Real estate CEO says NYC will overcome crisis — the city’s obituary ‘has been written many times’

Real estate executive William Rudin told CNBC on Friday that he is confident New York City’s economy will eventually overcome the challenges wrought by the coronavirus. 

“The obituary of New York has been written many times,” Rudin said on “The Exchange.” ”The social, human interaction that has always been part of the strength of New York City will come back. It’s going to take a little time … but it will come back.” 

New York City has been a major hot spot in the U.S. outbreak, with more than 190,000 cases, according to Johns Hopkins University, and some question how the crisis will impact the city long term. Questions have been raised about the real estate market, in particular, as some residents may decide to leave the city altogether and companies may reduce their office footprint in favor of more remote work.

Rudin, CEO and co-chairman of Rudin Management Co., said dire predictions about New York City’s fate have been raised during previous challenges faced by the city but ultimately did not prove true. 

“In the early ’90s, we had 30 million feet of vacant space in Lower Manhattan. Everybody said it wasn’t going to come back. After 9/11, nobody was going to come back into an office building [or] everybody was going to work below the 15th floor,” said Rudin, who also noted the impact Hurricane Sandy in 2012 had on the city. 

A man wearing a mask runs in an empty Times Square amid the coronavirus pandemic on May 9, 2020 in New York City. COVID-19 has spread to most countries around the world, claiming over 280,000 lives with over 4.1 million cases.

Alexi Rosenfeld | Getty Images

Rudin Management, founded in 1925, oversees 36 properties in New York City, 16 of which are commercial office buildings. The company has 18 residential buildings and two condominiums. 

Companies that do reduce their office footprint are opening the door for businesses, perhaps in different sectors, that may want it, Rudin argued. 

“There will be other companies that will step into the void,” he said. “We’ve got incredible research hospitals. We’ve got scientists. We’ve got medical institutions, they’re going to grow. Other companies will step in and use technology to be creative and be the companies of the future that we hope will fill in our spaces.” 

Rudin said part of his optimism is rooted in the research being done on a potential vaccine for the coronavirus, which has infected more than 4.5 million people across the world. He said that will be critical for New York City, but in the meantime the city and its residents will adapt and make changes.  

“Hopefully we’ll transition through, get to the point where vaccines and therapies are out there, and the city will be back, better and stronger,” said Rudin. He referenced a quote from his father, Lewis Rudin, a real estate titan who organized an effort to help New York City overcome a fiscal crisis in the 1970s.

“My dad always said, ‘Never bet against New York City.’ So we’re continuing that,” he said.