Construction Biz Sees Spike in NYC – Retail Lags, Restaurants Suffer Due to Covid

Construction jumped across the five boroughs, with 33,556 nonessential work sites breaking ground, Crain’s reported. Photo Credit: AP

By: Rusty Brooks

NYC clearly is not the city it was only 3 months ago. Times Square is deserted, scores of empty store fronts looking for new renters line the city, boarded up store fronts line the entire city from wall street thru Harlem as a result of the riots and anarchy which engulfed the city for several days,  and the city is now into a week of the slow re-opening process.

There is some good news, along with the bad

Construction jumped across the five boroughs, with 33,556 nonessential work sites breaking ground, Crain’s reported.

“The reports I got back are that people are very encouraged,” said Lou Coletti, president of the Building Trades Employers’ Association. “Everyone is being completely cooperative in terms of the protocols that have been established.”

Crain’s reported: Coletti said he has seen his on-site workers participate in social-distancing measures as well as take part in temperature checks and wear personal protective equipment. His union staggered start times throughout the day to keep density down at construction sites.

Many construction projects however are dependent on the largest city public agencies.

Crain’s pointed out:The MTA received $3.8 billion from the federal government in the Cares Act and requested $3.9 billion more, which has yet to be approved. Many projects associated with the authority’s $53 billion 2020–24 capital improvement plan remain in doubt. Furthermore, the Port Authority, which handles the region’s airports and bridges, recently said it will not be able to complete critical upgrades without $3 billion in federal assistance.

The MTA has seen an uptick in ridership since last week’s roll out of the first phase of re-opening. The authority anticipated 400,000 riders per day during week one. Instead, it reported that ridership hit 800,000 Monday, 17% higher than the previous week. There had been a 90% drop-in service during the height of the pandemic in the city.

Retail appears to be severely lagging and can pose the biggest problem to an economic recovery. Crain’s spoke to Brooklyn chamber of commerce to get a feel as to what is going on.

The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce last week surveyed 161 business owners in manufacturing, retail, restaurants, health care and nonprofits. Forty-five percent said the biggest hurdle they were facing was an inability to afford rent, utilities, licenses and other expenses. A quarter said staff not returning to work is their biggest concern. Thirty-five percent said they did not pay rent in June. Twenty percent said their landlord gave them a concession for rent this month.

The worst news comes out of the restaurant sector. Commercial Observer’s retail forum was recently held and the experts concluded predicted that half of all restaurants will close up shop before the pandemic is over.

“Twenty percent of tenants that we’ve surveyed have handed back their keys thus far,” said Steven Kamali, founder of consulting firm Hospitality House.”We anticipate over 30 percent, in addition to that, handing back their keys, That’s half the population of restaurants, effectively in some shape or form, giving their keys back,” he said

Commercial observer reported:

The key challenges that restaurants will face when they do open, in addition to the reduced occupancy limits, is reduced traffic from tourism and the office crowd, Whitney Arcaro, head of retail leasing at RXR Realty and Julio Bruno, the CEO of Time Out, pointed out. It’s uncertain when those will return to pre-pandemic numbers, they added.