New York City Mayor Eric Adams is not pleased with the shift back to remote work by Wall Street banks and other major employers in the Big Apple.
“We have to open up,” Adams told CNN’s Brianna Keilar on Tuesday. “I need my city to open. And we have to be safe, we have to double down on vaccinations and booster shots. We have to double down on testing. But we have to reshape our thinking of how do we live with Covid.”
New York’s new mayor was responding to questions about the decision by businesses, including big banks, to tell employees to work from home in light of skyrocketing Covid cases.
In recent days, JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Citigroup, Goldman Sachs (GS) and Jefferies have all revised back-to-the office plans due to the health crisis. Some banks urged workers to stay home, while others, including JPMorgan, are giving employees the option to work remotely. The shift in thinking from the big banks is notable because many on Wall Street have been eager to get workers back to their desks.
Adams worries that empty offices will hurt the broader ecosystem of businesses that rely on office workers and business travelers, including everything from dry cleaners and restaurants to hotels.
“We have low-skilled employees who can’t do remote employment from home, or telecommuting,” Adams said. “It is time to open up, and feed our ecosystem, our financial ecosystem.”
The former police officer and Brooklyn Borough president acknowledged the lingering health concerns.
“I know how hard it is,” Adams told CNN. “I was on the ground when Covid hit the city. I watched the morgues outside of hospitals. I watched family members dropping loved ones off to never see them again.”
Andy Slavitt, former Covid-19 adviser to President Joe Biden, has urged companies to get their workforces boosted before reopening offices.
“If I’m an employer with the option to have people work virtually, I am going to continue to take that,” Slavitt told CNN last month, adding that not every company “has that luxury.”
From dry cleaners to hot dog stands
The New York mayor told Bloomberg TV Monday that he’s talking to big banks about getting back to the office.
“We must get open. Let me tell you why,” Adams said. “That accountant from a bank that sits in an office, it’s not only him. It feeds our financial ecosystem. He goes to the cleaners to get his suits cleaned. He goes to the restaurant. He brings in a business traveler, which is 70% of our hotel occupancy. He buys a hot dog on our streets, I hope a vegan hot dog, but he participates in the economy.”
Adams added, “You can’t run New York City from home. We must have everyone participating in our financial system to allow the low-skilled and unskilled and … hourly employees to actually be part of our ecosystem.”
JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs and Citi all declined to comment on the remarks from Adams. JPMorgan stressed in a memo last week that it is not changing its long-term plans for working in the office, and employees are currently expected to return “no later” than February 1.
“Covid is a moving target. It’s a formidable opponent,” Adams told Bloomberg. “But Covid doesn’t realize New Yorkers are a formidable opponent. We’re resilient.”