By Andrea Grymes

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Before the pandemic, Manhattan was the Mecca for office workers.

A new survey finds fewer than 10% are back at their desks in the city. So when will they return?

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As CBS2’s Andrea Grymes reports, at midday on Park Avenue, lined with office buildings in Midtown, the usually bustling streets are a lot different these days, compared to pre-pandemic.

“It’s night and day. I mean, it’s like I’m in small town America,” said office worker Eddie Monaco.

COVID VACCINE

Monaco comes to the office a few times a week every other week. He’s one of fewer than 100,000 workers per day in Manhattan. Pre-COVID, that number was one million, according to Kathryn Wylde of the Partnership for New York City.

“It may never reach the same level of employment, or certainly not in the next few years, of activity in the city,” Wylde said.

The Partnership, a nonprofit that represents business leaders and employers, just released its latest “Return To Office” survey results. Among the findings: 45% of office workers are expected to return by September.

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“There’s a lot of burnout. a lot of people under stress,” Wylde said. “Employers do not want to add to the stress.”

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

Wylde says this drastic change will continue to have a large ripple effect economically here, at least over the next few years. Fewer workers means fewer paying riders on mass transit, and fewer paying customers at small businesses.

At a food truck on 52nd and Lexington, sales have plunged 75%.

“From the office I used to have a lot of customers. Now I see like five,” said owner Lina Saavedra. “Yes, and not every day.”

While some like the convenience of working from home, others like Joe Grotto says it’s better for business to commute to the city.

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“I really believe in the end, people are going to want to come back to the office. I think it’s easy for now, but it’s not for everybody,” Grotto said.

Andrea Grymes