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Make apartments out of vacant offices, hotels to bring young workers to NYC, Cuomo says

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, in a taped interview

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, in a taped interview with Long Island real estate developer Scott Rechler, talks about NYC's economic future after the pandemic.  Credit: James T. Madore

Converting deserted offices and hotels in New York City to affordable apartments could help revive the economy by attracting young workers, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said.

The five boroughs were a magnet for young people before the pandemic — but apartment rents prevented some from moving. Now, the energy and creativity of people in their 20s and 30s is needed to revive the city and spur business activity throughout the metropolitan area, he said.

"Let’s have more affordable housing to get that young talent" back to New York City, Cuomo said in a Feb. 10 taped interview with Long Island real estate developer Scott Rechler.

"You’re going to be an artist, you’re going to be a sculptor, you’re going to be the next great newscaster. … You come here, and you can afford to live here," the governor said in the 40-minute interview, which aired Thursday night on the website of the 92nd St. Y, one of the city’s cultural institutions.

In his proposed 2021-22 state budget in January, Cuomo called for the State Legislature to permit property owners in the boroughs to make apartments out of vacant office buildings and hotels. The Long Island Association business group is lobbying to have the provision extended to Nassau and Suffolk counties, which needs more multifamily housing.

The governor and lawmakers face an April 1 deadline to adopt a new state budget.

"Those companies that came here [in the past] … came because the talent was here," Cuomo said. "You’re not going to get the young talent to sit in a retirement community in another part of the country and put on sunscreen. They want to be here because it’s exciting — and big companies follow the talent," he said.

Cuomo was the first guest on Rechler’s "Recalibrate Reality: The Future of NY" video series, a collaboration between the 92nd St. Y and the Regional Plan Association, whose board the developer leads. The interview was recorded before this week’s news of a federal investigation of the Cuomo administration’s handling of data about COVID-19 deaths of nursing home residents.

Cuomo said commuters from Long Island, the northern suburbs and New Jersey are critical to New York City’s economy, though he predicted only young people will return to the city daily for jobs.

The governor said he hopes the Long Island Rail Road’s Third Track project, new rail cars, the Moynihan Train Hall and improvements to Penn Station will lure back commuters. "We’re battling Zoom," he said, referring to people working from home.

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