The emptying out of Midtown has had a profound impact on the Executive Plaza, which opened in 1986 at Seventh Avenue and West 51st Street in what had previously been the Taft Hotel. Its more than 400 apartments, rented out to companies based in the area, including The New York Times, have been temporary homes to countless employees, executives, trainees, foreign correspondents visiting their home bases and Broadway performers — including the Rockettes and Santa Claus — needing a short-term place to stay.
But since the city shut down in March, many of those corporations, with no one traveling, have not renewed their leases. So the building has pivoted, persuading the owners of the apartments to cut rents for a new kind of tenant.
“Young people, millennials, whose leases are expiring elsewhere, and they’re looking for deals,” said Susanne Miller, the leasing agent for Executive Plaza. “They want to not be on the subway. They want to walk to work.”
Mr. Stern, the renowned architect, said the past was a hopeful indicator in this uncertain time.
“New York survived the late ’70s, and everybody thought the city was over, rampant crime, near bankruptcy,” he said. “It survives the market crashes of ’87 and ’89, it survives the dot-com crash of 2000 or so. It survived 2008. So it will survive. But each time, each one of those moments probably can be traced in relationship to new ideas on how to occupy existing buildings or how to occupy new buildings.”
Daniel A. Biederman, executive director of the Bryant Park Business Improvement District, said that for the sake of the neighborhood’s very identity, Midtown executives who fled the city to work remotely should feel a moral purpose to come back as soon as safely possible.
“They’ve almost made the unpatriotic decision for Midtown Manhattan,” he said. “We need them back.”