The Real Deal New York

Millions of SF of office space in evacuation zone

In Lower Manhattan, Brookfield closes WFC and 1 New York Plaza

October 29, 2012 05:30PM
By Adam Pincus

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World Financial Center

Mayor Bloomberg has not minced words when it comes to evacuating residential buildings in the city neighborhoods most vulnerable to flooding. But in addition to the hundreds of thousands of New York residents ordered to leave their homes, tens of millions of square feet of commercial real estate in Manhattan is also within the evacuation zone. And that has some major landlords closing up their buildings.

The largest landlord in Lower Manhattan, Brookfield Office Properties, has sandbagged openings at the World Financial Center and at One New York Plaza. Brookfield also removed outdoor furniture and brought elevator cars to upper levels, a company spokesperson said.

One tenant at the office building 40 Rector Street, in the Downtown evacuation zone, said he was told yesterday that the building would be closed today. “It’s a mandatory evacuation,” the tenant, Eli Tabak, a principal with real estate investment company Bluestone Group, said.

He said he took the basic precautions as a tenant, like backing up the company network systems.

And it was not just office workers and residents who were impacted. Many tourists were moved out of their Lower Manhattan hotel rooms to other more central locations.

An employee at the 169-room World Center Hotel said all guests were moved last night out of the hotel, located at 144 Washington Street between Albany and Cedar streets, to other Manhattan hotels owned by the same company.

But not all landlords were closing up shop as the storm approached.

“All of our buildings are open. It’s up to our tenants if they want to open their offices,” a spokesperson for Durst Organization, which owns buildings such as 1 Bryant Park, which is well outside the evacuation zone, said.

And SL Green Realty, which owns property throughout Manhattan, said its buildings were open and staffed, but very few tenants were in them. The company does own two adjacent buildings in the evacuation zone. An SL Green spokesperson said that those buildings were effectively closed today by their major tenant, Citibank.

SL Green’s 388 and 390 Greenwich Street in Lower Manhattan, occupied by Citibank, are separated from the Hudson River only by a park and West Street. The bank had only a skeletal staff on hand today.

Joseph Thanhauser, chairman of Midtown brokerage Byrnam Wood, said he did not believe the hurricane would lead office tenants to shun the city’s coastal properties — despite this being the second evacuation ordered in just over a year. “People have very short memories,” Thanhauser said. “I don’t think it will have much impact unless it is a truly calamitous [event],” he said.

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