Individuals who fled New York City in March, to alternate residences or elsewhere, may not come back. An economy that had shifted away from the financial sector toward service & tourism industry has been destroyed: Hotels are still mostly empty, Cinemas aren’t coming back until next spring earliest, & no one knows for certain when tourism might return to lucrative pre-pandemic levels.
Perhaps most fatefully, commercial office vacancies rose to their highest level in 7 years. Businesses & financial organizations forced into virtual work last spring may find they’ve lost little productivity in recent months & decide there’s little incentive to spend top dollar on Manhattan office rent.
So as not to be a ship thrown about in rough seas, the city must reshape its elaborate & in many cases outdated zoning laws to spur reuse, reinvestment and hopefully long-term growth.
First, solve regulations mandating parking spaces for residential & commercial projects. Such rules are relics of last century’s car-obsessed culture & expensive obstacles to vertical growth.
Next, change zoning restrictions allowing only lower Manhattan’s empty industrial buildings to be converted to another use. In future years, a Midtown office space left empty by telecommuting may have a second, vibrant life as light manufacturing, or as apartments.
Do away with fussy rules barring certain businesses from occupying ground floor apartment building storefronts. Online shopping poses more threat to local businesses than a commercial bank branch does.
And keep rezoning neighborhoods in all 5 boroughs to promote affordable housing & other construction, while working to drive down the cost of construction.