NYC COVID testing sites may soon expand into empty commercial real estate

NYC COVID testing sites may soon expand into empty commercial real estate

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The real estate sector in New York as well as other parts of the world was greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic as public health restrictions meant to slow the spread of Covid-19. However, the Board of New York Real Estate is making plans to put to use some of the empty building’s as COVID-19 rapid testing sites. “REBNY and our members are working closely with state officials to begin offering free space for rapid testing centers in retail spaces and large commercial buildings,” James Whelan, REBNY President said “We are committed to significantly expanding this effort over the coming months, as increasing access to rapid testing will play a crucial role in our City’s economic recovery as the governor stated.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in his 2021 State of the State Monday that for the reopening of the economy fully over the coming months, rapid testing, along with vaccinations and other public health measures are essential.

Cuomo announced he will propose legislation creating a five-year period when property owners can convert office buildings and hotels in NY City to residential use. With the effect of the pandemic over the past year, Cuomo said he expects the need for changing office spaces to meet the demand of the market. “There will be a shift to remote business. The remote economy is now real. Zoom will not go away,” Cuomo said. “We must embrace it, not deny it.”

“These underutilized spaces also present an opportunity especially in cities where housing has become too unaffordable for too many. Especially with the growing homeless problem, which is a crisis in many of our cities, these commercial spaces can be adapted for other uses that benefit the community and make them commercially viable,” Cuomo said.

According to a Center for an Urban Future report more than 1,000 stores were shut down in the city in 2020. Hence, New York’s vacant retail stores offer a good starting point for the network of COVID-19 rapid testing sites. REBNY’s Fall 2020 retail reports states that 17 retail corridors in Manhattan saw decreases in asking rents over the last year ranging from 1% to 25% as vacancies piled up.

The Center for an Urban Future reported “Overall, the number of chain stores in New York City declined by 13.3 percent—with 2.0 percent closing temporarily and 11.3 percent not indicating whether the closures are permanent or temporary,” as coronavirus continues to rage in New York City and the rest of the state, vacancies keep rising and piling up.

William Rudin, who runs his family’s real estate empire in an interview said that the Real Estate Board of New York is working on the program with the office of Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “To help our cities seize this opportunity, to help them seize the moment in time, the state will provide building owners flexibility to convert commercial space into affordable housing,” Cuomo continued. “Stimulating housing conversions in these areas can create thousands of good-paying jobs, increase affordable housing, and ensure an even more dynamic, vibrant, diverse and affordable city.”

The CEO of Rudin Management says the deployment of vaccines is a hopeful sign for the economy, as it gives companies visibility as to when employees could return to the office. In his own company, employees are already being tested every two weeks, he exerted. He also said that the move to have more sites for rapid testing and the arrival of vaccines could hasten the rate of recovery for New York City. “I think you’re going to see a quicker return, hopefully, than is anticipated,” he said. “There’s a repressed demand for people to want to come back to work and be with their colleagues and have that collaboration.”

Meanwhile, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy in an interview told CNBC of a large vaccination site, the former Sears store in Morris County, which is about 30 miles outside the New York City. Murphy is hopeful that the deployment of vaccine would speed up after sometime even though it started out slowly. Vacant retail store in nearby New Jersey is also being repurposed to aid in the public health response.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided in this blog is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. The content of this blog may not reflect the most current legal developments. No attorney-client relationship is formed by reading this blog or contacting Morgan Legal Group.

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