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How Hudson Yards Went From Bust to Boom

Good morning. Today we’ll look at how the big Hudson Yards development became a success story. We’ll also get details on arrests on the Manhattan campus of Fordham University, where pro-Palestinian activists said they had been inspired by the events at Columbia University.

Credit…Karsten Moran for The New York Times

Hudson Yards — the $30 billion planned neighborhood with office towers and luxury apartments — has become a success story, at least as far as leasing the offices is concerned. That very success has brought into focus the widening gap between the city’s few high-end office buildings and the rest of the office market in Manhattan, which is hurting. I asked Matthew Haag, who writes about commercial real estate, to explain why Hudson Yards appears to be doing so well.

Hudson Yards was deserted during the pandemic and looked like a bust as far as real estate was concerned. Now it’s flourishing. What happened?

As the pandemic faded, companies with offices in Hudson Yards called their employees back into the office, which injected life back in the neighborhood.

The companies there have embraced a return to work more so than most other companies in the city. That’s because they are mostly law firms and financial firms, which have largely encouraged a robust in-office presence three or four days a week. Fridays remain a work-from-home day, for the most part.

But remote and hybrid work seem to be here to stay, so why does Hudson Yards have some of the city’s highest rents and lowest vacancy rates?

It just so happens that the companies that can afford Hudson Yards’ expensive office rents are the same firms that have demanded their workers return to their desks.

Developers and businesses in Hudson Yards said that employee attendance is around 80 percent on Monday through Thursday, roughly the same as before the pandemic because some people are always out of town, on vacation or sick. Attendance on Fridays is quite low, maybe in the 20 percent range.

Also, the biggest, wealthiest companies want high-end work environments to attract and retain employees. There is no part of New York City with a larger cluster of brand-new or nearly new high-end offices than Hudson Yards.

When Hudson Yards opened, I remember going there and coming away thinking that the developers were trying to invent a neighborhood, that they were trying to put a neighborhood in a part of Manhattan that no one went to. Is it any more neighborhood-y? Any more community-like?

Hudson Yards is absolutely a developer-made neighborhood, which has been a chief complaint about the area.

Many local New Yorkers consider it inauthentic. After all, most of Manhattan took shape over many decades and centuries. Hudson Yards rose up over a few years.

The main developers of Hudson Yards, the Related Companies and Brookfield Properties, are well aware of these criticisms. Related executives have tried to bring in New York City shops and restaurants, and recently lured the venerable and much-loved Russ and Daughters deli to the ground floor of an office building.

Brookfield Properties has positioned its development, known as Manhattan West, to offer retail options anchored by a Whole Foods store.

Has any of that drawn people?

One way to measure whether the area is more neighborhood-y is through the residential population. It nearly doubled to 20,000 residents in 2020 from 2010, according to the census. Still, many community leaders, including those at Community Board 4, wish that developers would build more housing there.

The developers originally believed that the real moneymaker would be the mall they were planning. There was a Neiman Marcus store, but it closed when Neiman Marcus filed for bankruptcy. What has happened to the stores and the restaurants?

The mall, which was developed by Related, was intended to be a centerpiece of the neighborhood. Related staked the mall’s relevance and future on Neiman Marcus, the luxury retailer that owns Bergdorf Goodman but had never operated a store of its own in New York City. Neiman Marcus signed a 50-year lease.

Today, Related says that foot traffic in the mall has nearly returned to 2019 levels. The Neiman Marcus store was not the only one to close for good, but others have moved in — though not to the multistory Neiman Marcus space. Related is converting that into an office for Wells Fargo.

And the apartments?

Given the city’s overall housing shortage, it may be no surprise that the rental buildings are full or nearly full.

They are not cheap. There are some below-market units, but most one-bedroom apartments start around $6,000, far above the city’s average.

Even the critics of Hudson Yards have come around. What changed their minds?

One vocal critic of Hudson Yards when it opened was Brad Lander, then a City Council member from Brooklyn. He had concerns about the generous property-tax breaks for developers in the neighborhood, which are among the largest in the city.

Lander is now the city comptroller, with an eye on city spending and revenue, a.k.a. taxes. He said the buildings there contributed an extra $200 million a year to the city’s coffers in 2023 and a projected extra $300 million this year.

The buildings would be contributing more if there were no property tax breaks, but the developers would argue that Hudson Yards would not exist without the city’s assistance and without infrastructure upgrades like the 7 Line subway extension from Midtown.


Weather

Expect clouds and sunshine overhead and temperatures that will reach the low 80s, about 20 degrees above the average. Tonight, it will be partly cloudy, and temperatures will drop to the mid-50s.

ALTERNATE-SIDE PARKING

Suspended today (Orthodox Holy Thursday).


The latest New York news

Credit…Pool photo by David Dee Delgado
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  • Words that have defined the Trump trial: Here are the most memorable things that have been said in court over the past seven days.

  • Buffalo judge censured: In 2020, Mark Grisanti brawled with his neighbors and shoved a police officer. He will be censured but will remain on the bench.

  • An overdue face-lift: It has been 34 years since the battleship New Jersey, the most decorated battleship in U.S. history before it was decommissioned, was last pulled out of the water for maintenance. It undergoing $10 million worth of repairs in Philadelphia.

  • What do you think of New York City streets?: Tell us about your neighborhood — and how you get around the city.

Arts & Culture

  • Millions for a new wing: The Metropolitan Museum of Art raised $550 million in donations for its new modern and contemporary wing.

  • “Fearless Girl” lawsuit is settled: The artist of the defiant bronze statue near Wall Street reached an agreement with the financial firm that commissioned it. The future of the statue remains uncertain.

  • Celebration of design: This month, the annual NYCxDesign will showcase a diverse array of innovations and other creative installations.


Adams as the face of the crackdown on student protests

Credit…Mike Segar/Reuters

For much of the time after pro-Palestinian demonstrations began at Columbia University, university officials remained in the background, making public pronouncements through campuswide advisories.

By contrast, Mayor Eric Adams, a Democrat and former police officer, has stepped in forcefully, becoming the face of a crackdown that he said had led to 300 arrests at Columbia and the City College of New York on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the police arrested protesters on Fordham University’s Manhattan campus, where students who said they had been inspired by the protests at Columbia had put up tents in an academic building. Before the arrests, some protesters at Fordham said they had been suspended; outside the Leon Lowenstein Center, there were chants that being suspended “in the name of Gaza” was “nothing short of an honor.”

Adams had made the rounds of morning news programs on Wednesday, making it clear on “Morning Joe” on MSNBC that he had urged Columbia to take action. Later, at a news conference at Police Headquarters, the mayor again alluded to outside agitators and cast himself as a force against disorder.

“They are attempting to disrupt our city, and we are not going to permit it to happen,” Adams said as he praised officers for using restraint during the arrests.


METROPOLITAN diary

Short for winter

Dear Diary:

I was at the local dry cleaner’s waiting behind an older woman. She was clearly a regular like me, because the man behind the counter greeted her by name.

She put a pair of pants on the counter and carefully explained how she wanted them pressed so that there would be no crease.

“You cut your hair,” she said to the man.

He rubbed his head, which was topped by a close-cropped crew cut.

“Yes, I cut it short for winter,” he said.

The woman was silent, so I piped up.

“It looks great!” I said.

“I’m going to have to get used to it,” the woman said.

— Jennifer Jarett

Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.


Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — J.B.

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.

Rachel Gomes, Melissa Guerrero and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].

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