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NEW YORK CITY-The ebb and flow of jobs in New York City, New Jersey and even India–and how the employment dynamic will impact real estate growth in ’04–was the source of lively debate at this morning’s Fourth Annual New York Conference. The event was sponsored by the Metropolitan New York Chapter of the Appraisal Institute and the Real Estate Lenders Association.

Despite the buzz about offshore jobs, Bruce Mosler, president of US operations for Cushman & Wakefield, passed off the notion that Manhattan would lose jobs to the cheaper workforce of India. “Somewhere, there will always be a cheaper workforce” out of Manhattan, he said. “And that’s not altogether a bad thing if you agree that we are in a global economy. But there is a premium that people are willing to pay to keep their think tank together here.”

Fleet Bank EVP William C. McCahill Jr. noted that the city is poised for renewed job growth–a consideration that will clearly boost the real estate market–since corporations have already done all they could to cut expenses. There’s nothing left, he argued, but to “grow revenues, and the only way to do that is to hire people.” Both McCahill and Mosler agreed that significant real estate demand that those news jobs will create will be evident by midyear ’04.

Once that occurs, all the boroughs will rise as well, with the most significant movement coming in Long Island City. “From an opportunity standpoint, Long Island City is just waiting to bust out,” commented Edward J. Minskoff, president of Edward J. Minskoff Equities. He added that if city incentives don’t go away, Long Island City offers companies “class A-quality space in the low teens.”

“That’s key,” Mosler said, “but we have not invested as we should have in the Long Island City infrastructure. And until we make that investment, those expectations of growth have to be modified.”

In all the outer boroughs, however, it’s the residential market that will fuel growth, said Related Cos. chairman and CEO Steve Ross. He noted that this is true in Lower Manhattan as well, which is “competing favorably with New Jersey,” in terms of its residential strength.

One event could put the kibosh on the rosy future the panelists painted: another real estate tax increase. Despite his previous point about the premium that CEOs are willing to pay to stay in New York, that willingness will go away, said Mosler, if taxes go up again. “We are right on the border of CEOs reconsidering if the premium is worth it. Nothing will slow the recovery faster than another real estate tax hike.”

Other panelists at the event were Vishaan Chakrabarti, director of the Manhattan office of the Department of City Planning, and David Greenbaum, CEO of Vornado Realty Trust.

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