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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, August 31, 2004

New Yorkers urged to stay home

By Josh P. Hamilton and David M. Levitt
Bloomberg News

NEW YORK — Money manager James Awad said there's no point staying in New York during the Republican National Convention this week, when the city police will mount their biggest security operation, and protests are planned from Wall Street to Central Park.

A New Jersey Transit police officer stands guard at Penn Station in Newark, N.J. Trains were searched before entering New York.

Associated Press

"It's a no-brainer — why would you be here?" said Awad, 58, who oversees $1.3 billion as chairman of Awad Asset Management at Park Avenue, 17 blocks from the Madison Square Garden convention site. "It's a great time to take a vacation," he said, citing the risk of terrorism and demonstrations, plus the August lull that reduces New York Stock Exchange volume by an average of 13 percent for the month.

From top financial-services company Citigroup Inc. to consulting services provider Accenture Ltd., businesses are encouraging employees to work from home or take vacations, or shifting them away from security zones.

One in 10 registered voters in New York City planned to leave the city of 8 million people because of the convention, according to a survey by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute conducted Aug. 20-24. Among Manhattan residents, the proportion rose to 16 percent. The poll had a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points.

Commuters coming to New York City on the first day of the convention encountered bomb-sniffing dogs, empty seats and few delays on trains entering the Garden area. New Jersey Transit ridership was 60 percent of normal morning rush, and Long Island Rail Road passenger volume to Pennsylvania Station was down 10 percent to 15 percent, typical of the week before the Labor Day holiday, according to spokesmen for the two railroads.

A survey of 54 Manhattan companies found that 49 percent planned to change workers' routines — mostly by allowing them to work from home or from offices outside Manhattan. The rest said they planned "business as usual," according to the survey by CoreNet Global, an international association of company real estate managers whose members include JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Ford Motor Co.

"A lot of businesses are telling their employees to take home a laptop," said Richard Kadzis, a CoreNet spokesman.

Accenture sent its workers a memo saying that while its midtown office on Avenue of the Americas, a mile from the Garden, would remain open, employees should consider working from home, a client's office or from its two New Jersey offices.

Merrill Lynch & Co., the largest securities firm by capital, advised employees in a memo to expect traffic congestion and encouraged them to avoid car or bus travel into and around the city.

"I'd rather be in the Caribbean, personally," said commodity broker Judith Ferrari, 41, of Brooklyn, one of the Smith Barney workers being temporarily relocated. "Why did they pick New York City for this? With all we've been through, it's enough already."