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NYC can get creative — and fun — with uses for empty office space




NYC can get creative — and fun — with uses for empty office space

What would we do with a half-billion square feet of Manhattan office space if most of it remains empty? It’s the loaded question about the city’s future that not even our brightest, most optimistic minds want to touch.

We’ve been told that office buildings won’t be vacant forever. Once Omicron recedes, a trickling return to workplaces will swell into a mighty wave. Buildings might not be as full as they were pre-COVID but they’ll be full enough to sustain the city’s great commercial tax base and keep landlords from going broke.

So say real estate executives and business leaders, and so have I written many times in these pages.

But what if we’re all wrong? What happens if scary prognostications by the brilliant Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan come to pass? 

Noonan wrote last February that the pandemic brought about “the collapse of the commuter model … in the past year the owners of great businesses found how much can be done remotely. They hadn’t known that!”

She added that “they don’t have to pay that killer rent for office space anymore. People think it will all snap back when the pandemic is fully over but no, a human habit broke; a new way of operating has begun.”

What if our office towers, the pride of our skyline, turn into towering white elephants?

It's possible that some office space will need to be converted to residential buildings.
It’s possible that some office space will need to be converted to residential buildings.
Lindsey Nicholson/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

I posed the issue to urban analysts normally eager to comment on anything from bike lanes to endangered manatees. But not even the oft-quoted Regional Plan Association would touch it. Others whom I reached out to responded to questions I hadn’t asked or changed the subject altogether.

Only the Real Estate Board of New York, the industry trade organization, tackled the more limited issue of how to accelerate conversion of second-class, older office buildings — which REBNY estimated at 220 million square feet, or about 40 percent of the total office stock — to residential use.

The group noted that the phenomenon was long underway in lower Manhattan, where tens of millions of obsolescent office spaces found new life as apartments from the late 1990s to the present day.

The whirlwind rescued magnificent but unused landmarks such as 70 Pine St. and One Wall Street as well as scores of lesser properties. It made downtown a more cohesive and viable family neighborhood, which helped the area survive the effects of 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy.

Noting the city’s profound housing shortage, REBNY produced a batch of proposals to facilitate large-scale office-to-residential conversions. But they’d require wholesale zoning changes, state-city cooperation to provide tax subsidies, and cultural changes at city agencies such as the departments of Housing Preservation and Development, Buildings, City Planning and Finance.

REBNY wants the City Council to set up a task force to study the options. But until then, we’ll humbly suggest a few possible new future uses for some over-the-hill office properties. Landlords should roll up their sleeves now for a changed future — even if it means replacing office workers with fantasy.

The city can consider options like creating new museums or even film studios in vacant Manhattan buildings.
NYC can consider options like creating new museums or even film studios in vacant Manhattan buildings.
Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images

Take the Garment District, which once manufactured most of America’s clothing and is now mainly home to tech, media and smaller financial firms that can’t afford fancier digs. Some buildings were upgraded to contemporary use — but a surprisingly many grimy, prewar structures remain stuck in the 1950s.

Let’s turn a few of them into something the city has long deserved: a spectacular museum where the once heavily unionized district’s role in New York history and national politics are brought back to life. Show how seamstresses lent the sewing power to clothe America’s women — and why union backing was so important to generations of Democratic candidates.

Another option is bringing Hollywood here. Why should Queens monopolize Big Apple film production? The Steiner, Kaufman Astoria and Silvercup studios are wonderful. But a full-scale Manhattan movie and TV complex would be the crown jewel in “Hollywood on the Hudson.”

Such a facility could be retrofitted inside one of Manhattan’s numerous “horizontal skyscrapers” once used as warehouses and shipping terminals. Sure, some of them are now home to companies like Google and Facebook. But with their CEOs repeatedly delaying return-to-office plans, who knows what they’ll be good for in five years?

While we’re at, let’s improve our architectural gems. More than a few 1950s and 1960s office buildings have been only modestly spiffed up (e.g., new lobbies) and some not at all. Certain properties on Third, Sixth and even Park avenues can’t compete with properties which landlords spent hundreds of millions of dollars on to bring them into the 21st century.

But their International Style curtain walls powerfully evoke the corporate mystique of the Eisenhower and “Mad Men” years, when American power and prestige were unchallenged around the globe. They’d be ideal repositories for the lore and culture of their era in New York City — when CBS, NBC and ABC ruled the airwaves, the Brooklyn Dodgers struggled against the Yankees and the Beatles took the nation by storm on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”

The city can also attempt to improve office buildings built decades ago.
The city can also attempt to improve office buildings built many decades ago.
C. Taylor Crothers/Getty Images

Finally, we can all use some fun. Wow, how we need fun! How about a vast, indoor amusement park, like the enclosed portion of Coney Island’s legendary Steeplechase Park.

Of course the kids’ carousels and other gentle indoor rides would need to give way to the heart-stopping, pulse-pounding thrills of today’s Scream Zone and Phoenix roller coaster. And imagine a Cyclone that can stay open year-round!

The technology’s there and the demand will never abate. All it takes is the vision to make it happen inside one of our 100-year-old, hulking brick-and-mortar goliaths where office tenants aren’t making landlords rich with $35-a-square-foot leases.


Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death




Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

Legendary NFL coach and broadcaster John Madden died Tuesday morning at 85, the NFL announced. News of the football icon’s passing hit Twitter on Tuesday evening, and athletes, coaches and broadcasters from across the sports world reacted.

Fellow broadcasting legend Dick Vitale, who is currently battling cancer, called Madden “the greatest analyst of all time of any sport” in his Twitter tribute.

Former Yankees pitcher and notable Raiders fan CC Sabathia said “your legacy will live forever.” Madden coached the then-Oakland Raiders from 1969-78, a couple of years before Sabathia, a Vallejo, California native, was born. Lakers star LeBron James had similar words about Madden’s lasting legacy, adding an infinity emoji.

Former tennis star and social justice activist Billie Jean King recalled meeting Madden as a “privilege.”

Radio voice of the Rangers Kenny Albert, a five-sport broadcaster who’s been with FOX Sports since its inception in 1994, shared a photo circa 26 years ago to remember Madden.

ESPN’s Bomani Jones took a bit of a shot at current color commentators, noting that Madden “set an unreachable standard.”

Frank Caliendo, who’s made a career out of impersonations, including one for Madden, said he was surprised how emotional he felt.

Several football players, and others, including Saints running back Mark Ingram II and former Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, credited Madden with being part of the reason why they love football.

Rams wide receiver and NFL MVP contender Cooper Kupp quote the late coach in his tribute: “The road to Easy Street goes through the sewer.”

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Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence




Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

MINNEAPOLIS — The Knicks got back another body in rookie point guard Miles McBride, who was cleared from protocols Tuesday and rejoined the team in Minnesota.

But there is no longer any hype for the rookie’s return. Kemba Walker is back as the starting point guard and coming off winning Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors with four standout games, including his Christmas Day spectacular. The Knicks have gone 2-2 since Walker regained the starting job.

“It’s great,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He had a great week. He’s playing great basketball. The team winning helps him get recognized and he was a big part of driving that winning. It’s great for the team.’’

McBride was also spectacular in his last outing before getting COVID-19, when he played the entire second half Dec. 16 in Houston and seemingly earned a spot in the rotation. In fact, McBride had strung together two decent outings before he was ruled out. But things have changed since his emergence and McBride is likely back to being a bit player.

Without a practice, McBride wasn’t even expected to see time when the Knicks faced the Timberwolves to kick off a four-game road trip.

Miles McBride
NBAE via Getty Images

Of course, with Walker’s arthritic knee, anything is possible. The Knicks play Detroit on Wednesday in a back-to-back, so it’s uncertain whether Walker will complete both contests. In addition, Immanuel Quickley is out of COVID-19 protocols but Thibodeau wasn’t sure he was ready for meaningful minutes.

That left Walker against the depleted Timberwolves, who were missing their three top players (Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell), all because of COVID-19 .

Kemba Walker
Kemba Walker

When McBride got sidelined by the virus and Derrick Rose needed ankle surgery, Walker was resurrected by Thibodeau and it’s been a stunning comeback story.

Though Thibodeau has clear reservations about Walker based on his nine-game banishment due to his defensive malaise as an undersized point guard, he admitted after the Christmas Day triple-double against Atlanta that Walker is playing “much more aggressive.”

Walker’s triple-double that featured 10 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds was a lot different than his prior outing, when he scored 44 points against Washington.

“I thought his passing was terrific,’’ Thibodeau said before the Knicks resumed their schedule.

“Kemba had control of the game. The game tells you what to do. That’s what I loved about the way he played. I don’t think he forced anything. They puts size on him and were aggressive in their pick-and-roll coverage. He didn’t fight it. He attacked pressure the way you like to attack pressure. You don’t fight pressure with pressure. Don’t try to split it. Get rid of it, go to the backside. Let the game tell you what to do.’’

The Knicks coach is finally seeing all the elements of what Walker can do. Before his demotion, Walker was nothing more than a no-defense, 3-point shooter whose plus-minus was an abysmal minus-122.

Thibodeau was also concerned about his durability in sitting out two of the three back-to-back sets. The last load management game in Atlanta in late November triggered Thibodeau’s decision.

But now it’s only superlatives from Thibodeau in judging the last four games.

“Sometimes it’s going to be his shooting, sometimes it’s his penetration and getting in the paint to force a collapse and sometimes they’re being aggressive with their traps get rid of the ball quickly,’’ Thibodeau said. “The overall play, his rebounding. When your guards rebound, those are key to fast breaks. The more guard rebounding we get the better we can be. ‘’

The Knicks still have three players in protocols — centers Nerlens Noel and Jericho Sims and the newly infected Wayne Selden. Quickley and Kevin Knox were cleared on Christmas but were held out for conditioning.

No matter. The Knicks go as Kemba goes.

“He’s much more aggressive,’’ Thibodeau said. “That was the challenge. At the beginning of the year he and Evan were two new starters. Sometimes guys are trying to fit in. he’s being very aggressive which is the way we want him to play. Not deferring at all. When he and Julius [Randle] are aggressive like that our team is different.’’

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Bar raises dramatically for Zach Wilson in matchup with Tom Brady, Buccaneers




Zach Wilson and Tom Brady

When Zach Wilson stares across the MetLife Stadium field at the opposite sideline this Sunday, it won’t be Trevor Lawrence he’ll be looking at as his game-day counterpart.

Lawrence, drafted by Jacksonville one spot before the Jets selected Wilson at No. 2 overall last April, is a contemporary.

This Sunday at MetLife, the Jets rookie quarterback won’t be staring at a contemporary on the other sideline. He’ll be staring at the GOAT.

Tom Brady.

The bar raises dramatically for Wilson and the Jets, who are coming off of their feel-good, get-well win over the woeful Jaguars and Lawrence this past Sunday.

Brady and Buccaneers, who are 11-4, NFC South division champions and seeking to repeat as Super Bowl champions, play the Jets, who are 4-11 and seeking more signs of development from their rookie quarterback.

To say this is a step up in competition for Wilson and the Jets going from Lawrence and the Jags to Brady and the Bucs is as obvious as pointing out that Tampa Bay receiver Antonio Brown has had a few off-the-field incidents during his otherwise stellar NFL career.

There hasn’t been a lot to keep the interest of the Jets fan this season — other than watching Wilson’s development. That took an unfortunate pause for the four games Wilson missed with a knee injury, but he’s been back for five games and has looked like a better quarterback, throwing only two interceptions in those games (none in the last three) since returning from his injury.

The problem, though, is that Wilson hasn’t been producing enough touchdowns, throwing for three of them and rushing for four others in the past five games.

Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg; AP

Baby steps, though.

Wilson was the better quarterback this past Sunday when matched up with Lawrence, who threw for more yards than Wilson did, but Wilson ran for 91 yards, including his electric 52-yard scoring jaunt, and made key throws when he needed them.

Wilson will not win Sunday’s game against Brady and the Bucs throwing for the 102 yards he had against the Jaguars. He and the Jets will need more.

Consider this: Brady enters the game having thrown 37 TD passes and for 4,580 yards this season and averages a league-high 305.2 passing yards per game.

Then this: The Buccaneers average 29.5 points per game this season, second most in the NFL.

And this: Wilson doesn’t have a single 300-yard passing game, averages 183 passing yards per game and has thrown seven TD passes in 11 games.

Seven TD passes is a pedestrian two-game total for Brady.

Wilson and the Jets are playing with house money anyway in what always has been a developmental season, so Sunday against Brady should, at its very least, be a great measuring-stick learning experience for Wilson, who’s studied Brady on tape.

Wilson revealed this month that he watched film of Brady before the Jets played the Eagles on Dec. 5 in an effort to pick up tips on how Brady worked against the Eagles defense when he played them earlier in the season.

“I thought it was really cool to see kind of how he went through his whole process, how he navigated the pocket, different things like that,” Wilson said at the time.

On Sunday, Wilson gets to see that process up close as Brady tries to dissect a Jets defense that has yielded 29.9 points per game this season, the most in the NFL.

That puts an added onus on Wilson to produce on the other side of the ball, because he knows Brady is going to get his. Wilson will likely need to produce four TDs — any way he can — for the Jets to simply remain competitive with the Super Bowl champs.

That’s a lot to ask of a 22-year-old kid who’s produced just 11 TDs in his 11 starts, up against Brady, who’s thrown 618 TD passes and for 83,784 yards in his remarkable career.

It, too, is a lot to ask playing against an aggressive Tampa Bay defense that’s ranked No. 9 in the NFL in points allowed (20.8 per game) and is led by former Jets head coach Todd Bowles, who’d surely like to send a holiday message to his former employer.

If you don’t think Bowles will be blitzing the bejesus out of Wilson, then you probably think Antonio Brown is a living saint.

The good news for the Jets is that Wilson has shown incremental improvements, particularly when it comes to his decision-making and quicker releases on his throws.

“He’s coming along, he’s getting more comfortable, he’s calmer back there,’’ Jets coach Robert Saleh said Monday. “He’s in a great headspace and it’s going to be fun to watch him grow, continue to grow.’’

A big part of that growth will take place this Sunday as he watches the GOAT operate from the opposite sideline at MetLife.

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