Manhattan-based workers are not returning to their offices en masse due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and concerns about subway crime, according to the latest data.
Overall, New York City had an office occupancy rate of 38.8% for the week ended May 11, which is below the statewide occupancy rate of 43.4%, according to data from Kastle, which sells office access cards.
According to a study by the Partnership for New York City, the safety of the subway system was the number one obstacle to getting back to the office. 94% of respondents said not enough is being done to address the issue.
Unlike in other cities, employees in New York are particularly dependent on local transport. David Lewis, the chief executive of recruitment consultancy OperationsInc, said this made a return to office difficult given the latest COVID and crime trends.
“Companies need to address public transport fears if they are to hope to get people back to the office,” Lewis told Reuters.
There have been a number of recent attacks, including a mass shooting at a subway station in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, in April and the death of Michelle Go, a 40-year-old woman who died in January after being pushed in front of one was approaching train at Times Square station.
On Sunday, Daniel Enriquez, who had worked at Goldman Sachs Global Investment Research since 2013, was killed in what appeared to be a random attack on a Q train bound for Manhattan.
About 80% of Manhattan office workers relied on the subway to get to work prior to the start of the coronavirus pandemic, said Kathryn Wylde, executive director of the nonprofit partnership for New York City.
“The rise in crime on the subway over the past two years has clearly discouraged people about their safety and whether it’s an excuse or the reality, people are less willing to return to the office when the crime situation on the subway is not being addressed.” She said.
The number of criminal complaints about the subway system rose 24.7% year-on-year to a total of 389 in April, according to data from the New York City Police Department.
Overall, however, criminal charges on the subway system fell by 15% in 2021 compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2019, despite a significant drop in ridership over the period.
Rising public safety concerns could prompt more companies to pay for cabs or private shuttles for employees, said Melissa Swift, US transformation manager at Mercer.
“It used to not be an employer’s job to get you into the office, but one consequence of the COVID time is that once work and life have mixed, you can’t just pry them apart again,” she said.
With mail wires