WASHINGTON, Aug. 25 (UPI) -- Despite hosting the Democratic National Convention, Boston businesses saw little of the predicted economic benefit. So far, things are sizing up to be the same in New York in terms of nil or negative business impact, with one additional thorn in the city's side -- while Boston had few protestors, New York is expected be the scene of huge, massed, demonstrations.
According to at least one survey, many Manhattan businesses are either considering letting staff telecommute, or just take liberal leave, rather than deal with the expected snarl of traffic resulting from convention-related security and from the mass protests which are expected for the Republic National Convention, Aug. 30 to Sept. 2.
Groups ranging from the Sierra Club to Bicyclists against Bush are planning to demonstrate in the city during convention. United for Peace and Justice, an organizing coalition for many of the protest groups, has estimated 250,000 demonstrators just for their umbrella of organizations.
Around 10,000 NYPD officers and National Guardsmen are expected to be posted to various sites around Manhattan, with a central focus on Madison Square Garden as part of city and event security, but businesses remain concerned. Around 40,000 to 50,000 of the GOP faithful are expected to visit the city, including the 14,000 party delegates who will be gathering to formally nominate President George W. Bush as their 2004 candidate.
In a survey of New York area corporate real estate managers conducted by CoreNet Global, a trade association for corporate real estate executives, businesses anticipate drops in productivity and a hit on their bottom lines resulting from the convention. Fifty-six percent of the respondents told CoreNet Global that the absence of workers in their normal workplaces will create a decline in productivity. Also, 29 percent of New York businesses, which answered the survey, say there will be a negative impact on their company's bottom lines over the four-day period of the convention.
CoreNet reported that 25 percent of businesses surveyed said they are providing workers with the option to work from home, 22 percent are providing some sort of liberal leave and 6 percent say workers can report to alternative office space away from Madison Square Garden, where the convention is being held. Various businesses are "implementing backup plans to offset the anticipated lack of rail access and other inconveniences while the Republicans are in town."
Forty-five percent of survey respondents say they are planning to take vacation time.
CoreNet Director of Media Relations Richard Kazdis said that while many of the business leaders surveyed were worried about the traffic and access issue, there was also "a real concern about the protest."
"Its hard to (for authorities) to manage protests -- because they are about freedom of expression," said Kazdis about the potential for demonstrations to effect traffic and other city operations.
The CoreNet survey also said that many companies are taking additional security precautions, with 47 percent saying existing security policies will be enforced more strictly, and 18 percent say they will be changing or limiting building access during the convention.
"The findings of the survey of New York chapter members are consistent with our previous research." Kazdis said, adding that the group's last survey found that by 2010 70 percent of workers will spend more than 25 percent of their time working in unassigned space mitigating the impact of major events like the political conventions on corporate productivity."
For Vijay Dandapani, chief operating officer of Apple Core Hotels, convention week will be on par with the usual business done this time of year. Apple Core owns and operates five Manhattan-based hotels.
"The convention is not going to materially change our rates; maybe we'll be up by just 5 percent to about $180. It's going to be somewhat of a wash. Although hotels will have new business because of the convention, a lot of regular tourists aren't going to come because the convention is in town."
Kevin Sheekey, president of the city's host committee for the convention said, "One of New York City's greatest strengths is its small businesses. By working with the city and the small businesses in the area (of Madison Square Garden) we've looked for ways to make sure the Republican National Convention is a benefit to them and the entire city. We're confident that our outreach efforts and the arrangements we've made will be good for area businesses."
The New York City Economic Development Corporation has estimated a $256 million economic gain for New York, which includes both direct and indirect spending by the city for the event, and spending by the estimated 50,000 visitors to the convention.
Michael Sherman, communications director for the Economic Development Corporation said, "We understand that some business will be inconvenienced," but added, "if you think about intuitively, 50,000 people coming to New York has got to be good economically."