WeWork shuts Brooklyn location after employee gets Covid-19

Co-working firm has kept its US sites open, calling them “essential”

81 Prospect Street at Dumbo Heights (Credit: Google Maps)
WeWork's location at 81 Prospect Street in Dumbo Heights (Credit: Google Maps)

WeWork has closed one of its Brooklyn locations after an employee tested positive for the coronavirus, The Real Deal has learned.

Members of the co-working space at 81 Prospect Street were notified by email that the employee was last on the premises April 1 “and until further notice, [is] no longer working at the location.”

The site will be closed for cleaning until Monday, the email said. WeWork did not respond to requests for comment.

WeWork’s coronavirus case in Dumbo Heights is one of several at its New York City sites. The company has kept all its U.S. locations open throughout the pandemic — advising its tenants to maintain social-distancing rules — on the grounds that some of them operate “essential businesses.” Such businesses are exempt from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s ban on going to work. WeWork has said its mail service also spares it from the order.

Some WeWork customers have called on the company to close its locations and waive membership fees while the pandemic plays out.

“They are putting all the members’ lives at risk while trying to keep their employees safe at home just to continue to profit off many small business owners,” one member told The Real Deal in an email, adding that there had been a virus case at the WeWork location where she rented space.

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SoftBank’s Marcelo Claure addressed the controversy in a tweet March 18.

“We know there have been questions about WeWork’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, particularly as it relates to WeWork spaces that have remained opened in certain cities around the world,” he wrote. “In the same way we expect certain businesses to remain open for us … we too have members counting on us to remain open so they can run their companies to generate revenue, pay their people, and continue serving their customers.”

TRD has asked the Cuomo administration if WeWork’s exemption claim is valid, but has not received a response. Co-working firms are not included on the state’s official list of essential businesses.

This week, WeWork’s major backer, Tokyo-based SoftBank, announced that it was abandoning plans to buy $3 billion in WeWork shares, a major blow for shareholders including the company’s former CEO, Adam Neumann.

The announcement coincided with reports that WeWork has been appealing to its landlords to slash its rent by as much as 30 percent as it grapples with the economic fallout of the pandemic.

Write to Sylvia Varnham O’Regan at so@therealdeal.com