Press Release

As New Yorkers Return to the Office, Real Estate Industry and Labor Release Safety Guidelines for Commercial and Residential Buildings


July 20, 2021

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Real Estate and Labor leaders continue to collaborate on comprehensive protocols that put health and safety first to support economic recovery

NEW YORK, NY – With nearly two-thirds of Manhattan office employees expected to return to the workplace by the end of September, the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), SEIU 32BJ, the Realty Advisory Board on Labor Relations, Inc. (RAB), Local 94 International Union of Operating Engineers, and the Building Owners and Managers Association of Greater New York (BOMA) today issued new comprehensive guidelines to support the safe and healthy return of employees, residents and building service workers to office and residential buildings throughout New York City.

A summary of the guidelines can be found here.

As with previous building safety protocols released by this coalition of industry leaders over the past year, these guidelines will help building owners, managers and workers maintain appropriate health and safety protocols as the City’s economic recovery process moves forward.

The new guidelines are based on the latest recommendations of governmental and public health authorities, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the New York State and City Departments of Health.

The number of workers returning to the office on a regular basis has increased steadily over the past few weeks, with about 24% of New York metro area employees back in the office as of July 14, according to data released by Kastle Systems. Approximately 62% percent of Manhattan office employees are expected to return to the office by the end of September, according to a June survey released by the Partnership for New York City.

“As New York City moves forward on the path to long-term recovery, the ongoing return of office workers is driving a spirit of optimism and much-needed economic activity that will continue to increase over the coming months. Throughout this process, close collaboration with labor union leaders has played a pivotal role in providing comprehensive guidance for health and safety protocols in buildings throughout the City,” said REBNY President James Whelan. “We appreciate the building service workers who do such an incredible job of keeping New York City’s buildings clean and safe and we are proud to once again partner with 32BJ and Local 94 on this important effort.”

“Our members have provided essential services throughout the pandemic, to keep those sheltering in place safe, and to maintain properties ready for the eventual return to offices and other commercial spaces, and we have worked diligently with real estate industry leaders to find ways to work safely,” said SEIU 32BJ President Kyle Bragg. “We are gratified with the productive partnership we have had with the industry throughout this terrible crisis, and are confident that we will continue to work together with a common purpose to protect all New Yorkers as we move to restore our city’s economy.”

“Throughout the pandemic, we are proud to have worked closely with union and industry leaders to ensure that tenants, staff and visitors of commercial and residential buildings are protected,” said Howard Rothschild, President of the Realty Advisory Board on Labor Relations. “Now, as more and more people return to their offices, these new guidelines will keep the New York real estate community at the forefront of health and safety.”

“As we move on to the next phase of recovery, the members of Local 94 stand proud as essential workers who will continue in ensuring the health and safety of those who enter our buildings, schools, hospitals and power plants. We look forward to working collaboratively with our industry partners 32BJ and REBNY in addressing any and all issues as we strive to bring our city back,” said Local 94 Business Manager Kuba J. Brown.

“Building owners and managers are working together with labor to ensure that workers coming back to their offices are safe, comfortable, and productive,” said Hani Salama, Chair and Chief Executive Officer of BOMA New York. “This health and safety guidance should reassure everyone that their work environment is safe, and that we are getting back to normal, which is what is needed to bring New York City back to the vital and thriving place it has always been.”The new guidelines released today will continue to be updated based on any new requirements or guidance issued by governmental and public health authorities.

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The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) is the City’s leading real estate trade association. Founded in 1896, REBNY represents commercial, residential, and institutional property owners, builders, managers, investors, brokers, and salespeople; banks, financial service companies, utilities, attorneys, architects, and contractors; corporations, co-partnerships, and individuals professionally interested in New York City real estate. REBNY conducts research on various civic matters including tax policy, city planning and zoning, rental conditions, land use policy, building codes, and other city, state, and federal legislation. REBNY regularly publishes market data, policy reports, and broker surveys. In addition, REBNY provides for its members: informational, technical, and technological resources; networking and charitable service opportunities; qualifying and continuing education courses; professional education programs, seminars, and designations; career-changing awards; legal advice; and a wide range of additional member benefits. For more information, please visit


With more than 175,000 members in 12 states and Washington, DC, including 85,000 members in New York, SEIU 32BJ is the largest union of property service workers in the U.S. 32BJ members work primarily as cleaners, property maintenance workers, doormen, security officers, window cleaners, building engineers, and school and food service workers. 32BJ members workfor private employers, in the public sector, and for companies receiving government contracts. We work in office, apartment, and government buildings; airports and shopping malls; public schools, colleges, and universities; stadiums, theaters, museums, and country clubs. SEIU 32BJ is an affiliate of SEIU, the Service Employees International Union, which has 2.1 million members dedicated to raising industry standards, making life better for working families and our communities, and building a fair economy.


The Realty Advisory Board on Labor Relations, Inc., (RAB) was formed in 1933 as an organization through which employers in the building service industry could bargain with unions. The RAB represents building owners in one of the most unionized industries in New York City and its building service workers are among one of the highest paid in the country.


The International Union of Operating Engineers Local Union 94, 94A, 94B was established to represent employees covered by collective bargaining agreements between the Union and various employers, employer associations and the City of New York with office buildings, schools, hospitals, power plants, and major housing complexes, all requiring maintenance of heating and air conditioning systems in the New York metropolitan area.


The Building Owners and Managers Association of Greater New York represents more than 750 property owners, managers, and building professionals who own or manage 400 million square feet of commercial space in New York City. It is an association within BOMA International, a federation of 90 US associations and 19 international affiliates that own and operate approximately 10.5 billion square feet of office space in the United States.