Joseph Biden agreed to on Sept. 3, unlocking relief money and help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The floods also put the issue of basement apartments around the city back into the forefront, as the majority of deaths during the storm came from people trapped in them.

These apartments — some illegal — are a crucial source of housing for the city’s immigrant and lower-income community, but often lack basic safety features, The New York Times reported. The city has recently tried to help owners convert them to be legal, and safe, places to live, but the process has been slow.

Eviction ban keeps on going

Even after the U.S. Supreme Court knocked down the federal eviction moratorium and partially blocked New York’s similar ban, Albany lawmakers extended it to Jan. 15, 2022, after it expired on Aug. 31.

Hochul quickly signed the moratorium into law — after calling a rare September special session to vote on it — which was praised by tenant advocates around the city. However, landlord groups, which have filed several legal challenges against the ban, aren’t sitting idly by and the Rent Stabilization Association already threatened to sue against the extension.

Aside from extending the eviction protections, Hochul was also able to push through the appointments of former Brooklyn Assemblywoman Termaine Wright as chair of the Cannabis Control Board and Christopher Alexander, former policy director of the Drug Policy Alliance, as executive director of the Office of Cannabis Management.

Disgraced Gov. Andrew Cuomo was criticized for the slow pace in moving recreational marijuana forward in the state, something Hochul said would become a priority for her.

And, now … for some good news

Brooklyn’s historic Grand Prospect Hall, known equally for its long reign of hosting weddings and events in Park Slope as for its low-budget and often-parodied commercials, got saved from the wrecking ball, at least for now.

After a group of Brooklyn teenagers started a petition to landmark the property and filed a lawsuit to save the building once developer Angelo Rigas filed demolition plans, a judge issued a temporary halt to the work. The reprieve could be short-lived, as the work was only stopped until a court hearing on Sept. 16.

Back to work, New York City!

Looks like Mayor Bill de Blasio didn’t get the memo that the dream of a post-Labor Day return to the office has fallen apart.

De Blasio directed all of the nearly 80,000 municipal employees to return to the office full time starting on Sept. 13, despite concerns over the contagious delta variant of the coronavirus leading private companies to push back the office restart.

The mayor previously called municipal staff back on May 3, with a 50 percent capacity limit, but now the city will “resume pre-March 2020 work schedules in the office beginning September 13th and that “telework will only be allowed in limited circumstances,” according to an email obtained by The New York Times.

De Blasio previously mandated that all city workers must be vaccinated against the coronavirus by Sept. 13 or undergo weekly testing for the disease.

Despite New York City’s strict office comeback edict, tech giant Google delayed its return to work a second time, this time not until after Jan. 10, 2022.

The deals keep on coming

Even with the return-to-office date constantly getting pushed back, office leases keep on coming.

Payroll services company DailyPay subleased 137,000 square feet at 55 Water Street, greatly expanding its current 42,000-square-foot digs at 55 Broad Street, in one of the largest sublease deals since the pandemic hit.

Nearby, at 80 Broad Street, LeafLink, an e-commerce site for the cannabis industry, took another entire floor in the building, bringing its presence to more than 26,000 square feet. CEO Ryan Smith told Crain’s New York Business that, despite the fact that it’s still mainly working remotely, it grew from 75 to 200 employees during the pandemic and needed the extra space for whenever people return.

Elsewhere, Mitsubishi International Corporation stayed within the Durst Organization’s portfolio and slightly downsized its headquarters to 68,000 square feet at One Five One, while marketing firm Constellation Agency took 48,000 square feet of Condé Nast’s offices at One World Trade Center.

On the sales side, Hudson Companies picked up a controversial Crown Heights, Brooklyn, development site for $41.5 million, vowing to keep the Associated Supermarket in its planned development, while GAIA Real Estate jumped back into the New York City market and bought a trio of East Village buildings for $49.5 million. 

The hospitality market also saw some signs of life with Witkoff able to land a $230 million refinance of its West Hollywood EDITION Hotel, while Starwood Property Trust provided a $98.39 million financing for the Parrothead-mecca, Margaritaville Resort Orlando.

In more mouth-watering news, Hand Hospitality — the team behind Korean eateries Atoboy and Atomix — plan to open a new, yet-to-be-named spot at 44 East 21st Street, while the owners of The Penrose and The Spaniard will open a high-end gastropub dubbed Albert’s at 140 East 41st Street.

Stop and smell the rooftop roses

Landlords have been scrambling to find any way they can to entice people to ditch their homes and schlep into Manhattan to go into offices (somehow, this amenity list includes bees), and the office terrace has bloomed from a nice-to-have amenity to a must-have.

It’s hard to find a new office building that doesn’t have some planned outdoor space for workers, but perhaps the most emblematic development is Tishman Speyer’s The Spiral in Hudson Yards, which features a spiral of outdoor decks.

“People have realized that having the ability to go outside, and having the ability to integrate that with indoor space, is just a tremendous advantage in this culture of trying to attract and retain new talent,” Elliot Ingerman, a partner at Tribeca Investment Group, which is adding terraces and an inner courtyard to 295 Fifth Avenue, told Commercial Observer. “If you’re working 10 to 12 hours a day, take a little pop out to a terrace. Post-pandemic, we now realize we have to lure people back to work. Work should not be a boring environment.”

That’s it for this edition. Enjoy your Labor Day festivities!