With Kastle missing major NYC office buildings, city crafts hybrid-work tracker

Study with Placer Labs to capture dent of changing work, which has roiled CRE

A photo illustration of Department of City Planning director Dan Garodnick (Getty)

A photo illustration of Department of City Planning director Dan Garodnick (Getty)

The Department of City Planning is joining commercial real estate observers looking to capture the dent remote work is making on the city and its key business districts. 

The agency is set to launch a two-year study into hybrid work’s effect on the local economy, Crain’s reported. The study will lean on cell phone data to analyze the when, where and how of consumer spending habits, particularly in office districts; cell phone data is more exact for this type of tracking than other data sources.

City Planning is contracting Placer Labs to assist with the study. The department is also hiring an analyst and contractors to help study the economic impacts of hybrid work, as well as regional transportation trends.  

Telecommuting’s impact on New York City’s economy won the attention of analysts in recent years as the popularity of remote and hybrid work persists in the nation’s largest office market. WFH Research and Bloomberg in February released an analysis that claimed the city lost $12.4 billion in local spending due to work-from-home policies.

But questions remain on how well measures capture how shifting work and commute patterns are affecting key commercial properties and districts. 

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The local economy in office corridors is largely dependent on the occupancy of those office buildings. Kastle Systems’ “Back-to-Work Barometer” — which uses card swipe data — has been one of the most prominent data providers in recent years.

The metric has come under fire, however, as critics have noted Kastle’s findings exclude hundreds of skyscrapers that don’t use the company’s security services. The city’s top two commercial landlords, SL Green and Vornado Realty Trust, are among those whose buildings are omitted from the metric.

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The study is set to launch in July and is being supported by a $500,000 award from the federal Highway Administration and the federal Transportation Authority.

City Planning did not immediately respond to The Real Deal’s request for comment.

Holden Walter-Warner

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