New York office brokers putting in long hours to serve displaced tenants

NEW YORK — The slowdown in the velocity of office leasing deals experienced just a few short weeks ago probably seems like eons ago to real estate brokers in Manhattan. The aftermath of the World Trade Center (WTC) terrorist attacks has brought brokers more office deals than could have been imagined prior to Sept. 11.

Phones are ringing off the hook. Trying to get an office broker on the phone is an obstacle in itself. "I’m too busy to call you back to talk about how busy I am," said Jeff Bernstein, managing director at New York-based Insignia/ESG, a commercial real estate services firm. After attending a morning meeting, it’s now typical for Bernstein to find his voice mailbox nearly entirely full. During the past few days, his normal workday of approximately eight-plus hours has stretched to 12 hours.

Other brokerages also are experiencing a flurry of activity. "Since the crisis, we’ve been working around the clock," said Josh Carliff, executive vice president of New York-based Cushman & Wakefield. He expects the demand to drop off significantly once the displaced tenants find replacement space.

In the midst of this activity, there are other tenants not affected by the WTC attacks that realized that they needed to hurry up and find space before the displaced firms gobbled up all the remaining offices.

Displaced tenants aren’t necessarily being given preference, according to Bernstein, although landlords are sympathetic to their plight. Bernstein stressed that he’s willing to put in the extra time to negotiate for tenants struggling with the aftermath of the terrorist attacks.

"This flurry will abate very quickly, in less than a month," predicted Bernstein. "New York is a huge engine, and it’s moving very quickly."

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