New round of layoffs as NYC struggles to come back

More than a million city residents remain out of work

Clockwise from left: Vornado CEO Steven Roth, Ralph Lauren, 650 Madison Avenue and the Starrett-Lehigh building (Getty, VNO, Wikimedia)
Clockwise from left: Vornado CEO Steven Roth, Ralph Lauren, 650 Madison Avenue and the Starrett-Lehigh building (Getty, VNO, Wikimedia)

When Paragon Sports, a Union Square staple, rehired 17 employees this summer that it had temporarily laid off because of the pandemic, it seemed like a sign that the century-old store could be on the road to recovery.

But its woes continue: Paragon will once again temporarily lay off those workers in January, while seven other workers will permanently lose their jobs, according to information released Wednesday by New York state’s Department of Labor. A representative for Paragon Sports declined to comment

Those layoffs are part of a wave of fresh job losses hitting the city as coronavirus cases spike nationally, demonstrating that sustained initial economic recovery will largely depend on cities’ ability to keep Covid-19 cases at bay.

This month, Vornado Realty Trust made permanent what had previously been temporary layoffs of 125 workers from service jobs at five of its buildings, according to DOL filings. The real estate firm declined to comment.

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Ralph Lauren will eliminate 333 jobs across Manhattan and Queens, including 155 from its corporate headquarters at 650 Madison Avenue (coincidentally, a building owned by Vornado), and 122 from its office at RXR Realty’s Starrett-Lehigh Building in Chelsea. The retailer did not return a request for comment.

And in another blow for the hotel sector, the Hotel Plaza Athénée, located at 37 East 64th Street on the Upper East Side, will close its doors permanently, the state disclosed Wednesday. The hotel temporarily laid off 165 employees in March, and those will now become permanent. Representatives for the hotel could not be reached for comment.

Two of the major drivers of New York’s economy — its competitive office market and booming tourism industry — have become weaknesses during the pandemic. Just 10 percent of Manhattan workers are back at their offices, and experts predict that office leasing could hit its lowest point in the past decade.

Tourism, meanwhile, has been hurt by travelers’ inability to get to and from the U.S. That has trickled down to the hotel industry, where thousands of employees have been laid off, and major hotels — including, most recently, the nearly century-old Roosevelt Hotel — have closed.

More than a million city residents are out of work, and unemployment is nearly twice the national average, according to the New York Times. The global pandemic roiled stock markets this week as the virus surged ahead of colder temperatures in Europe and the United States.

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