Real estate insiders take swipe at Back-to-Work Barometer


The widely cited Kastle Systems Back-to-Work Barometer, which claims to tally how many employees have returned to offices, misses hundreds of skyscrapers with the highest attendance — and the result is a whopping undercount, real estate insiders say.

Kastle counts entry swipes only at office buildings that pay for its security services. Those “NYC Metro” properties include 200 Class-A Manhattan buildings, it says. But a Post survey found that Kastle tracks only two of the city’s 10 largest real estate empires,  which have the lion’s share of financial and legal tenants with more employees on-site than other types of businesses.

The yawning gaps in Kastle’s survey reflect “a huge lack of accuracy in their data in this market,” said JLL regional CEO Peter Riguardi.

Kastle’s findings have gone unquestioned, including by Mayor Eric Adams. But landlords and sources revealed that Kastle shockingly doesn’t count swipes at buildings owned or managed by SL Green and Vornado Realty Trust — the city’s largest and second-largest commercial landlords with 34 million and 28 million square feet, respectively.

Nor does Kastle cover the vast empires of  Tishman Speyer, Rudin Management, Silverstein Properties, Brookfield Property Partners, Boston Properties, Related Companies or Rockefeller Group.

One World Trade Center
The properties missed by Kastle account for more than one-third of the city’s 450 million square-foot office inventory. Above, One World Trade Center.
REUTERS

The “barometer” doesn’t track the World Trade Center,  Hudson Yards or Manhattan West. Nor does it cover the Empire State Building, One Vanderbilt, One Bryant Park or 55 Water Street — the city’s largest single office location with 3.5 million square feet.

Kastle also overlooks a half-dozen towers owned by their financial-services users — such as JP Morgan Chase’s headquarters at 383 Madison Ave.

Mary Ann Tighe, CEO of CBRE’s tristate region, said, “Kastle can’t be considered a definitive source for Manhattan office occupancy.”

Taking the  gaps into account, she said, “It is reporting data from a mix of A and B properties. We know  that better buildings have significantly higher occupancy rates and any building serving the financial service industry has strong in-person attendance.”

The properties missed  by Kastle account for more than one-third of the city’s 450 million square-foot office inventory. More important, they comprise perhaps two-thirds of the premier, Class-A trophies with the highest attendance.

“Not all buildings are alike,” said one insider who asked not to be named. “If a 1960s building on Third Avenue leased to small companies is 40% occupied, it doesn’t mean you can assume that a much larger building leased to banks and lawyers on Park or Sixth Avenue or Hudson Yards is also just 40% full.”

Dan Biederman, head of  consulting firm BRV Corp. and president of both the Bryant Park Corporation and the 34th Street Partnership, has been “skeptical” of Kastle’s data for some time. He  scoffed, “Is Kastle telling me all these people on the sidewalks are just walking around for fun?”

View of Manhattan from Hudson Yards
Contradicting Kastle’s lowball attendance numbers, sources said, that Related’s Hudson Yards towers have averaged  60% occupancy since last summer
Paul Martinka for NY Post

Kathryn Wylde, president and CEO of the Partnership for New York City business-advocacy organization, said its survey — which reports higher occupancy than Kastle does  — “reaches the largest Manhattan office building owners and managers which we believe results in the most accurate assessment of the status of remote work.”

Her latest count shows 50% average Manhattan weekly occupancy for the first time and climbing. Kastle’s latest shows 47.8% occupancy, a significant uptick from 43.8% the previous week.

Contradicting Kastle’s lowball attendance numbers, sources said, that Related’s Hudson Yards towers have averaged  60% occupancy since last summer and the Seagram Building — which Kastle does cover — 75% except on Fridays.

Kastle didn’t dispute The Post’s list of buildings it doesn’t track, but declined to say which it does count, citing client confidentiality.

A company rep said, “Kastle is confident that the Barometer represents an accurate view of return-to-office trends.”

She said Kastle is “confident we can extrapolate” its data to the “larger picture.”

“We continue to track new trends and welcome others sharing data that we can incorporate into the existing Barometer,” she said. “Our goal is to share the data to help plan better for hybrid work, as well as provide insights on future trends to the American public.”



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