When I worked in the garment district, I was fascinated with the restaurants in the area and their hours. Of course, I was dreaming of opening a restaurant, something I never got around to, but the hours in a business district are tight. Breakfast (where it is hard to make money), lunch, and maybe an early dinner and zero weekend options. Even the frozen yogurt shop was only open on certain business days.
Many city leaders, including CEOs, have espoused their desire for people to return full-time to in-person work five days a week. It is never going to happen. We are not moving backward; we are moving forward, even though there is a lot of anxiety about what that will look like.
Last week even Eric Adams, the mayor of NYC, who not surprisingly wants people to return to work full time, admitted that NYC might not have central business districts anymore. I think that is excellent news. Mixed communities with offices, restaurants, housing, hotels, stores, and everything needed to support an urban district are better for everyone.
It is time to focus on housing and neighborhoods. It is time to shift out of all business districts and create new communities in those areas. The only way to make that shift is to change the zoning, which they did downtown after 9/11. Second, give real estate people an incentive to make it work. As painful as that is to read about the massive tax deductions they get, it is the reality of how to change districts. The city is about to build multiple office buildings around Penn Station, a big mistake. It will be good for the city and perfect for the restaurants that want to be open all the time, not just a few days a week.