Georgia Kromrei

  • Bernie Sanders (Credit: Getty Images)

    Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has thrown his weight behind Sen. Michael Gianaris’ rent-suspension bill.

    “Along with pausing mortgage payments, evictions, and utility shutoffs, we must place a moratorium on rent payments, especially in states hardest-hit by the coronavirus like New York,” Sanders tweeted on Saturday morning. “We must build on the important work [Gianaris] and others are doing to make this happen.”

    Gianaris’ bill is quickly gaining momentum. Along with the national attention, Senate Bill 8125 has 21 co-sponsors in the state senate, just one week after having been formally introduced.

    According to the legislation, rent and mortgage payments would be forgiven rather than postponed. An executive order issued by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week urged banks to defer mortgage payments for 90 days for homeowners suffering because of the health crisis, but offered no such equivalent for apartment owners and renters.

    A relief package for landlords with mortgages backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac came earlier this month. Most renters will receive some financial assistance from the government in the form of a one-time payment of $1,200, in a $2 trillion federal stimulus package which passed on Friday. But there is little else in the package for multifamily real estate owners or renters.

    Along with waiving rents for 90 days, the Queens Democrat’s bill would allow landlords in financial distress to apply for forgiveness of their mortgage payments in an amount equal to that of unpaid rent stemming from coronavirus-caused hardship.

    For renters, late fees would not apply during the 90-day period, and any lease that expires during that time would be automatically renewed, with the monthly rent unchanged.

    Critics of the legislation question how such a waiver would be enforced, and are instead pushing for relief for landlords in the form of a tax abatement, which could be passed on to tenants in the form of a rent reduction.

  • Kevin Rebong

  • Web searches for terms including “homes for sale” are way down up north. (Credit: Pixabay)

    Web searches for terms including “homes for sale” are way down up north. (Credit: Pixabay)

    Canadians are not only done with open houses, it seems many aren’t even looking for new homes anymore.

    There were 38 percent fewer web searches for homes on March 23 than there was on March 5, less than 20 days earlier, according to data from property mark aetplace Point2 Homes first reported by Bloomberg.

    Point2 Homes also found Google searches down for terms including “homes for sale” and “houses for sale,” among others.

    The decline is of course attributable to the coronavirus pandemic. Point2 Homes found that home searches declined more rapidly after the World Health Organization declared a pandemic on March 12, according to Bloomberg. Point2 Homes found a similar decline in searches in the U.S. starting around March 11.

    Most local governments in the country have ordered or advised brokerages to stop holding open houses. The same has happened in parts of U.S. hit hard by the pandemic, including Los Angeles and New York, which is expected to significantly impede homebuying.

    Some Canadian markets were already shaky, including Vancouver and Toronto. Booms in both markets raised concerns that they were headed for corrections. Last year saw a rise in short sell bets against large Canadian banks.

    Still, it was shaping up to be a strong spring up north. Sales across the country were up in February by 25 percent compared to February 2019. Resales in both Toronto and Vancouver were up around 44 percent year-over-year. Montreal resales were also up. [Bloomberg] — Dennis Lynch

  • Kevin Rebong

  •  Hometrack Managing Director David Ross and a view of Nottingham, England (Credit: Hometrack)

    Hometrack Managing Director David Ross and a view of Nottingham, England (Credit: Hometrack)

    The growing coronavirus pandemic has tanked housing demand in the United Kingdom.

    Demand fell 40 percent over the last week and the number of handshake deals — or “subject to contract” deals — were down 60 percent, according to a Hometrack study of 20 U.K. cities first reported by Mansion Global.

    Hometrack projects transaction volumes to drop 60 percent in the second quarter and for demand to fall steadily through the third quarter.

    “These are uncertain times for the housing and mortgage industries,” Hometrack managing director David Ross said.

    Doctors have confirmed nearly 12,000 cases of COVID-19 in the U.K. as of Friday afternoon local time, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Nearly 600 people have died of the sickness in the country.

    While activity is way down, prices remain stable and are expected to hold up through the next two months because most sellers are not “forced sellers” — they can wait for a stronger market.

    Government economic aid and relief from lenders to property owners could help sustain prices. Prices would likely start to drop if people are forced to put their homes on the market to counter economic hardships like loss of income.

    U.S. lawmakers just completed a deal for a $2 trillion stimulus package to prop up its own economy through the pandemic.

    Domestic real estate stocks have dropped sharply over the last several weeks, but rebounded somewhat this week as news of a finalized deal emerged.

    The strongest U.K. markets in February, before the pandemic took hold, were Nottingham, Leicester, and Edinburgh. Each posted annual price growth of more than 3.4 percent. London recorded a mild 0.5 percent year-over-year increase in prices in February. [Mansion Global] — Dennis Lynch

  • Mary Diduch

  • (Credit: iStock)

    (Credit: iStock)

    The mid-week market optimism slid away Friday, as real estate stocks — including real estate investment trusts, brokerage firms and homebuilders — fell along with the broader market.

    Markets did end the week higher but today’s dip, which came despite the House and Senate approving a historic $2 trillion stimulus deal, was another signal that the coronavirus still has a grip on the economy.

    Layoffs from closures of restaurants, hotels and scores of other businesses because of Covid-19 has led to millions of Americans filing for unemployment benefits.

    The S&P 500 rose about 10 percent since last week’s close, but on Friday dropped 3.4 percent. The Dow Jones Industrial Average also notched a daily decline of about 4 percent, falling about 915 points.

    The FTSE Nareit All REITs Index also ended the day at a loss, but barely — less than 1 percent lower. However, that index, which tracks public REITs, outperformed the S&P this week, growing over 16 percent.

    Meanwhile, several major brokerages underperformed the market indices Friday: Realogy Holdings Corp. by 7.7 percent, Newmark Group by 4.7 percent, CBRE Group by 3.5 percent and Marcus & Millichap by 1.3 percent.

    Among homebuilding companies, LGI Homes, Lennar Corp.,Toll Brothers and Hovnanian Enterprises also all fell Friday.

    Friday’s sell-off likely stemmed in part from investors taking advantage of several days of growth — especially if they weren’t able to move funds to more defensive sectors like bonds, said Kevin Brown, an equity analyst at Morningstar.

    “The losses weren’t as great as a week ago,” he said.

    Some names that had been hit hard over the past several weeks, such as hotels and mall owners, rallied back this week but then were underperforming Friday, Brown noted.

    For instance, Park Hotels & Resorts Inc. started the week around $7, rose to nearly $12 on Thursday, then closed the week out just under $9 — posting a daily loss of 11.5 percent. Mall owner Simon Property Group opened Monday just under $59, peaked Wednesday at almost $70, then closed Friday at just over $58.

    “Those are going to be the names that are going to have the greatest volatility,” he said. “Even the tiniest change to the economic outlook could have a magnified impact on those sectors.”

    After getting off to a sluggish start early this week, markets rallied on news that the White House and Senate had negotiated a stimulus bill that would provide cash to Americans and lift out major industries impacted the most by coronavirus-related closures. The Federal Reserve also implemented additional measures to boost credit.

    John Kim, analyst at BMO Capital Markets, said he wouldn’t buy into the recent rally, as there likely will still be volatility ahead. While the stimulus measure was a positive step, Kim noted that jobless claims likely will rise — over 3 million were filed this week — and REITs still have headwinds to work through. Many have already withdrawn guidance, suspended dividends and drawn down on credit lines.

    “All of that is in anticipation of what may be a very tumultuous time, in terms of companies’ earnings, tenants looking for rent relief, [and] tenants failing or not surviving this recession,” Kim said.

    For real estate firms, the success of the bill finally hammered out Friday depends on how quickly stimulus money can get into the hands of their tenants, particularly small businesses, many of which have had to lay off scores of workers, Brown said. Questions also remain if the money they receive will be enough, and whether those layoffs are permanent.

    “Hopefully, we can get back on the right track within a few quarters and continue to grow, and I think that is giving everybody a bit more comfort,” he said.

    Write to Mary Diduch at [email protected]

  • E.B. Solomont

  • After seven months of due diligence, developer Michael Shvo bet on New York real estate emerging from the coronavirus pandemic last week — by making an offer to buy a building on Fifth Avenue.

    “What we’re facing now — we don’t know the end of this, but we know eventually there will be an end,” he said.

    With the global economy in limbo, Shvo spoke with The Real Deal’s publisher Amir Korangy as part of a live series of webinars in which TRD discusses the coronavirus crisis with major industry stakeholders. During the hour-long talk, the developer invoked the Bible, quoted Batman and said he’ll always be bullish on New York City, even if its density has made it vulnerable to the outbreak of Covid-19.
    “I want to invest in New York City, that’s where the people are,” he said.

    “There are selective groups that have a lot of cash, dry powder — us being one of them — that will look at opportunities,” he said. “We’re not looking at opportunities because ‘Oh my god, coronavirus came.’ We think the seller may be more motivated. Today, you’re pricing coronavirus into anything you do. That’s the reality… we’re in the middle of the storm.”

    Over the last 18 months, Shvo and his partners have acquired $3.5 billion in real estate around the U.S., including Chicago’s “Big Red” office tower for $370 million and the Transamerica Building in San Francisco for $700 million. “The strategy has been very consistent,” Shvo said. “We were buying — and we still are — buying core assets and opportunistic investments.”

    With the market turned on its head, having credit tenants is reassuring. “The Chicago Housing Authority ain’t going anywhere. Neither is Northern Trust Bank,” Shvo said of his tenants in Chicago. But the fear is real. “This is like the Hunger Games right now,” he said. “The strongest will survive. Some of the smaller companies can’t.”

    In general, he said the full impact of the pandemic on Class A office prices won’t be known for a few weeks when rent checks come due. But he predicted cap rates would likely contract. Shvo disagreed with the idea that the pandemic would alter the way employers think about office space.

    “I do not think all of a sudden you’re going to see a massive shift that people don’t need offices and don’t want offices,” he said. “They need human interaction. They need to go somewhere.”

    Shvo, who began his real estate career as an agent at Douglas Elliman, said he doubted that residential living would change significantly post-coronavirus. (“Nobody’s buying apartments right now, so all the virtual tours are fantastic, but no one is buying apartments,” he said. “I would suggest to brokers in today’s world that you’ve got to educate yourself so when we come out of it you can capitalize on [your knowledge].”)

    Shvo said the key to staying sane while quarantined is to maintain a schedule and he has insisted that Shvo employees get on Zoom calls to see each others’ faces. “Wake up at the same time, shower, exercise,” he said. He invoked the Biblical story of creation and said that God catalogued each animal one by one. “The point is, we are creatures that need structure.”

    Although pandemics wouldn’t be factored into underwriting, he said force majeure clauses will be scrutinized. “You’re going to see a lot of lawyers overthink and over negotiate these clauses,” he said.

    During the conversation with Korangy, Shvo dished about deals and weighed in on everything from WeWork to the fate of the hotel industry. He summed up real estate’s new reality this way: “Until two weeks ago, you woke up, ran to make more money, ran to buy buildings,” he said. “Now you want to make sure you have food, toilet paper and a job.”

    Shvo, who owns the Raleigh, Richmond and South Seas Hotels in Miami, said he had to shut them down because of coronavirus. “It’s obviously not great,” he said. He had planned to close the Raleigh in June anyway, in order to build a 200-foot-tall residential tower.

    In general, he predicted the hospitality business would rebound, starting with lower-end hotels. “People are going to continue to travel, it’s in our DNA.” Hotels and restaurant owners that are highly levered or rely on small margins would have a tougher time re-opening. Right now, many are operating out of fear. Again, he referenced the Old Testament, re-telling the story of Noah and the flood. “After the flood, God told Noah I’m never doing this again,” he said.

    After invoking the Bible several times, Shvo said it’s important to have something that roots you during tough times. “With my tax thing, overnight, all of a sudden life changed,” he said. “There was fear. You’re not in control of your future. Thank God I went through this. I can tell you, the darkest moment of the day is always just before dawn… It really makes you appreciate what you have on a day-to-day basis.”

    He also dished about recent deals, including the $700 million acquisition of the iconic Transamerica Building in San Francisco. Shvo said his group’s experience working with brands — whether Aman or Armani — gave it an edge over other bids. “Part of the deal is they’re keeping their name on the building for 99 years,” he said.

    Shvo ended with the following advice: “When you go through hardship — and I’ve been through enough hardship — you know who your friends are,” he said. “When you’re worried about your lenders, your tenants… the way you treat tenants and lenders treat you… this will go away, but we’ll all remember how people behaved when things got tough.”

  • Keith Larsen

  • As businesses shutter across South Florida and unemployment skyrockets to record highs, landlords are facing a difficult dilemma: How to offer rent deferrals to tenants and at the same time pay their mortgages?

    Landlord Shane Neman said he has offered deferrals to commercial tenants, but claims two of his lenders have yet to give him final guidance on whether he can modify his loans and delay his mortgage payments.

    “Most mortgages are due the first of the month. If lenders don’t give clarity, the landlords are going to be scared that they are going to be in default and start hiring lawyers,” said Neman, the founder of Miami-based Neman Ventures, which owns more than two dozen large-scale properties across the U.S., including a cold-storage industrial facility in Miami’s Allapattah neighborhood.

    BankUnited CEO Raj Singh

    BankUnited CEO Raj Singh

    Neman’s reality is one that is playing out between landlords and lenders in South Florida as the world battles the novel coronavirus pandemic. President Trump is set to sign a $2 trillion stimulus package with provisions to help small businesses, which could provide relief to landlords. And other federal programs may also provide aid. But concerns are growing that banks are going to pull credit lines from non-bank lenders and that deals as a whole will halt until the pandemic ends.

    “This is just such a big shock to the system. The entire economy is going to get remade one way or another,” said Raj Singh, the CEO of Miami Lakes-based BankUnited, South Florida’s largest bank in terms of assets.

    The deferral debate

    Singh said that his bank is going to be allowing borrowers to defer payments, but he is also waiting to see what government assistance is available through Congress’ stimulus package that the House of Representatives passed on Friday.

    “Right now is a very cloudy place, but we know that a lot of help is coming,” Singh told The Real Deal on Thursday.

    Eddy Arriola, chairman and CEO of Miami-based Apollo Bank, said he is giving 90-day deferrals to borrowers and is working with them on loan payments.

    Apollo Bank chairman and CEO Eddy Arriola

    Apollo Bank chairman and CEO Eddy Arriola

    Lenders like Arriola said the crisis is affecting numerous businesses outside of the hospitality and restaurant industries, potentially having a wider impact on the real estate market.

    “We have many [borrowers] that have doctors’ practices and non-emergency care centers, and they are getting hit really hard,” said Arriola, adding that many of these borrowers own their offices.

    For lenders, another issue is that real estate deals are halting, since businesses have shut down and there are too many unknowns about the impacts of the virus.

    “There is so much uncertainty about underwriting properties, cash flow, pricing and capital markets liquidity that it is going to be very difficult to get deals done,” said Paul Fiorilla, research director with Yardi Matrix, a Scottsdale, Arizona-based commercial real estate data and research firm.

    The $2 trillion stimulus bill, however, could provide relief for lenders and landlords.

    The bill has $377 billion set aside to help small businesses through S.B.A. loans, according to the New York Times. Borrowers would not have to repay portions that were spent on paying employees, a mortgage, rent or utilities. The banks making the loans would then be reimbursed by the Treasury Department, the Times reported.

    Foreclosures avoided

    Ken Thomas, a long-time South Florida independent banking analyst, said the last thing banks want to do now is go through the foreclosure process. Instead, banks are going to look at modifying loans rather than classifying them as troubled.

    “Banks are going to be very careful about foreclosing on the loan, it’s the last thing they want,” Thomas said. “It ruins things for years.”

    J.C. de Ona, Southeast Florida division president for Conway, Arkansas-based Centennial Bank, said his bank is offering deferrals for 90 days and is working to restructure loans.

    “We are not even thinking about foreclosures,” de Ona said.

    Brett Forman, who leads operations in the Eastern U.S. for Trez Capital, a Vancouver-based nonbank lender with $3.8 billion in assets under management, said in some cases his company is asking for more collateral on loans or is seeking to get paid early on some of its construction loans.

    “We believe in our relationships,” Forman said. “We are being firm, but fair.”

    Forms of relief

    In addition to Congress, banks can also rely on the Federal Reserve. The Fed has signaled that it will continue to pump liquidity into banks, after announcing two weeks ago that it would buy close to $700 billion in securities, including $200 billion in mortgage-backed securities. The Fed also signaled that it will not put a limit on this program.

    Other federal programs are also seeking to give landlords a break. The Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, announced this week that the two mortgage insurers will give multifamily landlords a break on their loans on the condition that they do not evict renters who are low on money because of the pandemic. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has also said that it will give a 60-day moratorium on evictions for single-family homeowners with FHA-insured mortgages.

    So far, South Florida banks have yet to report their first quarter earnings to regulators or investors. Initial reports give some glimpse into banks’ exposure. OceanFirst Financial, a $10.2 billion asset bank headquartered in Toms River, New Jersey, said it has about $1.6 billion in lending exposure to coronavirus-impacted entities, according to a regulatory filing that was first reported in the industry publication American Banker.

    Non-banks’ risks rise

    But concerns are growing, more so over non-bank lenders than banks, since banks have the ability to borrow from the Federal Reserve’s discount window.

    Ratings agency Fitch has warned that non-bank lenders, in particular, could be in trouble if mortgage forbearance becomes widespread. In New York, the Cuomo administration has introduced regulations requiring banks to provide mortgage relief to homeowners. This has yet to be enacted in Florida, but is something that could cause additional strain on non-bank lenders.

    “The pressure on the non-bank mortgage sector is particularly acute at present,” the ratings agency said in a press release, announcing that it had put seven non-bank lenders on negative-rating watch.

    Added Apollo Bank’s Arriola, “Every single downturn, those are the guys to get hit. Some non-bank lenders are going to have real troubles.”

  • Kevin Rebong

  • Knotel CEO Amol Sarva 

    Knotel CEO Amol Sarva

    Flex office company Knotel slashed its 400-person workforce by half, as the coronavirus pandemic has drained the unicorn startup’s membership base.

    Knotel laid off or furloughed 195 employees worldwide today, Commercial Observer reported.

    “Business as usual is over,” Knotel CEO Amol Sarva told the publication. “[The coronavirus crisis] isn’t short and we’ve decided that we’re going to take some sharp action ourselves on this. We’re going to prepare for the worst case.”

    The cuts come after Knotel, which reached a valuation of $1 billion last year, laid off 24 employees in New York earlier this year.

    The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in more than 80 percent of Knotel’s customers now working remotely or stop moving in, CO reported.

    Sarva said the company offered laid-off employees six months of health insurance in lieu of severance payments. Sarva cut his salary in half.

    Other short-term space companies have had to make cuts as well. Convene last week laid off nearly 150 employees. WeWork is considering cutting 1,000 workers. [CO] — Rich Bockmann

  • Kevin Rebong

  •  WeWork's Marcelo Claure and Sandeep Mathrani (Credit: Getty Images)

    WeWork’s Marcelo Claure and Sandeep Mathrani (Credit: Getty Images)

    WeWork says it won’t be hitting its targets this year because of the coronavirus.

    In a letter to bondholders, CEO Sandeep Mathrani and Executive Chairman Marcelo Claure wrote they no longer expect to meet their 2020 targets, Bloomberg reported. The co-working firm’s gloomy outlook came in a lengthy footnote to the letter.

    “We are in the process of reviewing and reevaluating the previously disclosed forward-looking information related to our other interim targets,” the executives wrote.

    According to the letter, WeWork’s revenue rose 90 percent in 2019 to $3.5 billion. The executives did not say whether the embattled co-working giant was profitable last year.

    The letter lists a number of measures WeWork is taking to confront the pandemic, including “enhanced cleanings and suspended events across our locations” and an “enhanced work-from-home policy,” but offers no specifics on the implementation of those measures.

    After its botched initial public offering in the fall, WeWork has been rapidly shedding assets, sometimes at a steep discount, in a bid to reach profitability. It also promised to eliminate 2,400 jobs in November, long before the coronavirus pandemic.

    WeWork has drawn criticism from its customers for keeping most of its buildings open during the Covid-19 outbreak. They say the policy is out of step with the many stay-at-home orders now in effect across the nation.

    The firm has also received criticism for offering $100-a-day bonuses to staff to ensure their attendance.

    Last week, WeWork’s chief financial backer, SoftBank, signaled that its multibillion-dollar bailout of the beleaguered co-working company was far from a sure thing. [Bloomberg] — Georgia Kromrei

  • Rich Bockmann

  • Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

    Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

    The central bank’s multi-trillion-dollar intervention to help companies facing a credit crunch leaves struggling malls, hotels and other properties out in the cold.

    Earlier this week the Federal Reserve announced it would launch an unprecedented program to buy up corporate bonds so companies hurt by the coronavirus pandemic will have money to borrow.

    But the program is focused on buying investment-grade debt issued by the companies with the strongest balance sheets. That runs the risk, experts said, of boxing out companies that fall below the top grade.

    “The focus of the new facilities on the investment-grade market reinforces funding-cliff risks for companies whose ratings fall below investment grade,” analysts at the credit ratings company Fitch wrote this week.

    Many real estate investment trusts that own properties such as malls and hotels fall into that sub-investment-grade category. And well before the pandemic, quite a few of those companies were already coping with retail closures or increased supply from competition in key markets.

    “Some non-investment grade REITs that already had some liquidity issues are struggling more just because market conditions are very tough,” said Moody’s Philip Kibel.

    In the past two weeks, Moody’s warned about two mall and two hotel operators that could struggle to raise debt.

    One is CBL Properties, a Tennessee-based REIT that owns 91 malls and had difficulty last year refinancing two mortgages on them.

    Moody’s said the current environment increases the probability that CBL will have to modify its corporate debt with lenders when it starts to mature beginning in 2023.

    The company on Wednesday drew down the remaining $280 million on its $680 million credit revolver, which it said in a statement would “maximize our financial flexibility during this period of uncertainty.”

    A representative for CBL did not respond to a request for further comment.

    For now, experts are saying they don’t believe the Federal Reserve will extend its bond-buying intervention to the weakest companies.

    “The Fed has not indicated any willingness to extend support to parts of the high-yield market facing the greatest challenges related to tightening financial conditions and sharply rising spreads,” Fitch analysts wrote. “This would be an unprecedented extension of central bank support and we are not assuming that such action will occur.”

    Contact Rich Bockmann at [email protected] or 908-415-5229

  • Kathryn Brenzel and Sylvia Varnham O’Regan

  • New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images, and iStock)

    New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images, and iStock)

    After facing pressure from city officials and workers, the state is shutting down all construction except work on infrastructure, healthcare facilities and affordable housing.

    The Empire State Development Corp. updated its guidelines Friday, saying only work on “roads, bridges, transit facilities, utilities, hospitals or health care facilities, affordable housing, and homeless shelters” will be considered essential. The qualification is a dramatic change from the blanket exemption included in an executive order Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed last week. Under the order, employees of all non-essential businesses are prohibited from reporting to work. Now, workers on condo and commercial sites will need to stay home, unless there is emergency construction that needs to be done, i.e. work that would endanger the public if left unfinished.

    Those who violate the new rules could face fines of up to $10,000.

    The move comes after city officials called for a stop to all non-essential construction, arguing that workers were needlessly imperiled on some sites. Earlier this week, Mayor Bill de Blasio questioned making condo construction a priority. The governor indicated Thursday that he was considering a change to what is considered essential construction.

    Some sites, including part of LaGuardia Airport and Moynihan Train Hall, have temporarily stalled work due to sick workers. SL Green Realty confirmed that one worker at One Vanderbilt had tested positive for Covid-19 Thursday but had self-quarantined since March 14. The case did not shut down work on the office tower. Related Companies’ 50 Hudson Yards also had a worker with Covid-19, according to multiple construction professionals, though the company did not return multiple messages seeking comment on how the situation was handled.

    As the pandemic intensified in New York City, construction work at several luxury condominiums continued, raising questions about whether the work should be considered “essential.”

    In a statement March 18, a spokesperson for the developers behind 200 Amsterdam Avenue — a luxury 52-story tower embroiled in litigation and facing possible deconstruction — defended the decision to continue work at the site.

    “We are carefully following New York State and City guidelines and will continue to prioritize health and safety precautions on site while construction work is permitted in New York City,” they said.

    Contacted Friday, representatives for the developers, SJP Properties and Mitsui Fudosan America, did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the policy change.

    The governor’s decision to limit construction in the city is one of many restrictions put in place in recent weeks as the crisis in New York becomes increasingly urgent. As of Thursday morning, there were more than 37,000 known cases of coronavirus across the state, and 385 deaths. The U.S. now has more confirmed cases than anywhere else in the world.

    Other cities and states have similarly restricted construction. Washington state’s governor asserted Thursday that residential and commercial work didn’t qualify as essential. Boston was the first major city to halt most construction, an order it put in place last Monday.

    Write to Kathryn Brenzel at [email protected] and Sylvia Varnham O’Regan at [email protected]