Aby Rosen says firms have been too “nice-nice” with employees

RFR chief on WFH, his plans for the Chrysler Building and New York's comeback

RFR Holding's Aby Rosen with the Seagram Building and the Chrysler Building (Photos via Getty; iStock)
RFR Holding's Aby Rosen with the Seagram Building and the Chrysler Building (Photos via Getty; iStock)

Aby Rosen is no fan of the work-from-home phenomenon.

In fact, the RFR Holding chief says companies have been too “nice-nice” with their employees.

At his portfolio — which includes the Seagram Building and a number of Fifth and Madison Avenue office towers — tenants are still paying rent but only 12 percent of workers have returned, according to Bloomberg News.

Like many other real estate executives, Rosen has brought back his full staff. His firm’s 110 employees can take a car service in, lunch is covered and suburban dwellers are invited to stay at RFR’s Gramercy Park Hotel.

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Manhattan office occupancy is still below 15 percent, according to an October memo Cushman & Wakefield sent to clients. And ahead of the holidays (and with a second wave of infections in full swing), office attendance has been thinning out across the city.

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Rosen says Mayor Bill de Blasio’s back-and-forth on school reopenings hasn’t helped the situation, and that he’s given the mayor an “earful.” But overall, the executive said de Blasio who has just about a year of his second term left, is “checked out.”

But Rosen is optimistic about New York City’s comeback. He thinks a new mayor — he says he likes former Citigroup vice chairman Ray McGuire — and the potential for a new stimulus under President-elect Joe Biden could go a long way.

He’s also got big plans for the crown jewels of his portfolio. The Seagram Building at 375 Park Avenue is undergoing a $30 million renovation, which will see an underground garage transformed into a “Playground,” outfitted with a rock-climbing wall, a basketball court, a boxing ring and more.

The Chrysler Building, which he and partner Signa Group purchased for $151 million last year, will undergo a $200 million overhaul. (A ground lease held by the Cooper Union has the landmark operating in the red, but Rosen is in talks to restructure the agreement.)

However, RFR’s three hotels and restaurants won’t reopen until sometime in 2021. Still, the landlord says he’s pulling in nearly half of retail rents and advised his leasing agents to work with tenants to avoid vacancies.

[Bloomberg News] — Danielle Balbi