Firms dangle big bucks to lure employees out of big cities

Firms dangle big bucks to lure employees out of big cities

Stripe CEO Patrick Collison (JD Lasica via Wikipedia; Unsplash)

In an increasingly work-from-home world, those with the means have also been moving out of big cities in favor of roomier, perhaps more suburban confines.

Now, electronic payment company Stripe is offering employees $20,000 if they move out of cities including San Francisco, New York and Seattle, according to Bloomberg.

But even that comes at a price.

Employees who take the offer will see their base salaries cut by as much as 10 percent, according to the report. Other companies have tried to lure workers with similar deals.

Like Stripe, workspace technology company VMware has offered workers big money upfront — followed by a pay cut — to move while Facebook, Twitter, and software firm ServiceNow have considered doing so. Stripe has more than 2,500 employees working at 14 offices worldwide.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced much of the office workforce to operate from home. Some companies have told their employees they can work remotely for the foreseeable future; the latest entrant being Deutsche Bank. With no need to live in expensive cities near their offices, some people have considered — or already are — moving to cheaper parts of the country.

That trend is already having an impact on some real estate markets, including notoriously expensive San Francisco, where Stripe is headquartered. Rents were down 9.2 percent year-over-year in May.

Manhattan rental inventory jumped 11.9 percent from July to August. Just two submarkets there, Chinatown and Midtown West, saw inventory drop during that period. Rents also fell in many Manhattan neighborhoods during that period as well.

But office workers appear split when it comes to efforts like the one Stripe is trying. Around half of the 5,900 people who responded to a survey on the professional network Blind said that a relocation shouldn’t warrant a pay cut if an employee was doing the same work. Around 44 percent said they would take the offer of a big payday then a pay cut. [Bloomberg] — Dennis Lynch 

Chinese proptech firm Ming Yuan Cloud goes public

Chinese proptech firm Ming Yuan Cloud goes public

Hong Kong Stock Exchange (Getty)

Ming Yuan Cloud Group is about to go public.

The Shenzen-based proptech firm plans to launch an initial public offering later this month, making it the first software-based Chinese proptech firm to debut on the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong this year, according to the South China Morning Post. Ming Yuan Cloud started taking share orders this week and trading is scheduled to begin on September 25.

The company aims to raise up to $797 million by selling 374.2 million shares (representing 20 percent of its share capital) at between HK$15 to HK$16.5 per share, or roughly $1.93 to $2.13. It has already secured commitments from six institutional investors — including Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, BlackRock, Sequoia Capital and Fidelity International — for shares worth $276 million total. The company has the option to sell 56.13 million additional shares.

While the firm sells products to domestic Chinese property firms, the Hong Kong offering allows it to tap investors from outside the country. Ming Yuan Cloud plans to use proceeds from the offering to hire new employees and to upgrade its cloud-based software, according to SCMP.

Wanda Group and China Overseas Land & Investment are among the 3,000 or so property owners that use Ming Yuan Cloud products. The firm sells virtual reality tour software, increased use of which has helped offset a loss of revenues from other sources brought on by the coronavirus pandemic this year, the company said.

So far this year, 90 companies have raised more than $22.5 billion on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, more than double the amount raised on the exchange last year. [SCMP] — Dennis Lynch 

Stay at the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” mansion for $30/night

Stay at the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” mansion for $30/night

WIll Smith as the Fresh Prince and the Los Angeles mansion (Getty, Airbnb)

If you’ve ever wanted to know what it’s like to sit on a throne as the Prince of Bel Air, you’re in luck: The “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” house is officially welcoming visitors — but there’s a catch.

Beginning Sept. 29, Airbnb is letting guests book one night at the Bel Air mansion where the iconic 1990s sitcom was filmed. Bookings will be available on Oct. 2, 5, 8, 11 and October 14, and will go for just $30/night (because it’s the show’s 30th anniversary).

What’s the catch? The promotion is available only for residents of Los Angeles county. Airbnb enforced similar rules for its bookings at the last remaining Blockbuster store in Bend, Oregon.

Those who actually snag one of the sure-to-be-coveted spots will have access to a list of perks curated by the Fresh Prince himself, Will Smith, who’s been hyping the promotion on his Instagram account. Those include “[l]acing up a fresh pair of Jordans before shooting some b-ball in the bedroom” and “[d]onning a fly look from my closet, from argyle prepster to all-star athlete.”

The house has also been decked out with plenty of “Fresh Prince” memorabilia, including photos from the set and Smith’s Bel Air Academy jersey from the TV show. Guests will stay in a “wing” that includes a king-size bedroom, bathroom, pool and dining room (though meals, including Philly cheesesteaks, are apparently provided).

There’s been a flurry of activity surrounding the show’s 30th anniversary. Earlier this month, the original cast and crew got together for an unscripted reunion special, a dramatic reboot of the series was announced, and all of the original episodes of the series were released on the Peacock streaming platform. [LADN] — Dennis Lynch 

City reports decline in construction-related injuries, deaths

City reports decline in construction-related injuries, deaths

A construction worker at One Vanderbilt in August (Getty)

The city reported a nearly 19 percent decrease in construction-related injuries in the last fiscal year, a drop the Department of Buildings partially attributes to a new construction safety law.

There were 534 construction-related injuries between July 2019 and June 2020, a drop from the 646 seen during the same time period in the previous year, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s latest management report, released Thursday. Eight workers were killed in construction-related incidents, down from the 11 recorded the previous year, according to the report.

The data collected by the DOB is limited to construction-related incidents at sites overseen by the agency. It does not include other emergencies on sites — like a worker suffering a heart attack — or injuries and fatalities on projects controlled by other agencies, such as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. If going by the regular calendar year, the DOB recorded 12 deaths in 2019 and five so far in 2020.

One of the incidents included in the city’s report was the death of 24-year-old Duran Solano, who was fatally crushed in a construction elevator at a new hotel at 1227 Broadway. In another, Segundo Huerta, 48, was killed when a building under construction at 94 East 208th Street partially collapsed. Five others were injured in the incident.

The decline can be attributed in part to the shutdown of non-essential construction from March 27 through June 8. An accident report from April shows that only three incidents were reported, but in May, that number jumped to roughly 20.

The DOB also implemented Local Law 196, which requires construction workers to complete either a combination of training courses known as OSHA 10 and OSHA 30, or a 100-hour program approved by the DOB. The first of the law’s deadlines, after being extended twice, was Dec. 1, 2019, at which point workers were expected to have completed 30 hours. The second deadline was slated for Sept. 1 but was postponed until March 1, 2021 due to the pandemic.

A spokesperson for the agency indicated that construction accidents were already on the decline prior to the pandemic as the agency ramped up site inspections. The violations resulting from those inspections jumped 87.4 percent, according to the mayor’s report.

“Through aggressive, proactive inspections, new safety training requirements for workers, and the industry’s greater commitment to a culture of safety, we have been able to continue driving down injuries,” Andrew Rudansky, a spokesperson for the DOB, said in a statement. “But we can do better, and are committed to further making construction sites safer for workers and the public.”

Real estate execs to city, state: Let us help with recovery efforts

Real estate execs to city, state: Let us help with recovery efforts

Bill de Blasio and Andrew Cuomo, with (from left) Steven Roth, Jeff Blau, Rob Speyer, Douglas Durst Ziel Feldman and Steven Schwarzman (Getty)

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s mailboxes may be getting full.

The Partnership for New York City sent another letter to the city and state’s top executives Friday, in which 177 business leaders offered to collaborate on a strategic plan for New York’s economic recovery.

“As the first place in America to be struck hard by the coronavirus and the first to successfully manage its containment, New York should step up to chart the course for recovery of urban centers everywhere,” the letter reads.

The signatories include a who’s who of New York real estate executives: Among the dozens of industry bigwigs included are Vornado Realty Trust’s Steven Roth, HFZ Capital Group’s Ziel Feldman, Related Companies CEO Jeff Blau, Douglas Durst, Blackstone Group’s Steven Schwarzman and Tishman Speyer’s Rob Speyer.

This is the second letter that the Partnership has sent to de Blasio, calling for the city’s revival. The first asked for actions to be taken regarding public safety and other quality of life issues facing the city.

The pandemic has had significant impacts on the city’s economy. In less than five months, the New York metropolitan region lost 1 million jobs and up to a third of the city’s small businesses are projected to permanently close. Additionally, the region’s affordable housing deficit is projected to increase by at least 150,000 units, according to a July report by the Partnership for New York City, which was cited in the new letter.

Following the original letter, de Blasio called for office workers to return to the office and began a new cleanliness initiative focused on streets and parks.

“It’s time to start moving, more and more,” de Blasio said at a press briefing Tuesday.

State’s highest court dismisses property tax reform appeal

State’s highest court dismisses property tax reform appeal

Judge Janet DiFiore and Tax Equity Now’s policy director Martha Stark Credit: NY Courts and NYU Wagner)

The state’s highest court this week dismissed an appeal that sought to reform New York’s property tax system on the grounds it favors luxury condos and single-family homes, and perpetuates racial inequalities.

The New York Court of Appeals did not rule on the merits of the case, but dismissed Tax Equity Now New York’s claim because “no substantial constitutional question is directly involved.”

But the coalition isn’t giving up. It will now petition on the basis of its non-constitutional claims, said John Gallagher, a spokesperson for the reform group, which includes prominent developers RXR Realty and the Durst Organization, as well as the NAACP and the Citizens’ Budget Commission.

“Because our elected officials have failed to act, we have no choice but to keep this fight going and will continue to seek an appeal,” Gallagher said. “The court must intervene to stop this regressive and unequal tax system.”

New York leaders have tried and failed to revise the outdated property tax system, which favors luxury condos and single-family homes over more moderately-priced condos and rental properties. Tax Equity Now contends the system — which has remained mostly unchanged since 1981 — perpetuates racial inequality and disparity.

To compel the city and state to revise the tax code, the tax reform coalition sued in 2013, asking the courts to declare the current system in violation of the state constitution. If successful, that would force the city and state to overhaul the tax system.

While the city and the state have fought the lawsuit, Mayor Bill de Blasio has tried to make changes of his own to the tax code. A long-awaited report from a city tax commission released earlier this year was panned by the industry.

Martha Stark, Tax Equity Now’s policy director and the former finance commissioner of New York City, said the commission’s 10 recommendations didn’t contain anything new to push the reform process forward.

The city’s tax revenue depends mostly on property taxes bolstered by rising property values. This year, however, due to the economic fallout from Covid, landlords have asked the city for a property tax reprieve. After pressure from elected officials and landlord groups, the state delayed the city’s annual tax lien sale until Oct. 4, as businesses struggle to pay rent, or shut down altogether.

In order to plug the $1 billion budget hole, the city is considering layoffs of as many as 22,000 workers, while the mayor’s office will furlough its staff for a week in the coming months.

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