Remote working creating ‘dead zones’ in cities, NY governor tells Irish economic summit

Parts of downtown Manhattan have lost vibrancy due to remote work and overpriced housing, Kathy Hochul says

Remote working habits are gutting cities of their vitality and creating “dead zones”, New York governor Kathy Hochul told the inaugural Global Economic Summit in Killarney on Monday.

In a key note speech on the future of cities, Ms Hochul said parts of downtown Manhattan had lost all their vibrancy because of a combination of remote working and overpriced housing.

Blocks of empty commercial property coupled with a lack of affordable housing had created a “real problem” for the city, she said.

“The ripple effect of people no longer working a five-day work week has hurt everything from the small supporting retail and restaurants, all the way to Broadway,” she said.


Ms Hochul, New York state’s first woman governor, said the lack of affordable housing was “paralysing” cities the world over.

“What further complicates a solution is that we are in the throes of the largest migration of humanity since the second World War. New arrivals need not just resources and services, but ultimately housing,” she said.

Ms Hochul came to Ireland after a three-day climate-change summit in Rome last week where she met other world leaders.

Housing wasn’t the number-one issue, she said “it was issue number one, two and three” with every leader she met.

Ms Hochul has made tackling New York’s housing crisis her number-one objective as governor and is attempting to address high housing costs with an ambitious plan to build more than 800,000 homes over the next decade through financial incentives and the increased use of state land.

She told delegates she was in the process of inventorialising every piece of public land in New York state to see what could be used for housing but admitted policymakers willing to tackle the issue faced a difficult task because of bureaucratic red tape, Nimbyism and a general inertia in certain quarters.

Ms Hochul, who attended a civic reception in Spillane’s Pub on the Maharees peninsula near where her paternal grandparents hailed from, was also deeply critical of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, saying his election would be “cataclysmic” for Europe.

She said a second Trump term would be a disaster internationally as “he doesn’t support Nato or our efforts to help Ukraine”.

Ms Hochul also held out the possibility of Trump triggering another trade war with Europe. “Being at war is a desirable state in his mind whether it’s an economic war or engaging in culture wars just because he wants to create division among Americans… He’s the most divisive person that has ever governed this nation,” she said.

Despite polls showing Trump ahead in five of six key swing states, Ms Hochul said she believed Americans would see and realise the benefits of President Joe Biden’s current economic policies, including his Inflation Reduction Act which she said had boosted jobs and prosperity, between now and November’s election.

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times