Phase 2: Reopening the City

One small step for businesses, one giant leap for New York City. At least, that’s how Phase 2 of New York City’s reopening plan feels for many of us.

 Phase 1 only allowed curbside pick-up stores, manufacturing facilities, and construction projects to resume. Phase 2 brings back many of the businesses that the city is known for–outdoor dining, office buildings, and barbershops/salons.

 It’s a return to normalcy for the city, and everyone can benefit from these new openings. There are plenty of us that have been waiting patiently for the opportunity to get a haircut.  Many of us want to be able to dine at a restaurant again as well.

 That said, there’s a lot more than a trim and a bite to eat at play with Phase 2.

What Is Opening in Phase 2?

Phase 2 is a big leap for the city because of the broader range of openings than was seen during Phase 1. This second wave of openings will include:

  • Office jobs, including professional services, admin support, IT, and more.
  • Real estate services, including leasing, renting, and property/building management.
  • In-store shopping at retail businesses.
  • Rental, repair, and cleaning services.
  • Barbershops, hair salons, and many other health/beauty services.
  • Outdoor dining at restaurants, coffee shops, and other eateries.

Open but Different

These openings are a massive sigh of relief for many. They create a feeling that life is returning to normal even though it’s not going to be quite the same as pre-COVID-19. Each business will have new rules and precautions to follow. These standards will help ensure that business re-openings do not cause a spike in coronavirus cases.

Hair Salons

You can finally get a haircut and clean up that mop on your head you’ve been hiding from the world during the lockdown. However, don’t expect your ordinary barbershop or salon experience. Protective measures will be taken by employees in the form of gloves, face masks, and even face shields. Similar steps may be asked of clients. These businesses have to keep their occupancy to 50% of the capacity to ensure social distancing between customers.

In-Store Shopping

With the return of in-store shopping, you can finally give your fingers a rest from copious Amazon ordering. Retailers will also have guidelines that ask that both employees and customers wear masks. There will also be strict limitations on how many people can browse the store at the same time.

Dining & Restaurants

You still won’t be able to eat inside your favorite restaurants — that’s coming in Phase 3. But, outdoor dining is a welcomed start to getting back to the norm. Again, there will be some new changes to the experience. While you won’t be asked to have a mask while you eat, tables will be staggered to ensure social distancing. This will limit the amount of available space that restaurants have for their outdoor dining. Start calling in reservations now!

Office Buildings

New York City is the world’s business capital, so the push to reopen offices is a massive step in the right direction. The city thrives on offices and their employees. In the interest of safely, most companies prefer their employees work from home. They are putting employee safety and well-being at the forefront of their thinking.  As a result, commercial real estate owners have shifted their focus to redesigning office space layouts.

 Their primary concern is to restructure their physical layouts to adhere to new restrictions mandating that employees stay separated. This is counter to the open office layout that an increasing number of businesses had been implementing. In one study, 70% of all offices surveyed were “open concept,” which also reduces employees’ workspaces.

 That isn’t very social-distancing friendly!

 Instead of rebuilding the entire office, many companies are choosing only to allow a small percentage of their workforce back. The Partnership for New York City conducted a survey that found that, of the 60 companies polled, Manhattan offices planned for only 10% of their staff to return to work, with the other 90% continuing to work from home.

 Moreover, the success that many companies saw during the lockdown, despite having an entire staff working from home, has caused many office-based businesses to rethink their workspaces.

 As these companies evaluate what they need from a physical office, some will decide to downsize their workspace and ask that many employees continue working for home, even after the coronavirus pandemic is finished.

 Many employees are also hesitant about a return to the office, especially with some having to commute to the city on trains from NY, NJ, or CT. Others don’t see the appeal in returning to the office in a city that is still mostly shut down. So, the trend may see more employees returning to their offices as more businesses open in the later phases.

Real Estate

New York City commercial and residential real estate services have also resumed in Phase 2. This means that property showings (with masks, of course) and buying and selling real estate can begin again. Finally!

 It’s an exciting time for New York City real estate, but also a period of uncertainties. While the residential market is beginning to pick up and dust itself off, it’s going to be a long and slow road back. Some places are even seeing pre-coronavirus transaction numbers, which suggests a positive return is imminent.

 The New York City commercial real estate niche will recover. There’s no doubt, the city was hit hard because it has remained in lockdown for longer than most other areas.  This resulted in real estate transaction volumes in NYC are still 80-90% below what they were in 2019 Q2. 

 However, the hope is that the official return of real estate business will spike numbers quickly and get those figures to the levels we’re used to. With mortgage rates still at a historic low, many buyers will be ready to spring into actions.

 Let’s hope sellers are willing to be flexible during this exciting transition back to the norm.


New York City is on the road to recovery, but you can still see and feel the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Streets are not bustling; subways are not packed; office elevators are not shoulder-to-shoulder. But they will be soon.

 New York City expects 300,000 people to get back to their desks and offices at the start of Phase 2. It may seem like a drop in the bucket compared to the millions that usually are filling offices and other businesses across the city, but it is a significant start to getting us back to the city we know and love.