Even to industry veterans who have lived through other downturns, the precipitous decline in the Manhattan office market, especially in Midtown, has been startling.

'We have fallen further faster than any time in the last 20 years,' said Mitchell S. Steir, chief executive of Studley, a national brokerage firm that represents tenants.

'There has been more damage to real estate values in the last four months than in any other four-month period. The pace with which it has occurred has been astonishing.'

According to Studley, asking rents in Manhattan over all declined 4.4% from the third quarter to the fourth quarter, with the decrease in Midtown even more pronounced, 8.3%, the steepest since 2001.

But brokers say that actual rents have fallen much further than the data suggests. Studley said that the asking rents for 40% of the spaces included in its research are listed as 'negotiable.'

New York Times