With all the talk of whether the coronavirus now makes New York less attractive compared to other cities, billionaire landlord Charles Cohen said operating in the Big Apple has always been a challenge.
“It’s easier to do business outside of New York,” he said. “The cost of doing business is less. The cost of construction is less.” But he added, “The excitement is less. The pace is less.”
Cohen, CEO of Cohen Brothers Realty Corporation and Cushman & Wakefield’s Bruce Mosler discussed Covid-19’s impact on the real estate industry and in particular the office market for TRD Talks Live, The Real Deal’s ongoing web series. TRD publisher Amir Korangy hosted Tuesday’s event.
As much of the world has been relegated to working from home, there has been increasing debate over how the crisis will diminish the need for office space. This week, Twitter said its employees can work from home permanently after the coronavirus lockdowns end, if they choose to do so.
Mosler downplayed the significance of that announcement, arguing that by and large, tech companies want offices to recruit talent.
“Twitter is one organization,” said Mosler, chairman of global brokerage at Cushman and a past president and CEO. “I can tell you as we speak, there are other TAMI sector companies that are growing [their office footprint]. You don’t build a brand, build a business, collaborate on breakthroughs from remote work. That’s perhaps my view but I don’t think I’m alone.”
Cohen, whose company holds over 12 million square feet of commercial property nationwide, called the rush to declare the office space dead a “knee-jerk reaction.”
“I think after stay-at-home for seven, eight, nine weeks…it loses its freshness,” he said.
Outside of real estate, the two men have their own passions they follow. Cohen is a Hollywood producer and owns theaters like the Quad Cinema in Greenwich Village. Mosler is on the board at the Intrepid, Sea Air and Space Museum.
They drew comparisons to the way the pandemic is affecting those pursuits and its impact on their real estate businesses. Mosler pointed out that at its peak, the aircraft carrier museum drew 1 million visitors a year.
“Do we anticipate that we’re going to see a million visitors in 2020? Absolutely not,” he said.
At Cushman, Mosler said that he’s spending most of his time advising existing clients about how to safely return to their spaces, and not much time courting new clients who could be more active than banks and other tenants that might be reducing footprints.
“This is a time to advise and help more so than pursue new business,” he said.
Contact Rich Bockmann at [email protected] or 908-415-5229.