Young people are joining the rich and are fleeing New York for the suburbs after the coronavirus lockdown left many professionals reconsidering city life as companies begin to permanently adopt work-from-home models.
As COVID-19 gripped the country in mid March, residents of New York City’s wealthiest neighborhoods fled to ride out the lockdown at their vacation homes, while many young people hunkered down in the suburbs with their parents.
Some were forced to break their leases and move back to their hometowns because they could no longer afford the city’s exorbitant rent prices after losing their jobs, while others have continued paying for their cramped city apartments while they shelter elsewhere.
The majority intend to return at the end of the lockdown period, but the economic impact of the pandemic as well as the shift to remote working has led some people to ditch the city for good.
Among them is Shelby Gutleber, who lost her job as a waitress in the Upper East Side in March and moved to Keansburg, in central New Jersey – a move she described as the best decision she ever made.
Young professionals are leaving New York City and flocking to smaller, less populated areas after the coronavirus pandemic left many to reconsider the city’s high cost of living. Pictured: Pat Stedman, 31, looks out at Manhattan after ending his lease on his Kips Bay apartment
Shelby Gutleber (left) moved back home to suburban New Jersey after losing her job as a waitress in the Upper East Side at the beginning of lockdown. The 26-year-old called the move ‘the best decision she ever made’
New York City has been converted into a ghost town after the March 15 lockdown with thousands of residents fleeing to the suburbs to shelter. Pictured: A virtually empty Fifth Avenue on May 4
Five percent of New York City’s population, or 420,000 people, left between March 1 and May 1 amid the coronavirus pandemic. The bottom 80%, who earn less than $90,000 per year, mostly stayed while the top 1%, who earn about $2.2 million per year, left
The 26-year-old was living in an apartment in Washington Heights and was finishing her degree in political science at Columbia University when the pandemic struck.
‘I was laid off and I couldn’t get unemployment. I just finally got it about two or three weeks ago. So thinking about paying $1,250 in rent when you’re unemployed is frightening,’ she told DailyMail.com.
‘On top of that my roommate and I didn’t get along so I was basically stuck in my room.’
Coronavirus cases and deaths in small East Coast towns where NYC ‘refugees’ have fled
- Martha’s Vineyard, MA – 29 cases
- Nantucket, MA – 39 cases
- Newport, RI – 212 cases
- Suffolk County, NY (The Hamptons) – 43,218 cases / 1,814 deaths
- Cape May County, NJ (Ocean City) – 545 cases / 46 deaths
- Ocean County, NJ (Jersey Shore) – 8,242 cases / 678 deaths
- Monmouth County, NJ (Jersey Shore) – 7,724 cases / 543 deaths
Data as of Saturday, May 23
Facing financial uncertainty and an uncomfortable living situation, Shelby jumped on the opportunity to move back to the suburbs when her brother offered her a spare room in his house in April.
‘It’s been great. This pandemic is horrible in New York City and there is no place to get out.
‘Here I can hike and bike, walk, run, and go to a store without stepping foot on a subway. And no insanely high rent,’ she said.
The college graduate is among the hundreds of thousands of New York City residents who have fled the Big Apple between March 1 and May 1.
As the lockdown entered its third month, a New York Times report last week showed Manhattan’s overall population has fallen by almost 20 percent, with many residents flocking to small east coast towns or popular vacation home destinations.
The data, collected from smartphones, revealed usually-bustling Manhattan neighborhoods such as SoHo, the West Village, Morningside Heights, the Upper East Side, the Financial District, Midtown, Gramercy and Brooklyn Heights, emptied by at least 40 percent.
For New York City office workers, being able to work remotely has made it easier for them to relocate and do their jobs elsewhere during the pandemic.
But as cities begin reopening, a number of companies have announced plans to keep the work from home model for good, raising questions over whether employees will now flee major metropolitan areas for cheaper, and less densely populated regions.
Pat Stedman, a dating and relationship coach, said the health crisis has only helped speed up his and his wife’s exodus from the city which they were considering before the outbreak. The couple is staying in suburban New Jersey until they move overseas
Margarita Lyadova (left) a partner manager for an ad tech company in New York City, let go of her Upper East Side apartment to move back home to Minnesota, and is now looking at cheaper markets. Sarah Moebius, 24, (center in brown) said she doesn’t ‘see the point’ in going back to New York City until she’s back at work
For Pat Stedman, 31, a dating and relationship coach, the health crisis has only helped speed up his and his wife’s exodus from the city which they were considering before the outbreak.
The couple ended the lease on their apartment in Kips Bay last week and are now living with Stedman’s parents in South Jersey until they make the move to Poland, where his wife is from.
The pair hope to buy an apartment and start a family overseas, and being able to work remotely has made it all the more convenient.
‘Poland is very family friendly and the cost of living is very low. It’s an opportunity to save a bunch of money,’ Stedman told DailyMail.com.
‘My business is remote, and my wife may be able to do the same with her job.’
‘That said, it’s hard to be in NYC now, all the energy has been sucked out of it. Aside from Central Park, it feels like a prison where everyone is afraid and subdued, not where people go to have fun and make things happen.
‘We spent last weekend there to soak it all up, and we know our time there is done. NYC will recover – it always does – but it’ll be a different NYC after, just like after 9/11 the city changed.’
Earlier this month Twitter announced it will allow some employees to continue working from home on a permanent basis – a concept other tech giants are also weighing up as they prepare for the post-pandemic era.
Music streaming service Spotify followed suit on Friday, telling employees that they can work from home until 2021.
A recent survey conducted by anonymous professionals group Blind, also found 69 per cent of New Yorkers in the tech and finance field would consider relocating if they knew they could work from home permanently.
Eighteen per cent said they would leave the metro area, while 36 per cent said they would move out of the state altogether.
Fifteen per cent said they would leave the country.
The data was collated from responses from more than 4,000 employees at major tech companies including Facebook, Twitter, Uber and Amazon, in Seattle, San Francisco and New York.
Of those respondents, New York had the highest proportion of those eager to flee (37 per cent).
It reinforces the prospect that big cities could become shells of their former selves as office workers transition to working from home permanently, and huge headquarters, that were once an indicator of a company’s success, become an unnecessary expense.
A recent survey conducted by Blind found 69 per cent of New Yorkers in the tech and finance field would consider relocating if they knew they could work from home permanently
Fourteen per cent of respondents said they don’t anticipate returning to the office when the pandemic is over
WHAT DOES NYC NEED TO DO TO REOPEN?
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio have confusingly cited different requirements for NYC to start reopening.
Cuomo’s requirements for each of the regions of the state are as follows:
- 14-day decline in hospitalizations
- 14-day decline in deaths
- New hospitalizations under two per 100,000 residents
- 30 percent of hospital beds free
- 30 percent of ICU beds free
- 30 tests per 1,000 residents
- 30 contact tracers per 100,000 residents
Based on Cuomo’s requirements New York City meets four of the seven requirements.
It falls short on hospital beds where it stands at 28 percent as of Saturday, ICU beds where it stands at 26 percent and contact tracers (number unknown).
De Blasio announced new ‘indicator thresholds’ for reopening the city Friday:
- Daily hospital admissions below a threshold of 200
- Number of patients in ICU patients below a threshold of 375
- New cases below a 15 percent threshold
Based on these requirements New York City meets two of the three thresholds but is above threshold on the number of ICU patients, with de Blasio announcing there were 471 patients as of Friday.
Margarita Lyadova, a partner manager for an ad tech company in New York City, let go of her tiny Upper East Side apartment on March 12 to move back home to Minnesota where she has been working remotely since.
The 23-year-old does not plan on staying in the Midwest long term, but is now considering cheaper markets and less populated regions where future outbreaks are likely to be less severe.
New York City has become the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, with 193,951 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 16,333 deaths as of early Saturday.
‘I lived in a tiny studio with little natural light, and that’s not a safe nor comfortable place to be in all day. I couldn’t go to a grocery store without taking public transportation or walking an extended period of time,’ she told DailyMail.com.
‘I left because what I love about New York can’t exist during a pandemic. New Yorkers live to interact with each other. Everything is designed to be shared and experienced with others.
‘Even if some things open up over the summer, or even if things open fully, to me, it’s not unthinkable that a second wave may hit come fall. That’s why it’s so important for me not to be financially tied down to high rent anywhere.’
The same goes for 31-year-old Alie, a research editor at a New York City media company who has been working from her hometown in Maryland since her job sent employees home in early March.
She is now considering not renewing her lease for her Astoria, Queens apartment, for which she has continued paying rent for three months, despite being away.
‘If I have the option to remain remote, I would prefer it. Not so much over the job duties, but I think it’s also from an economic standpoint,’ she told DailyMail.com.
‘Rent in New York City is so expensive. If I’m able to do my job elsewhere, it might be worth considering.’
The coronavirus pandemic has also led many to rethink the city’s appeal in addition to the high cost of living after being away from the congested streets and the hustle and bustle for weeks.
Zuckerberg (pictured) said there will be ‘severe ramifications’ for employees who lie about their home address to keep their Silicon Valley salary
Facebook’s New York City office is settled in Manhattan (pictured) where homes sell for a median price of $945,000
‘[It’s] honestly just a more quieter, stress-free, healthier lifestyle [and] it’s making me reconsider New York,’ said auditor, Kevin, who wished to be identified by his first name only.
The 31-year-old is working from his parents’ home in Englewood, New Jersey, after leaving his midtown apartment at the start of lockdown.
‘Every time I return to my apartment in New York I realize how dirty and filthy the city is.’
Sarah Moebius, 24, who was working as an events performer in the city, has been staying in Raritan, New Jersey as she waits for her job to resume.
Anxious New Yorkers on Twitter have questioned whether the city will be able to bounce back to its former glory when it slowly reopens
Popular destinations among so-called ‘coronavirus refugees’ include Martha’s Vineyard, Cape Cod, Rhode Island, the Hamptons, Hudson Valley, the Jersey Shore and southern Florida
‘I’ll move back when my job comes back but before then I don’t see the point,’ she said.
On Friday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that he expects about 50 per cent of the company’s 50,000 staffers to work remotely within the next five to 10 years.
But those hoping to take their large paychecks with them after moving to a less costly region would face salary adjustments, he said.
‘That means if you live in a location where the cost of living is dramatically lower, or the cost of labor is lower, then salaries do tend to be somewhat lower in those places,’ said Zuckerberg.
Facebook’s New York City office is found in Manhattan, which has a median income of $82,459 and a median price of homes sold is $945,500.
The median price of homes currently listed is $1.5million in Manhattan.
Zuckerberg said the move to working remotely will help diversify Facebook’s staff and hiring pool.
NYC residents are growing increasingly weary as the city’s lockdown rumbles on, as all other state regions are expected to reopen by the end of next week
On Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said New York City is inching towards enacting phase one of its reopening plan on June 1 and June 15.
‘I want to signal as clear as a bell, all roads are leading to the first half of June,’ de Blasio said at his daily press conference.
‘The city indicators, the state indicators, we’re seeing very clear progress.’
Under state guidelines, New York regions are required to meet seven criteria in order to begin easing lockdown restrictions.
So far, New York City has only met four of those requirements including, a 14-day decline in hospitalizations and deaths, and diagnostic testing capacity.
In the meantime, anxious New Yorkers on Twitter have questioned whether the city will be able to bounce back to its former glory when it slowly reopens.
‘I don’t think I’ve ever truly, seriously considered leaving NYC, short term or long, but given the state of things and a bit of a conversation I had yesterday, I’m really thinking. I woke up this AM like toss the resume everywhere, if I goes, I goes,’ Christine Cupo, a market consultant tweeted.
Another added: ‘I never remotely questioned leaving NYC, but in 18 months if gyms don’t open, parties/group events are dead, and I’m still working remote, who knows.’