Home / Apple / Manhattan emptied during the pandemic. But Big Tech is moving in.

Manhattan emptied during the pandemic. But Big Tech is moving in.



Facebook has just rented enough office space in Manhattan to nearly triple its current local workforce, including one of the city’s most iconic buildings, the 107-year-old former headquarters near Pennsylvania Station.

Apple, which created its first office in New York a decade ago, is expanding into another building in Manhattan. And Google and Amazon are sewing together business campuses in the city faster than anywhere else in the world. Amazon paid about $ 1 billion in March for the iconic Lord & Taylor building on Fifth Avenue.

Despite a pandemic that has ravaged New York, eroded many of the office buildings and raised fundamental questions about the future, the four companies collectively known as Big Tech significantly expand their footprint in the city, giving it a much-needed vote of confidence. .

Fearing that the virus could rise again in the colder months, many companies are struggling with how, when and even if office workers will return to buildings in Manhattan. And the technology giants have not brought their workers back yet.

Nevertheless, the giants have not only moved forward with previous growth plans, but have also increased the pace of recruitment and office acquisition during the pandemic.

The industry’s embrace of New York City comes despite the uneasy reception Amazon received last year when it proposed building a sprawling headquarters in Queens. Amazon abandoned the plans in the face of political and societal opposition, but has now acquired more than 2 million square meters of office space for business workers, as well as warehouses from Staten Island to Queens to the Bronx.

After Amazon bought the Lord & Taylor building, it announced in August that 2,000 employees would eventually work there, increasing by half the current technical workforce of 4,000.

Amazon now has eight office properties in New York, most of which are grouped in Midtown. The company recently expanded outside of Manhattan and leased space to Lake Brooklyn for the Amazon Music team.

“We know that talent attracts talent, and we believe that the creative energy of cities like New York will continue to attract different professionals from around the world,” said Ardine Williams, Amazon’s Vice President of Workforce Development.

Even with the expansion of Big Tech, the city continues to face a fundamental challenge: Most offices have been deserted since March, destroying the local economy and ecosystem of transit, shops, restaurants and other workers-dependent businesses. Only about 12 percent of employees have returned to Manhattan offices managed by CBRE, a commercial real estate company that manages 20 million square feet of office space in the city.

Many people do not want to return to offices until there is a vaccine. Even after that, there is a growing question about whether the pandemic has fundamentally destroyed the lure of the office towers in Midtown and Lower Manhattan.

In addition, a recent increase in new cases in parts of Brooklyn and Queens has raised fears that a new wave is waiting and that restrictions on daily life may be reintroduced.

In total, Amazon, Google, Facebook and Apple have employed more than 2,600 employees in the city so far this year, bringing the total employment to over 22,000 people. Facebook alone has added 1,100 workers to bring the current workforce up to 4,000.

Apple, Amazon and Facebook have eaten more than 1.6 million square feet of office space since the beginning of the year, most of which were rented or bought during the pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, Google added approximately 1.7 million square feet of office space as part of a corporate campus rising along the Hudson River in Manhattan.

The companies now have enough office space to employ another 15,000 employees. When these employees arrive at the new offices, it is still uncertain. All four companies have allowed their employees to work remotely, and some, including Facebook, see a future where up to half of their employees work from home.

Corporate executives said their investments even in one of the city’s darkest periods reflect their belief that the features that separate New York – its diversity, culture, regional transportation network and many colleges and universities – will continue to lure people after the pandemic.

To a large extent, the companies also focus on the fact that current and future employees will be eager to return to shared workplaces that promote spontaneity and cooperation.

“The big takeaway here is that New York will always be a technological hub,” said William Floyd, director of external affairs at Google’s New York offices, which have about 9,000 employees, more than half of whom are engineers.

Google aims to employ 14,000 people in the city over the next few years, fulfilling a promise to double the workforce in New York by 2018. The company has amassed a significant business campus in and around the Chelsea area of ​​Manhattan, including several properties below Construction.

The technology sector first settled in New York more than two decades ago, a small player in the shadow of the city’s traditional powerhouses such as finance, media, real estate and healthcare. Google opened its first outpost outside California, a Manhattan sales office with a single employee, in 2000.

But in recent years, New York has blossomed into a bona fide tech hub, an east coast rival to Silicon Valley that has become a second home for technology, but has also given rise to thousands of start-ups.

The larger companies have established a technology corridor on Manhattan’s West Side, which stretches from West 34th Street in Midtown south to the World Trade Center area in Lower Manhattan.

The focus of technology companies in New York has shifted from marketing and sales departments to teams that mirror those in Silicon Valley. They have recruited engineers and developers from local and regional universities and filled some roles with West Coast employees who want to pack down to New York City.

For every Big Tech company in town, there are many smaller but still large companies, including Salesforce, LinkedIn, Spotify and ZocDoc. Microsoft, another tech giant, has a modest presence in offices near Times Square.

Before the pandemic, the city’s technology sector employed 150,100 people, and had added a total of 15,700 jobs in 2018 and 2019, according to the New York State Controller’s Office. Most of the new jobs were in fields such as software, data processing and internet publishing.

The pace of employment is expected to continue to climb.

In August, when Facebook seized all the office space at the James A. Farley Building near Pennsylvania Station, it cemented Manhattan’s West Side as its east coast campus.

The company said it rented 730,000 square feet at the old post office, in part because of its hollow layout – a rarity among New York City buildings – which mimics the large open space at Menlo Park, California headquarters. When a renovation is completed next year, the building will be filled with engineers.

“The floor plan will allow for more layers to be kept on these floors,” said Jamila Reeves, a spokeswoman for the company, “and we do not necessarily have to break people up.”

Around the corner from the Farley building, Apple signed a 220,000-square-foot lease on 11 Penn Plaza, a 1923 Art Deco tower near Madison Square Garden.

Prior to the agreement, Apple, which has said very little about the city’s plans, had not expanded beyond an office building on Fifth Avenue in the Flatiron neighborhood that it moved into in 2011.

Smaller technology companies have also been adding to their payrolls throughout the outbreak.

MongoDB, a cloud database platform headquartered in Midtown Manhattan, has employed 97 people since the start of the pandemic, bringing the total workforce in the city to 551.

The company, whose products are used by Verizon, eBay and Adobe, among others, has more than 2,100 employees worldwide and creates a hybrid work model to get employees to work remotely some days and in the office on others.

“While there are questions about the future of Covid’s work, we plan to maintain office space in New York,” said Dev Ittycheria, the company’s CEO. “We believe that being physically present with colleagues in an office can provide important opportunities for personal interaction, collaboration and connection that are important to the company’s success.”

One of the company’s most recent hires, Farah Wahab, started in August as product marketing manager after working for five years at technology companies in San Francisco.

Although San Francisco has a much larger technological scene, she said the city felt more isolated compared to New York.

“I love SF, but it can feel a bit like a technologically centric bubble isolated from the real world,” said Wahab (32). “Being around different industries and types of people, as well as greater access to the market, was important to me both personally and professionally.”

Kia D. Floyd, head of Facebook for public policy for the eastern and midwest regions, pointed out that the company started a store in New York shortly before the great recession in 2008, another challenging period of uncertainty in the city.

“People fled the city then and did not think it would come back,” Floyd said. “But the city has gravel, resilience and diversity, and it will always be inspiring for companies like ours.”


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