Where Does New York City Office Furniture Go?

Herman Miller is one of the world’s most respected office furniture manufacturers and highly regarded for its design. that aaron chairwhich became a staple of New York City cubicles, Acquired by the Museum of Modern Art, New York permanent collection.

This month, some of Herman Miller’s chairs (which retail for over $1,000) suffered a less dignified fate. It was a promise to the crushing metal jaws of an excavator.

More than three years after the coronavirus pandemic began, about half of office space in the New York City metropolitan area was occupied as of June, according to security card company Castle Systems, which tracks activity in office buildings. was The hollowing out of urban cubicles has created existential economic and cultural problems, but also huge logistical problems. “What are you going to do with all that office furniture?”

Often the answer is found in the back of a moving truck en route to an auction block, liquidator or landfill. Some of the furniture has found new uses in schools, churches, and movers’ living rooms. Other items are repackaged or shipped worldwide by trendy resellers.

More than 70 million square feet of company-operated office space will be available for rent in Manhattan in the second quarter of 2023, a record high compared to about 40 million square feet before the pandemic began, according to leading commercial real estate broker Savills. became. market. New rentals are also well below pre-corona levels.

A small number of movers and liquidators are being squeezed into the burgeoning office afterlife market. Dumbo Moving and Storage chief executive Liol Rahmany said 2021 and 2022 will see a flood of companies placing furniture in the company’s storage facilities. Nearly 2,000 medium-sized businesses in the region, from law firms to tech start-ups, store furniture, he said. Office equipment in Dumbo’s three warehouses in New Jersey since the outbreak of COVID-19.

“I’ve never seen so many Herman Miller chairs,” he said.

A change in the wait-and-see attitude this year has seen more customers not paying for storage, Rahmani said. The company currently holds delinquent lot auctions five times a year, compared to one or two a year before the pandemic. It also regularly donates unclaimed merchandise to local charities, but much of that inventory is still discarded due to lack of warehouse space, he said.

At a Dumbo warehouse in an industrial area across from a cemetery in East Orange, N.J., workers recently abandoned the last building on a £9,500 office lot that the Brooklyn tech company had been holding since April 2021. was preparing to According to Rahmani, customers paid for the disposal of, among other things: Herman Miller chair. 20 computer monitor stands. 10 cubicle panels 9 boxes of carpets. Two flat screen TVs.

“The amount of waste in this industry can be daunting,” says David Esterlitt, owner of OHR Home Office Solutions, a midtown Manhattan renovation company and liquidator. The company resells equipment from major office tenants.

Dumbo’s crew drove over an hour to the Maspeth area of ​​Queens and arrived at a waste depot, one of New York City’s 38 waste depots. There, towering excavators crushed commercial waste of all kinds, and the air smelled like acetone. The station manager said the final destination for the trash could be a landfill in upstate New York or Pennsylvania.

The van backed onto a giant industrial scale to weigh the cargo. It weighed 1,080 pounds and Dumbo cost $81. Two workers in lime green shirts threw chairs after chairs near a mound of chewed up rubble loosely separated into recyclable metals and non-recyclables.

Despite efforts to reuse and reuse office equipment, most of it still ends up in the trash, says Trevor Trevor, chief executive of Green Standard, a sustainability consultancy that minimizes office waste. says Langdon. Based on 2018 federal waste statistics, the most recent data available, Langdon estimates that more than 10 million tons of office furniture ends up in landfills each year in the United States.

Green Standard said it has diverted about 39,000 tons of office waste from landfills since the pandemic began.

Brooklyn office equipment wasn’t so lucky. With the jerky motion of the excavator’s mouth, he leaped over half-ton piles of furniture and slumped down, transforming a chair into a warped, hanging metal cephalopod.

Workers then removed the last chair from the van and gently placed it on the asphalt. An ergonomic backrest catches the wind to execute the final spin. Then an excavator rattled and fell, a chair exploded and a rain of plastic shards rained down.

Susan C. Beachy Contributed to research.

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