NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- In an eerily quiet dark age of New York City, which was the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in March and April, economic development groups see the light at the end of the tunnel as they reimagine and prepare for the post-pandemic workplace.
Regina Myer is the president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, which sees an opportunity to become an innovation hub by attracting talented young professionals who live in walking distance to the growing number of technology, manufacturing and media companies.
"We're studying specific streets among Fulton Street, Livingston and Willoughby to see how we can really make those environments more pedestrian friendly," she said.
She told Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by BNB Bank, about her experience leading the Brooklyn Bridge Park for a decade in which she spearheaded the joint initiative with the City to develop Willoughby Square Park that is set to open in 2022. A portion of the 1.15-acre green space opened last year in Downtown Brooklyn; some workplaces there feature individual air conditioning units, which are essential in the COVID-19 era.
"I want to do the same thing here in Downtown," she said.
Myer told WCBS 880 "shared streets" create space for workers, cyclists and pedestrians and improve the quality of life. She believes that sparks better business practices. The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership developed their blueprint from the model of major cities, including Pittsburgh, Seattle and Barcelona.
"We want amenities that enhance our businesses like outdoor seating, we want it to be very clean, and people feel comfortable," she said.
Myer was the senior vice president for planning and design at the Hudson Yards Development Corporation, which counts HBO, SAP, BlackRock, Wells Fargo, and Neiman Marcus among its tenants.
But the difference between Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn, she said, is that the outer borough relies on foot traffic from locals. Employers find their workers live nearby rather than commuting from the suburbs.
"When companies decide to locate in Downtown Brooklyn, they know they are accessing a tremendous amount of talent from throughout the borough," said Myer.
Foot traffic is key for Downtown Brooklyn businesses to thrive, and right now, survive. Myer told Connolly and Carousso foot traffic is down 50 percent on weekdays, and is 20 percent higher on weekends due to tourist activity that ticked up this summer since the transmission rate of COVID-19 reached pandemic lows in New York City.
She believes a coronavirus vaccine and therapeutics are the answer for consumer confidence.
"I want to open, too," Myer responded to the fact that most business groups, including the Chamber of Commerce, are demanding a full reopening as businesses close with tens of millions of Americans unemployed.
"I just know that people have to feel comfortable doing so,” she added.
Citing efficiency in remote work, Myer sees companies will usher in a new age of economic growth, and is encouraging businesses to consider locating in Downtown Brooklyn.