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Where Does New York City Office Furniture Go When No One Wants It?

  • July 17, 2023

Herman Miller is one of the most revered makers of office furniture in the world, its designs so esteemed that its Aeron chair, which became a fixture of New York City cubicles, was put in the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection.

This month, some Herman Miller chairs, which can retail for over $1,000, met a less dignified fate: an appointment with the crushing metal jaws of an excavator.

More than three years after the coronavirus pandemic began, about half of the office space in the New York City metro area in June was occupied, according to Kastle Systems, a security-card company tracking activity in office buildings. The hollowing out of the city’s cubicles has raised existential economic and cultural questions, but also a big logistical one: What do you do with all that office furniture?

The answer can often be found in the back of a moving truck — en route to the auction block, a liquidator or, more likely, a landfill. Some of the furniture has found new purpose in schools, churches and movers’ living rooms; other pieces have been repackaged by hip resellers, or shipped across the globe.

Over 70 million square feet of direct office space was available for lease in Manhattan in the second quarter of 2023, a record high, compared with about 40 million square feet before the pandemic began, according to Savills, a large commercial real estate brokerage that tracks the market. New leasing also remains far below pre-Covid levels.

A small class of movers and liquidators has been thrust into the suddenly growing office-afterlife market. Lior Rachmany, the chief executive of Dumbo Moving and Storage, said a rush of businesses put their furnishings into the company’s storage facilities in 2021 and 2022. Close to 2,000 midsize companies in the region, from

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