css.php

Video: Outrageous Brutal Attack on Filipino Woman in Times Square!

 

Dear Commons Community,

A 65-year-old Filipino woman was walking down a street near Times Square when a man, in broad daylight, suddenly kicked her in the stomach (see video above).

She crumpled to the sidewalk. He kicked her once in the head. Then again. And again. He yelled an obscenity at her, according to a police official, and then said, “You don’t belong here.”

As the violent scene unfolded in Manhattan, three men watched from the lobby of a nearby luxury apartment building. When the woman struggled to stand up, one of the men, a security guard, closed the front door to the building.  As reported by Eyewitness News in New York.

“…as reports of anti-Asian hate crimes have escalated in recent weeks, the video above released by police officials on Monday evening touched a fresh nerve. The sheer brazenness of the attack — combined with the seeming indifference of the bystanders — caused another wave of fear for many Asian-Americans already worn down by a steady drumbeat of assaults.

Security guards failed to intervene while a man kicked and stomped on a 65-year-old woman near Times Square, yelling, “You don’t belong here.”

“This feels like an emergency happening in real time over weeks,” said Chris M. Kwok, a board member of the Asian American Bar Association of New York. “People are in a state of panic. Everybody is on edge.”

Early Wednesday, after an image of the man taken from security footage spread widely on social media and on posters in Manhattan, the police charged Brandon Elliot, 38, with felony assault as a hate crime. Mr. Elliot was released from prison in 2019 and was on lifetime parole after he was convicted of fatally stabbing his mother in 2002, the police said.

As the video went viral online, the attack provoked a torrent of condemnations from public officials and seemed to underscore the difficulty the government faces in curbing unprovoked assaults against Asian-Americans.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called Monday’s attack “absolutely disgusting and outrageous” and urged New Yorkers to intervene when they see assaults. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said it was “horrifying and repugnant” and ordered the state police to help investigate. Andrew Yang, who is seeking to become New York City’s first Asian-American mayor, said he was heartbroken by the frequency of the attacks and advised Asian-Americans to walk outside in pairs.

This is indeed outrageous both for the attack and the indifference of the three security guards.

We cannot have this anyplace let alone in the center of New York City!

Tony

Getting Ready for Hybrid Working Environments:  Here Come Hot Desks, Zoom Rooms, and Holograms!

Workstations have become “hot desks” that can be used by anyone. Reserving them in advance is likely to become common.

Workstations have become “hot desks” that can be used by anyone. Reserving them in advance is likely to become common.  Credit…John Muggenborg for The New York Times

Dear Commons Community,

Office spaces are undergoing a change to reflect the new realities of office work as building owners and architects design workplaces that reflect ”hybrid work models.”  These changes include expanded gathering spaces and fewer personal workstations indicative of the success of working from home.  Companies like Google, Microsoft and Walmart have already announced proposals for hybrid work models that will allow employees to continue to work remotely at least a few days a week.  As reported in the New York Times.

“These new arrangements mean companies may need less office space, and some have already cut back on their real estate needs, according to a survey from the consulting firm PwC. Target said this month that it was giving up office space in downtown Minneapolis, and in September, the sporting goods retailer REI sold its newly built headquarters in Bellevue, Wash.

“We really are at an inflection point,” said Meena Krenek, an interior design director at Perkins+Will, an architecture firm that is revamping offices, including its own, for new modes of working.

Last spring, while lockdowns were in place, landlords and tenants prepared for what they thought would be a return to the office in the summer and fall. Desks were dragged six feet apart and Plexiglas barriers installed between them. One-way arrows were stenciled on corridor floors, chairs were removed from conference rooms, and an elaborate choreography was developed to determine how and when teams would return to avoid overcrowding.

Then many workers simply stayed home. As the pandemic dragged on and people got the hang of Zoom, many discovered it was possible to be productive while parked on living room sofas or in backyard lawn chairs.

Now, as company heads are again planning for a return to the office, not only safety measures but also the new work arrangements are driving discussions about the post pandemic workplace. More than 80 percent of companies are embracing a hybrid model whereby employees will be in the office three days a week, according to a new survey by KayoCloud, a real estate technology platform.

Workplaces are being reimagined for activities benefiting from face-to-face interaction, including collaboration on projects and employee training, as a way to promote a company’s culture and identity.

Common areas will be increased and equipped with furniture that can be moved as needs change. Steelcase and Knoll, suppliers of office furniture, report strong interest in mobile tables, carts and partitions.

But as the amount of space devoted to gathering expands, the fate of one’s own personal turf at the office — a desk decorated with family photos, a couple of file cabinets — hangs in the balance. Why, company leaders are asking, should someone who is in the office one or two days a week require a space that will sit empty the rest of the time?

In some cases, personal desks are being replaced with “hoteling” workstations, also called hot desks, which can be used by whoever needs a place to touch down for a day.

In the early months of the pandemic, when it was believed that the coronavirus was spread via contaminated surfaces, hot desks got a hard no from office users. But that stance has softened with the recognition that the virus is transmitted mainly through the air. Protocols for wiping down tabletops before and after use have become the norm. So has reserving a hot desk ahead of time rather than simply showing up and grabbing a free spot.

Workers have often resisted the loss of their personal desks when companies sought to reduce their real estate footprint, but they may be more amenable to the idea now if the payoff is the ability to skip the commute and work from home.

“A year ago, if I had interviewed people, they would have said they definitely need three file cabinets and a bookshelf,” said Andrea Vanecko, a principal at the architecture firm NBBJ. “Now there’s a very different answer.”

Conference rooms, too, are getting a reboot. In the past, these rooms were predicated on the idea of people gathering in person. A large screen on a wall might be used for presentations or to let an executive in another location make a cameo appearance.

But some employees are permanently moving to remote work, and companies are puzzling over how to give them the same ability to participate as those who are physically present. There are even early discussions about using artificial intelligence to conjure up holographic representations of employees who are off site but could still take a seat at the table.

For now, some companies are having in-person attendees continue to use their laptops so that remote workers can see everyone on their Zoom screens, an effort to “help maintain a sense of equivalency that we’ve come to expect,” said Peter Knutson, chief strategy officer of A+I, a design firm.

Devices combining 360-degree cameras, microphones and speakers are being placed on a table or tripod to improve sound and visibility. In the future, these technologies are likely to be built into gathering places and the number of screens increased, transforming the conference room into a “Zoom room,” Ms. Krenek said.

Likewise, some phone booths — the closet-size pods deployed in open-plan offices to give workers a place to make private calls — may give way to videoconferencing booths, which some manufacturers have introduced with built-in screens.

Screens are destined to pop up elsewhere. One near the coffee bar or at a cafe table could allow those on the premises to meet virtually for a latte or lunch with colleagues working remotely.

And digital whiteboards are likely to become more popular, so workers at home can see what’s being written in real time.

Modifications made to offices to protect against the coronavirus are still in effect. Stopgap measures may fade away as the pandemic loosens its grip, but others will be here to stay.

In lobbies, floor decals spaced six feet apart may be around “just until people get into the habit,” said Natalie Engels, a principal at Gensler, an architecture firm. Signs that had proliferated during the pandemic — promoting “self-cleaning” elevator buttons and virus-zapping technologies like ionization and ultraviolet light — will eventually be removed.

But increasingly, moving through an office building is likely to be a hands-free experience aided by mobile apps, sensors and voice controls, even after the reluctance to touch surfaces diminishes.

Sensors will allow employees to enter a turnstile and summon an elevator with the wave of a hand. Landlords who have yet to invest in such systems have experimented with foot pedals to activate elevators. Buttons on walls outside restrooms can be pressed with an elbow, averting the need to touch door handles. Some companies are adding foot-operated door openers.

The coronavirus has focused attention on air quality in what may be a lasting way. Outdoor spaces — roofs, terraces and courtyards — were popular before the pandemic and have become more so as fresh air has gone from being a nicety to being a necessity.

Landlords have in some cases adjusted HVAC systems to increase the amount of outdoor air being pumped in. They are also upgrading filters to trap smaller airborne particles.

Some measures are being enshrined in leases, said Geoffrey F. Fay, a real estate lawyer with Pullman & Comley. But landlords are doing such things proactively, he added, as they try to make offices as enticing as possible at a time when tenants may be wondering if they even need to rent space anymore.

“Landlords realize we are on the precipice of change,” he said. “They want to make employees feel comfortable to the extent they’re coming back to the office.”

The changes in how we work will also have salient social and family effects!

Tony

Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz Being Investigated for Sex with Underage Girl!

Report: Rep. Matt Gaetz under investigation for sexual relationship with  17-year-old

Matt Gaetz

Dear Commons Community,

A federal investigation on sex trafficking involving Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz was initiated during the Trump administration while Attorney General William Barr was in office.  Specifically, Gaetz is being investigated by the Justice Department over whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid for her to travel with him. A variety of federal statutes make it illegal to induce someone under 18 to travel over state lines to engage in sex in exchange for money or something of value. The Justice Department regularly prosecutes such cases, and offenders often receive severe sentences,  It was not clear how Mr. Gaetz met the girl, believed to be 17 at the time of encounters about two years ago that investigators are scrutinizing.  As reported by the New York Times.

“… examination of Mr. Gaetz, 38, is part of a broader investigation into a political ally of his, a local official in Florida named Joel Greenberg, who was indicted last summer on an array of charges, including sex trafficking of a child and financially supporting people in exchange for sex, at least one of whom was an underage girl.

Mr. Greenberg, who has since resigned his post as tax collector in Seminole County, north of Orlando, visited the White House with Mr. Gaetz in 2019, according to a photograph that Mr. Greenberg posted on Twitter.

No charges have been brought against Mr. Gaetz, and the extent of his criminal exposure is unclear.

Mr. Gaetz said in an interview that his lawyers had been in touch with the Justice Department and that they were told he was the subject, not the target, of an investigation. “I only know that it has to do with women,” Mr. Gaetz said. “I have a suspicion that someone is trying to recategorize my generosity to ex-girlfriends as something more untoward.”

Mr. Gaetz called the investigation part of an elaborate scheme involving “false sex allegations” to extort him and his family for $25 million that began this month. He said he and his father, Don Gaetz, had been cooperating with the F.B.I. and “wearing a wire” after they were approached by people saying they could make the investigation “go away.” Mr. Gaetz claimed the disclosure of the sex trafficking inquiry was intended to thwart an investigation into the extortion plot.

In a second interview later Tuesday, the congressman said he had no plans to resign his House seat and denied that he had romantic relationships with minors. “It is verifiably false that I have traveled with a 17-year-old woman,” he said.

Representatives for the Justice Department and the F.B.I. declined to comment, as did a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Central Florida.

Mr. Greenberg pleaded not guilty last year and was sent to jail this month for violating the terms of his bail. He is scheduled to go on trial in June in Orlando.

A frequent presence on Fox News and other conservative media, Mr. Gaetz has recently mused with confidants about quitting elected politics and taking a full-time job with the conservative television channel Newsmax or another network, according to a person familiar with the conversations. Axios first reported on Tuesday that Mr. Gaetz was considering leaving Congress.

Mr. Greenberg maintained ties to controversial figures who have supported Mr. Trump, an examination of court records, social media posts and far-right websites showed. A website run by a member of the far-right group the Proud Boys and a network of fake social media accounts linked to Mr. Trump’s longtime political adviser Roger J. Stone Jr. have promoted false accusations about Mr. Greenberg’s rivals similar to rumors that prosecutors accused Mr. Greenberg of secretly trying to spread.

It was not clear how Mr. Greenberg knew either Mr. Gaetz or Mr. Stone. He posted a selfie with both in 2017, tweeting, “Great catching up.” The following year, Mr. Gaetz expressed support for Mr. Greenberg’s successful bid for local office, predicting he would someday make a great member of Congress.”

Mr. Gaetz has been a regular on Fox News and has staged attention by outlandish rhetoric and antics such as wearing a gas mask on the House floor last year during the pandemic, insisting he was demonstrating concern for public safety amid accusations he was mocking the seriousness of the spread of the coronavirus.

Tony

Mike Pence begins laying groundwork for 2024 presidential run!

Report: Mike Pence Is Weirdly Understanding About Trump Almost Getting Him  Killed | Vanity Fair

Mike Pence

Dear Commons Community,

Former Vice President Mike Pence is reentering public life as he eyes a potential run for the White House in 2024. He’s joining conservative organizations, writing op-eds, delivering speeches and launching an advocacy group that will focus on promoting the Trump administration’s accomplishments.  However, when former President Donald Trump was asked to list those he considers the future leaders of the Republican Party, he quickly rattled off a list of names, including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Senators Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz. Conspicuously absent from the list: Mike Pence.  As reported by the Associated Press.

“…Trump’s neglect in mentioning Pence during a podcast interview earlier this month signals the former vice president’s unique challenge. For someone who built a reputation as one of Trump’s most steadfast supporters, Pence is now viewed with suspicion among many Republicans for observing his constitutional duty in January to facilitate a peaceful transfer of power to the Biden administration, a decision that still has Trump fuming.

To prevail in a Republican presidential primary, Pence may have to reinforce his loyalty to Trump while defending his decisions during the final days of the administration when the president falsely alleged widespread voter fraud, contributing to a deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol. If anyone can achieve this awkward balance, some Republicans say, it’s Pence.

“Anybody who can pull off an endorsement of Ted Cruz and become Donald Trump’s vice presidential nominee should not be counted out,” said Republican strategist Alice Stewart, who worked for Cruz’s 2016 presidential campaign when Pence endorsed him. “He has a way of splitting hairs and threading the needle that has paid off in the past.”

Pence aides generally brush off talk of the next presidential election. They insist he is focused on his family and next year’s midterm elections, when Republicans are well positioned to regain at least one chamber of Congress. Allies argue that, over time, the anger will subside.

“I think 2024’s a long time away and if Mike Pence runs for president he will appeal to the Republican base in a way that will make him a strong contender,” said Republican Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana, who chairs the conservative Republican Study Committee and has already endorsed a Pence 2024 run. “If and when Mike Pence steps back up to the plate, I think he will have strong appeal among Republicans nationwide.”

Pence declined to comment for this story. For their part, Trump aides warn against reading too much into the omission during the podcast interview.

“That was not an exclusive list,” said Trump adviser Jason Miller. Still, Trump continued to deride Pence in the interview, falsely claiming Pence had the authority to unilaterally overturn the results of the election, even though he did not.

Trump has not said whether he will seek the White House again in 2024. If he doesn’t, other Republicans are making clear they won’t cede the race to Pence. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, for instance, is already visiting the critical primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire.

Since leaving office in January, Pence, who served as Indiana’s governor and a member of Congress before being tapped as Trump’s running mate, has kept a lower profile. He’s pieced together a portfolio aimed at maintaining influence, paying the bills and laying the groundwork for an expected presidential run.

He’s forged a partnerships with the conservative Heritage Foundation and has even been discussed as a potential president of the organization, according to two people familiar with the discussions. He’s joined the Young America’s Foundation and a top speakers’ bureau, penned an op-ed for the Daily Signal in which he perpetuated falsehoods about the 2020 election, and recently toured a Christian relief organization in North Carolina. He will make his first public speech since leaving office next month at the Palmetto Family Council’s annual fundraiser in South Carolina, another crucial primary state.

Pence has also discussed writing a book, according to aides, has been in continued conversation with his evangelical allies, and plans to spend much of the next two years helping Republican candidates as they try to reclaim House and Senate majorities in 2022. He’s also planning to launch an advocacy organization that aides and allies say will give him a platform to defend the Trump administration’s record and push back on the current president’s policies as he tries to merge the traditional conservative movement with Trumpism.

“He’s doing what he needs to be doing to lay the groundwork in the event he wants to set up an exploratory committee,” Stewart said. “You have to make money, lay the groundwork, gauge the support and then pull the trigger.”

Pence’s allies see him as the natural Trump heir, someone who can keep his base engaged while winning back suburban voters who left the party in droves during the Trump era.

“Obviously Mike Pence has a very different persona, a very different tone. That probably is an understatement,” said former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a longtime friend who now leads the Young America’s Foundation. “As long as he can still talk about the things that Trump voters care about, but do so in a way that’s more reflective of kind of a Midwesterner, that I think … would be attractive to those voters.”

Skeptics, meanwhile, see another old, milquetoast white man saddled with Trump’s baggage, but without his charisma. For these critics, Pence is a sycophant who debased himself for four years to avoid Trump’s wrath — only to take the blame when Trump insisted, wrongly, that Pence could unilaterally overturn the results of the 2020 election.

The anger at Pence took a dangerously personal turn on Jan. 6 when rioters paraded through the Capitol chanting “Hang Mike Pence” as a mob outside set up a makeshift gallows. During Trump’s impeachment trial for sparking the insurrection, video was presented showing Pence being rushed to safety, sheltering in an office with his family just 100 feet from the rioters.

Signs that many in the GOP still hold Pence responsible for losing the election have dotted the highway in many Trump strongholds, where masking tape and markers block out his name on Trump-Pence flags and lawn signs.

Meanwhile, others, like Pompeo, are trying to claim the Trump mantle without as much baggage.

“In many ways I think his future’s in Trump’s hands,” longtime Republican pollster Whit Ayres said of Pence. If Trump publicly praises Pence as a loyal lieutenant, Ayers said, he can see him being a viable candidate. But if Trump continues to publicly blame Pence for their loss in November, “he’s toast,” Ayres said.

In the meantime, Pence has tried to project the impression that he and the former president have mended fences, referencing their conversations at a meeting last month with members of the conservative Republican Study Committee. Pence and Trump have spoken multiple times since leaving office, according to aides for both men.

“He was very complementary of President Trump and he told us that he and President Trump had been talking and reminiscing about the great accomplishments of the administration and all of that,” said Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., who attended.

While Johnson acknowledged the tensions during the final days of the administration “obviously adds a degree of difficulty” for Pence, he argued that the former vice president could overcome trepidation with a focus on Trump’s policy achievements.

“He helped achieve those and so lays claim to that legacy,” Johnson said.

“I think if he does get in he’s a viable candidate,” added Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina, whose endorsement could provide Pence with a boost if he becomes a candidate. “He’s a force to be reckoned with.”

Run, Mike, Run!  Trump will support you because he needs you to grant presidential pardons when convictions start coming down.

Tony

President Biden and CDC Director Rochelle Walensky Warn of a “Fourth Surge” of COVID-19 Infections!

Rochelle Walensky and Joe Biden

Dear Commons Community,

President Joe Biden and Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned yesterday that too many Americans are declaring virus victory too quickly.  They appealed to Americans to continue wearing masks and taking other precautions to stave off a “fourth surge” of COVID-19. Dr. Walensky said she had a feeling of “impending doom” if people keep easing off.  As reported by the Associated Press.

“The double dose of warnings came even as Biden laid out hopeful new steps to expand coronavirus vaccinations, with all adults to become eligible over the next 5 weeks. Biden announced plans to expand the number of retail pharmacies that are administering vaccines, and investments to help Americans get to vaccination sites. But the optimism was tempered by stark warnings about the potential for another wave of cases.

“This is deadly serious,” Biden said, urging governors to reinstate mask mandates and other restrictions that some states have been easing.

Hours earlier, during a virtual White House health briefing, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, grew emotional as she reflected on her experience treating COVID-19 patients who are alone at the end of their lives.

“We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are and so much reason for hope,” she said. “But right now, I’m scared.”

“I’m going to lose the script, and I’m going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom.”

Cases of the virus are up about 10% over the past week from the previous week, to about 60,000 cases per day, with both hospitalizations and deaths ticking up as well, Walensky said. She warned that without immediate action the U.S. could follow European countries into another spike in cases and suffer needless deaths.

“I have to share the truth, and I have to hope and trust you will listen,” she said.

Later Monday, Biden addressed the nation from the White House, declaring, “If we let our guard down now, we can see the virus getting worse, not better. People are letting up on precautions, which is a very bad thing.”

Biden delivered a direct appeal to governors, state and local leaders to reinstate mask-wearing requirements if they have lifted them, and said he encouraged leaders to pause plans to further ease virus-related restrictions.

“Please, this is not politics, reinstate the mandate if you let it down,” he said.

Biden announced that by April 19 at least 90% of the adult U.S. population would be eligible for vaccination — and would have access to a vaccination site within 5 miles of home. Quick vaccination would still depend on supply.

Biden had previously directed that all states make all adults eligible for vaccination by May 1, but many have moved to lift eligibility requirements sooner in anticipation of supply increases.

Meanwhile, the White House is moving to double the number of pharmacies participating in the federal retail pharmacy program — which has emerged as among the most efficient avenues for administering vaccines — and increase the number of doses for them to deliver. Retail pharmacies are located relatively close to most Americans and have experience delivering vaccines like flu shots.

Biden announced that the U.S. is expecting delivery of 33 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine this week — including 11 million of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot.

More than one in five adults and nearly 50% of senior American are fully vaccinated, according to data from the CDC. On Thursday, the U.S. set new single-day record for shots in arms: more than 3.2 million.

“Now is not the time to let down,” Biden said. “Now’s not the time to celebrate. It is time to do what we do best as a country: our duty, our jobs, take care of one another.”

“Fight to the finish,” he added. “Don’t let up now.”

Walensky and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, appealed to elected officials, community leaders and everyday Americans to maintain social distancing measures and mask wearing.

“We are doing things prematurely,” Fauci said, referring to moves to ease up on restrictions. Walensky appealed to Americans, “Just please hold on a little while longer.”

We need to listen to the experts!

Tony

Remote Work Is Here to Stay – Manhattan May Never Be the Same!

NYC, Empire State Building, New York, Big Apple, empty by Tijani Rezki.  Photo stock - Snapwire

Dear Commons Community,

The New York Times has a featured article this morning entitled, Remote Work Is Here to Stay – Manhattan May Never Be the Same.  The focus of the article, written by  Matthew Haag, is that New York City faces a cataclysmic challenge in a new “Distributed Age” where people can be more valuable in how they work, which doesn’t really matter where they work.

It will be interesting to see how the Big Apple recovers in the coming years.

The entire article is below. 

Tony

————————————————————————————–

The New York Times

Remote Work Is Here to Stay – Manhattan May Never Be the Same.

Matthew Haag

March 29, 2021

 

Spotify’s headquarters in the United States fills 16 floors of 4 World Trade Center, a towering office building in Lower Manhattan that was the first to rise on the site of the 2001 terror attacks. Its offices will probably never be full again: Spotify has told employees they can work anywhere, even in another state.

A few floors down, MediaMath, an advertising tech company, is planning to abandon its space, a decision fueled by its new remote-work arrangements during the pandemic.

In Midtown Manhattan, Salesforce, whose name adorns a 630-foot building overlooking Bryant Park, expects workers to be in the office just one to three days a week. A nearby law firm, Lowenstein Sandler, is weighing whether to renew its lease on its Avenue of the Americas office, where 140 lawyers used to work five days a week.

“I could find few people, including myself, who think we are going to go back to the way it was,” said Joseph J. Palermo, the firm’s chief operating officer.

A year after the coronavirus sparked an extraordinary exodus of workers from office buildings, what had seemed like a short-term inconvenience is now clearly becoming a permanent and tectonic shift in how and where people work. Employers and employees have both embraced the advantages of remote work, including lower office costs and greater flexibility for employees, especially those with families.

Beyond New York, some of the country’s largest cities have yet to see a substantial return of employees, even where there have been less stringent government-imposed lockdowns, and some companies have announced that they are not going to have all workers come back all the time.

In recent weeks, major corporations, including Ford in Michigan and Target in Minnesota, have said they are giving up significant office space because of their changing workplace practices, while Salesforce, whose headquarters occupies the tallest building in San Francisco, said only a small fraction of its employees will be in the office full time.

But no city in the United States, and perhaps the world, must reckon with this transformation more than New York, and in particular Manhattan, an island whose economy has been sustained, from the corner hot dog vendor to Broadway theaters, by more than 1.6 million commuters every day.

Commercial landlords in Manhattan entered 2020 with optimism, riding a steady demand for office space, record asking prices in some neighborhoods and the largest construction boom since the 1980s. But that collapsed overnight. Property owners suddenly found themselves chasing after unpaid rent, negotiating repayment plans with tenants and offering deep discounts to fill empty space.

Mayor Bill de Blasio is requiring the city’s own roughly 80,000 municipal office employees to return in early May, in part as a signal to other employers that filling New York’s buildings is a key to its recovery.

“This is an important step for the city, and it’s another important step on the way to the full recovery of New York City,” Mr. de Blasio said.

Still, about 90 percent of Manhattan office workers are working remotely, a rate that has remained unchanged for months, according to a recent survey of major employers by the Partnership for New York City, an influential business group, which estimated that less than half of office workers would return by September.

Across Midtown and Lower Manhattan, the country’s two largest central business districts, there has never been more office space — 16.4 percent — for lease, much higher than in past crises, including after the Sept. 11 terror attacks in 2001 and the Great Recession in 2008.

As more companies push back dates for returning to offices and make at least some remote work a permanent policy, the consequences for New York could be far-reaching, not just for the city’s restaurants, coffee shops and other small businesses, but for municipal finances, which depend heavily on commercial real estate.

Sarah Patellos, who is on Spotify’s music team, has been working from a dining room table in Truckee, Calif., a mountain town near Lake Tahoe where she has spent most of the past year after flying there for a weekend trip in March 2020 and getting stuck because of government-imposed lockdowns.

“I love being in the city, but you think about your life, the life experiences you want or the different chapters you might want, it’s totally different now,” said Ms. Patellos, who had been living in Brooklyn. “It’s totally life-changing.”

The towering office buildings that line Manhattan’s avenues have long made New York a global powerhouse and the capital of numerous industries, from advertising to finance.

Now even some of the largest and most enduring companies, including JPMorgan Chase & Co., which has more than 20,000 office employees in the city, have told their work forces that the five-day office workweek is a relic. The bank, which declined to comment for this article, is considering a rotational work model, meaning employees would rotate between working remotely and in the office.

Sign up for the New York Today Newsletter: Each morning, get the latest on New York businesses, arts, sports, dining, style and more.

“Going back to the office with 100 percent of the people 100 percent of the time, I think there is zero chance of that,” Daniel Pinto, JPMorgan’s co-president and chief operating officer, said in an interview in February on CNBC. “As for everyone working from home all the time, there is also zero chance of that.’’

Other large businesses, including the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, the marketing group Omnicom Group and the advertising giant WPP, have searched for subtenants to take over significant chunks of their Manhattan offices.

The loss of workers has caused the market value of commercial properties that include office buildings to plunge nearly 16 percent during the pandemic, triggering a sharp decline in tax revenue that pays for essential city services, from schools to sanitation.

Real estate and commercial buildings contribute almost half of the city’s property tax revenues. For the first time in more than two decades, New York expects property tax receipts to decline, by an estimated $2.5 billion in the next fiscal year.

Still, New York is set to receive significant federal assistance from the $1.9 trillion federal stimulus package: $5.95 billion in direct aid and another $4 billion for schools, a City Hall spokeswoman said.

While that addresses immediate needs, the city still faces an estimated $5 billion budget deficit next year and similar deficits in the following years, and a changing work culture could hobble New York’s recovery.

The amount of office space in Manhattan on the market has risen in recent months to 101 million square feet, roughly 37 percent higher than a year ago and more than all the combined downtown office space in Los Angeles, Atlanta and Dallas. “This trend has shown little signs of slowing down,” said Victor Rodriguez, director of analytics at CoStar, a real estate company.

At least one industry, however, is charging in the opposite direction. Led by some of the world’s largest companies, the technology sector has expanded its footprint in New York during the pandemic. Facebook has added 1 million square feet of Manhattan office space, and Apple added two floors in a Midtown Manhattan building.

And the surge in available commercial real estate has actually been a boon for some new businesses that have been able to find spaces at rents that are lower than they were before the pandemic.

“I’ve seen the obituary for New York City many times,” said Brian S. Waterman, the executive vice chairman of Newmark, a commercial real estate services firm. “The office reboarding will start to occur in May, June and July, and you are going to have a much fuller occupancy once we hit September.”

But for now, few workers are at their desks.

Only 15 percent of workers have returned to offices in New York City and the surrounding suburbs, up slightly from 10 percent last summer, according to Kastle Systems, a security company that analyzes employee access-card swipes in more than 2,500 office buildings nationwide. Only San Francisco has a lower rate.

The lack of workers has pummeled some of the city’s biggest real estate companies. SL Green Realty and Vornado Realty Trust, two of New York’s largest owners of office space, and Empire State Realty Trust, which owns the Empire State Building, have lost a total of $6.5 billion in market value.

The sharp declines have prompted developers to rally behind an idea that seemed unthinkable before the pandemic: converting distressed office buildings in Manhattan into low-income housing.

The record vacancy rate has been driven by companies across almost all industries, from media to fashion, that have discovered the advantages of remote work.

Beside the cost savings of operating a scaled-down office or no office at all, modern technology and communications have allowed workers to stay connected, collaborate from afar and be more productive without lengthy commutes. Parents are also clamoring for more flexibility to care for their children.

“We believe that we’re on top of the next change, which is the Distributed Age, where people can be more valuable in how they work, which doesn’t really matter where you spend your time,” said Alexander Westerdahl, the vice president of human resources at Spotify, the Stockholm-based streaming music giant that has 6,500 employees worldwide.

For now, Spotify does not plan to reduce its New York footprint, but as of February, the company told its United States employees — 2,100 of whom had worked at the Manhattan office — that they could work from pretty much anywhere.

“The change is mainly driven by globalization and digitalization, and our tools are much, much better at allowing for people to work from anywhere,” Mr. Westerdahl said.

Remote work, of course, is not without significant downsides.

The blurry lines that already existed between work and personal life have been all but obliterated during the pandemic. Without the time spent commuting in the morning and at night, people are logging on to work earlier in the day and staying connected later into the night.

And despite modern technology and video conferencing capabilities, companies are struggling to foster workplace cultures and make employees, especially new hires, feel welcome and part of a team.

Those concerns have weighed heavily on executives at Kelley Drye, a law firm founded in 1836 in New York, which is moving from Park Avenue near Grand Central Terminal to 3 World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan.

“Zoom and Teams are great,” said Andrea L. Calvaruso, a lawyer who is the chair of the firm’s trademark and copyright group, but she added that “there’s no substitute for sitting down in a beautiful new collaborative and working together without distractions.”

But Ms. Patellos, despite being unprepared after being stuck in California — she had to buy a keyboard and monitor — soon found herself connecting with colleagues all over the world just as she had in her New York office.

“I fell into a rhythm,” said Ms. Patellos, who is still deciding where to eventually move. “I maintained a bit of East Coast hours, starting my days a little earlier and ending a bit earlier. Before I knew it, it became the norm and a routine.”

 

Video: Deborah Birx: – U.S. Death Toll Could Have Been Much Lower If Trump Administration Had Acted Faster!

 

 

Dear Commons Community,

Last night I watched a CNN documentary hosted by Sanjay Gupta that focused on the United States response to COVID-19 as seen through the eyes of six health officials who were involved in the Trump administration. The officials were — Dr. Deborah Birx, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Brett Giroir, Dr. Stephen Hahn, Dr. Robert Kadlec and Dr. Robert Redfield — all of whom talked about navigating a White House fraught with strained relationships.

Dr. Deborah Birx was candid in commenting about mixed messaging and prohibitions from sharing information with national audiences.  She also indicated that the U.S. death toll could have been much lower if the Trump administration had acted faster (see video about the 1:10 minute mark). COVID-19 has left 548,000 people dead in the U.S.

Birx, who served as former President Donald Trump’s coronavirus response coordinator, said the White House could have saved hundreds of thousands of lives if it had coordinated better during the onset of the pandemic.  When pressed by  Gupta on whether the country could have focused more on mitigation strategies, Birx acknowledged many lives could have been saved.

“I look at it this way ― the first time we have an excuse,” Birx said. “There were about 100,000 deaths that came from that original surge. All of the rest of them, in my mind, could have been mitigated or decreased substantially.”

“The federal government did not provide consistent messaging to the American people and that is fault number one,” Birx added later in the interview.

In recent months, Birx has faced criticism for praising Trump’s response to the pandemic even as he spread conspiracy theories or promoted unproven drugs as a potential cure to the virus. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, leveled his own criticism at Birx during the CNN documentary, saying she should have done more to push Trump to act, but added she did “a lot of good” and was in a “difficult situation.”

Birx said she was subject to a “very uncomfortable” call from the former president after she appeared on CNN last August to speak about the threats of the virus. 

When Gupta asked if she was threatened or censored, she demurred then said someone had blocked her from speaking further on national television.

“My understanding was I could not go national because the president might see it,” she said.

Birx was indeed in a difficult situation but at some point she had to put the country and the people’s interests first.  She didn’t and she shares some of the blame for the coronavirus deaths.

Tony

 

Video: Calls for economic boycott grow over Georgia voter restrictions!

 

Dear Commons Community,

There are calls in Georgia for boycotts of companies doing business in the state in protest against the new voter restriction laws enacted last week. As reported by NBC News (see video above).

“Following Georgia’s approval of new voter restrictions Thursday, a number of voices are considering a boycott of state businesses.

The Republican-spearheaded legislation, which imposes an ID requirement for mail-in voters, has been criticized by President Joe Biden as “a blatant attack on the Constitution and good conscience.

One of the loudest voices belongs to Bishop Reginald Jackson of the AME Church’s Sixth Episcopal District, who told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he’s calling for a boycott of Coca-Cola products until the company declares strong opposition to the new law.

“We will speak with our wallets,” he said. “This past summer, Coke and other corporations said they needed to speak out against racism. But they’ve been mighty quiet about this.”

The Atlanta-based company said in a statement that it’s been in favor of greater accessibility for voters.

“Throughout the legislative session, we have been active with the Metro Atlanta Chamber in expressing our concerns and advocating for positive change in voting legislation,” it said. “We, along with our business coalition partners, sought improvements that would enhance accessibility, maximize voter participation, maintain election integrity and serve all Georgians.”

Others are targeting the state’s burgeoning film industry. Director James Mangold (“Girl, Interrupted,” “Logan”) tweeted Friday, “I will not direct a film in Georgia.”

LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, has started a campaign to pressure Georgia-based businesses to oppose the voter restrictions.

Asked by MSNBC host Joy Reid Friday if a boycott was in order, Brown said, “I think all things should be considered on the table.”

Voting rights platform Democracy Docket said in a statement Friday that Aflac, Delta Air Lines, Home Depot and UPS are among the companies being pressured to speak out against the law.

Aflac said in a statement last week that it would “only support solutions that make voting easy and accessible for every eligible voter while maintaining the security and transparency of the voting process.”

Delta said Friday it “believes that full and equal access to voting is a fundamental right for all citizens.”

Home Depot and UPS did not respond immediately to requests for comment.

On Friday, Biden called the restrictions, which making it illegal to provide food or water to people waiting in line to vote, the “outrageous” return of racist Jim Crow laws.

Not everyone thinks a boycott is the answer. Bernice King, CEO of Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, said such action could hurt some of the very voters it seeks to help.

“Please stop the #BoycottGeorgia talk,” she tweeted Thursday. “That would hurt middle class workers and people grappling with poverty. And it would increase the harm of both racism and classism.”

In 2019, multiple film production companies boycotted the state over its ban on abortions in cases where a fetal heartbeat could be detected.”

This boycott is needed.

Tony

Maureen Dowd to Joe Biden: Ditch the Filibuster – “Bidenpartisanship Ain’t Happening Now”!

Dear Commons Community,

In her New York Times column this morning, Maureen Dowd has a recommendation for President Joe Biden:  “Ditch that old habit of yours, bending over backwards to appease Republicans….do what you can to help Senate Democrats dilute the filibuster….Bipartisanship – or Bidenpartisanship- ain’t happening now.”

I agree with Ms. Dowd.  As far as I am concerned, Mitch McConnell and the Republicans did the equivalent of ditching the filibuster when they refused to put forward Merrick Garland’s nomination for the U.S. Supreme Court in the last year of President Obama’s term in office in 2016. Payback is a “b**ch”

Below is an excerpt from her column.

Tony

———————————————————————

“Usually, the pressure of the presidency distills the occupant to his essence. Jimmy Carter became more preachy. Bill Clinton, more self-indulgent. W., more insecure. Obama, more professorial. Trump, more mendacious and maniacal. These are early days, but after four years of hearing “Trump will be Trump,” it’s refreshing to see the 78-year-old Biden show he can still modulate ingrained behavior.

So while you’re modulating, Mr. President, here’s a suggestion: Ditch that other old habit of yours, bending over backward to appease Republicans. I know it’s a point of pride, but let’s be honest. It has led to all of your worst moments — letting Anita Hill down, letting the Iraq war start, letting Mitch McConnell sucker you on the 2012 fiscal cliff deal.

Biden should do what he can to help Senate Democrats dilute the filibuster. And he should insist on the passage of the voting rights bill the Senate designed to target the voter suppression efforts enacted in Georgia, just a preview of what’s to come in other states. Nine years after first graders were mowed down at Sandy Hook, couldn’t he finally make progress on the nation’s most shameful issue — blind worship of the AR-15?

Bipartisanship — or Bidenpartisanship — ain’t happening now. Washington is not built for unity at the moment. We live in a world where everyone is unappeasable.

As Fintan O’Toole wrote in The New York Review of Books in a piece titled “To Hell With Unity,” it must be dawning on Biden that “the willingness of most congressional Republicans to endorse Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn the November election and their unwillingness to convict Trump for his role in the violent putsch of January 6” proves “there can be no illusions of accord, or even of civilized dispute.”

With the Senate and House majorities threatened in next year’s elections, there is a very narrow window to do great things. And with his first two initiatives, the $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill and the $3 trillion spending package, beginning with infrastructure, that is laced with climate change and income inequality measures, he seems to be savoring his new image as someone who goes for the big and bold.

One recent evening, Biden met with historians in the East Room for two hours. It was eerily silent in a Covid-era West Wing, those present recalled, with a do-it-yourself table with urns of coffee, and everyone fully masked. The president seemed interested in activist presidencies, ones that took on big problems, like Lincoln, F.D.R. and L.B.J.

Republicans are grasping to find something to throw at Biden. Their only ammo is weak: tabloid trash about his son and the absurd idea that Joe is out of it, a smear that only became more risible after watching Thursday’s news conference. He was calm, despite the monumental nature of his plans. He seemed to know his own mind — a nice contrast with his predecessor, who was out of his mind.

Republicans are out of touch with their own voters, many of whom seem to like free money and the possibility that Biden, unlike Trump, actually wants to go big on infrastructure, rather than frittering away his days hitting the links and tweet-trashing Bette Midler.

“Republican voters agree with what I’m doing,” Biden said.

The president knows that the American identity is on the line.

“I predict to you,” he told reporters, “your children or grandchildren are going to be doing their doctoral thesis on the issue of who succeeded, autocracy or democracy, because that is what is at stake.”

 

Michelle Goldberg on the Social Justice Purge at Idaho Colleges!

Dear Commons Community,

New York Times columnist, Michelle Goldberg, had a piece today reviewing an Idaho Legislature’s bill that attempts to restrict the teaching of critical race theory in its public colleges.  Using budget cuts as an  intimidation,  the  bill  bans state colleges and universities from using any appropriated funds to “support social justice ideology student activities, clubs, events and organizations on campus,” and requires schools to report all social justice spending to the Legislature.  Below is an excerpt.

Academic freedom anyone!

Tony

——————————————————————————————————-

“…the claim that the right’s war on critical race theory doesn’t threaten academic freedom is also wrong. Consider what just happened in Idaho, where last week Boise State University suspended dozens of classes, online and in person, dealing with different aspects of diversity. This week, they were reinstated, but online only and “asynchronously,” without any live discussions.

These suspensions happened the day before the Idaho State Senate voted to cut $409,000 from the school’s budget, an amount meant to reflect what Boise State spends on social justice programs. The budget bill also banned state colleges and universities from using any appropriated funds to “support social justice ideology student activities, clubs, events and organizations on campus,” and requires schools to report all social justice spending to the Legislature. The Idaho Statesman quoted one lawmaker saying of schools, “They’re going to get the message.”

Some of the facts behind the class suspensions are unclear. In an email to the campus, university leaders described “a series of concerns, culminating in allegations that a student or students have been humiliated and degraded in class on our campus for their beliefs and values.” An English professor at the university tweeted that the allegation concerned a taped Zoom discussion of white privilege that had been handed over to the Legislature, but so far it hasn’t emerged publicly. (The tweets have since been deleted.)

It’s obviously impossible to evaluate the allegations without knowing what they are. If a student was humiliated, that’s serious and should be addressed. But it’s hard to see how whatever happened implicated 52 different classes, and the political pressure the university is under is undeniable.

The $409,000 taken from Boise State’s budget was a compromise; other conservative lawmakers wanted to cut far more. Ron Nate, a member of Idaho’s House of Representatives, this month called for millions of dollars in cuts to education funding targeting “social justice programming and critical race theory.” At a January hearing, he subjected Boise State University’s president, Marlene Tromp, to McCarthyite questioning over statements that some of the school’s departments issued supporting Black Lives Matter.

“Does B.S.U. plan to continue diverting university resources to this Marxist cause and encouraging students to consume more B.L.M. content?” he asked. He told her that her school’s funding was in jeopardy: “Many legislators, frustrated with B.S.U., want to defund the social justice agenda by reducing higher education spending.”

What’s happening in Idaho is not unique. All over the country, state legislators are trying to curtail teaching about racism and sexism, in universities as well as elementary schools.

“We’ve seen a spate of these bills across the country, and some of them are more concerning than others,” said Adam Steinbaugh of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a group devoted to academic freedom. “It’s comparable, I think, to what happened in Hungary, where the government there cracked down on, or banished essentially, the teaching of gender studies.”

Crusading against a relatively obscure academic discipline, Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary turned it into a proxy for modernity itself.

“Integral to almost all the attacks is the implication that gender studies itself is not an academic discipline, but something larger and more mendacious,” Eliza Apperly wrote in The Atlantic. Relatively powerless academics were demonized as dangerous subversives.

There’s a similar inversion in the campaign against critical race theory. The right likes to pretend that social justice-inflected academic disciplines are full of ideological commissars browbeating conservative students. But particularly in conservative places like Idaho, it’s the professors, many of them untenured, who feel intimidated.

“With the climate as it is, I wouldn’t doubt that folks are starting to look over their shoulder,” said Melissa Wintrow, who served as director of the women’s center at Boise State before becoming a state senator.

When it comes to the campaign against critical race theory, the fear is part of the point.”