The Center for an Urban Future hosts a discussion on New York's economic competitiveness in the face of hybrid work.

Keeping NYC Competitive in An Age of Hybrid Work

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By Larisa Ortiz,
Managing Director of Public Non-Profit Solutions

Earlier this month, I joined the Center for an Urban Future an amazing group of individuals in a discussion on New York’s economic competitiveness in the face of hybrid work.


The opening remarks from Seth Pinksy, the Chief Executive Officer of the 92nd Street Y, really struck a chord: New Yorkers have a constant internal calculus going on in our heads — are the costs of living here worth the rewards?


New York is not alone. Every city facing the daunting task of economic recovery must consider this same calculus. Recovery will be about ensuring that the city remains a great place to live, build a career, be energized by access to culture and education, raise children, and more. The conversation turned quite personal for many of us, and I couldn’t help but consider my own lived experience as a professional, parent and lifelong New Yorker as we discussed a wide range of issues affecting the city’s overall livability, including:


Challenges navigating the public school system. As my own family navigates the overwhelming and unbearably complicated process of high school applications, I find myself extremely sympathetic to the decisions that many friends and colleagues have made to move to the suburbs. I cannot right now say with certainty that my son will attend an excellent school and receive the best education possible – to leave something this important up to “lottery” (yes, lottery) is enough to drive parents with children out of this city.


Solving for the last mile. The commute for many low and moderate-income New Yorkers who rely on public transportation from more affordable outer borough neighborhoods needs to improve. One way this is happening is through micro-mobility. I see this every day from my home in Jackson Heights, Queens, where 34th Avenue — an “open street” — has become an extremely valuable safe path for a growing community of cyclists and e-mobility users. We need more of this, not less. Urban environments are tailor-made for this form of mobility, and more would consider this if safe options were available. My 13-year-old son bikes to school nearly every day because we now have a safe way for him to do so.


Regulatory reform to help lower the hurdle to entry for small businesses. Starting a business in New York is challenging enough, but unfortunately, our rules and regulations make the hurdle to entry even higher. This stifles economic activity. We must pass The City of Yes for Economic Opportunity, a set of zoning reforms that would remove outdated limitations on businesses. These reforms are long overdue.


Invest in culture, entertainment and fun. New York is unrivaled in its cultural offerings and frankly, this is our secret sauce! Leaning into this will be great for New Yorkers and visitors alike. Jessica Walker, the President and CEO of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, suggested it was time to do something as ambitious as The Gates, the 2005 Christo installation in Central Park that attracted four million people and generated $254 million for the City. She is absolutely right!


Return to work cannot be the goal. The world before COVID-19 worked well for the privileged. As a parent, that system was broken for me and my family. I do not miss getting home frazzled with no time to make dinner, nor the two-hour round-trip commute that left little time for personal wellness or simply a good night’s sleep. We can’t go back. Not when we now know that hybrid work is also reducing our carbon footprint. Last I heard there was also a global climate crisis to consider …


As you can see, we covered a lot of ground and discussed themes and strategies that continue to pop up in our work with cities around the country. Watch a replay of the event here, or contact us here to continue the conversation.



The Streetsense place consulting team leverages strategic and creative advisory services to solve complex real estate issues that enhance the value of places—whether they are new mixed-use developments, assets facing challenges, vibrant districts, or captivating destinations.


Photos courtesy Center for an Urban Future


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