All Signs Point to New York City’s Victory Over COVID

In a show of our greatest resiliency yet, life in New York City is returning to familiar forms, with a full reopening underway. New Yorkers should be proud of the sacrifices they’ve made during a history-making period of disconnection and equally proud of their determination to beat this virus through social distancing and vaccination.

Of New York City’s 8.3 million residents, about 4.5 million have had at least one vaccine dose, or about 55% of the population. Just over 4 million residents are fully vaccinated, reflecting 49%. In Manhattan proper, the numbers are even better – Manhattan residents are 60% vaccinated. Manhattan’s 7-day average positivity rate was .3% as of June 23, its lowest since March 2020, according to data released by New York State and available on its New York Forward website. As a result, Governor Cuomo has lifted statewide restrictions on masking and social distancing in sports venues, malls and movie theaters, restaurants and retail properties construction sites, and child care and personal care businesses. Masks will continue to be required on mass transit, while using ride-hail services and within healthcare settings.

As New York City’s vaccination numbers improve, so too does its rental market, especially in neighborhoods popular for college students as universities signal a return to classroom learning. The majority of our higher education institutions, including New York University, Columbia University and the City University of New York system, have announced plans for in-person instruction this fall. As a result, we are seeing a rapid uptick in lease signings for our buildings in the East Village, Union Square, Gramercy Park and Murray Hill.

Jumps in both pricing and lease signings are being reflected in recent data released from some of the city’s largest brokerage houses – Corcoran, Douglas Elliman and MNS.

According to Corcoran, there were 7615 leases signed in Manhattan in May, up 6% from the prior month. The median rent also climbed, reaching 3125 in May, a 6% increase from April. This level of month-over-month pricing growth has not been recorded since early 2019.

Pricing has increased for nondoorman studios in every neighborhood except SoHo and Midtown West, according to MNS. For nondoorman one-bedrooms, pricing has increased in every neighborhood except the Financial District. Pricing for nondoorman two-bedrooms is also improving, with rates up in all neighborhoods except the Financial District and Greenwich Village.

Recognizing that rental rates have hit their trough and are on the rebound, renters are signing for longer lease terms, according to Douglas Elliman. The average term for apartment leases signed in May was 15.6 months, up form 13.3 months in February.

The surge in activity comes as New York-based companies call their employees back into offices this fall. Although many are pursuing hybrid schedules of 2-3 days per week, there will be an overall increase to office occupancy beginning in September. According to HR consultancy Aon, more than 80% of companies have finalized a date for a return to in-person work and more than 50% would be returning in the third quarter of this year.

And in some of the most exciting news of all, New York City’s grand cultural institutions are in various stages of reopening. Museums are reporting attendance at all-time highs, selling out their reservation lists and more than a dozen Broadway shows will reopen starting in September.