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Long IslandColumnistsEllis Henican

Henican: In face of rising office vacancies, rents stay the course

New statistics show Long Island’s office-vacancy rate rose

New statistics show Long Island’s office-vacancy rate rose to 18.5 percent in the second quarter of the year, up nearly a point from the first quarter. Above, empty parking lots at American Home Mortgage Company in Melville. (Aug. 6, 2007) Photo Credit: Newsday / Ken Spencer

No one said this recovery was going to be easy.

And now look: Economic forecasters suddenly have something else to worry about - Long Island's suburban office parks.

Just as residential real estate was showing glimmers of encouragement, just as Nassau and Suffolk sales-tax receipts keep shooting up, new statistics from Cushman & Wakefield reveal far too many empty offices above all that gleaming lobby decor.

These numbers make home sales look like a breeze.

Long Island's office-vacancy rate rose to 18.5 percent in the second quarter of the year, up nearly a point from the first quarter. That's almost 4 percentage points above the national average, and the rise comes just as the economy was supposed to be taking off again.

Clearly, there's no way to spin this as cheery. But we should probably hold off a moment on the real alarm.

Some of these empty offices were clearly created by go-go builders who lost their heads in the fat days. And you can blame some of the vacancies on telecommuters working at home in their bathrobes. That may change the office equation for good.

And economists say that office head counts can be a lagging indicator of recovery. Hiring new full-time workers is often the last thing a jittery but reviving employer does.

But still it would sure be nice if the vacancy numbers were going down, not up.

The one thing that hasn't changed much on the office-rental landscape? This will come as no surprise. The asking rents. They've fallen barely 50 cents a foot since the early part of the year.

Yes, there's everything you could want but a bargain.

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Porgies and Blues

Perhaps we're feeling sentimental because of all the bad news from the oil-poisoned Gulf. But isn't this the perfect weekend to celebrate all the gorgeous creatures that still swim around here? I'm talking about the porgies, stripers, blues and fluke that lure so many fishermen out this time of year. The striped bass have been a little more scarce, but the bluefish have more than made up for it. And the porgies, some anglers say, are just about jumping into the skiffs. Please don't stop.


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