Mobility is a hallmark of American exceptionalism. No other nation in world history has been so much in motion.
But sometimes, people move not for better opportunities, but because the place they live has become unlivable. And that seems to be the case with New York City.
According to statistics obtained by the New York Post, there have been about 300,000 requests from the USPS for a change of address since March. It appears that most of the requests are from people planning to move out of the city — many, out of the state.
Since the data details only when 11 or more forwarding requests were made to a particular county outside NYC, the number of moves is actually higher. And a single address change could represent an entire household, which means far more than 300,000 New Yorkers fled the five boroughs.
No doubt the pandemic and the way New York City has addressed it has forced many people to leave. But it’s more than that.
Michael Hendrix, director of state and local policy at the Manhattan Institute, which has commissioned surveys about the state of the city, was not surprised by the data.
“I think people are afraid,” Hendrix said. “They’re afraid of catching a deadly virus and they’re afraid of crime and other quality of life concerns. One thing we also hear is about trash and cleanliness of the city.”
We hear a lot about “quality of life” issues and for many years, New Yorkers have sacrificed some of that quality of life for other perks. It appears that a tipping point may have been reached and those who can leave are leaving.
“The biggest reason for people leaving the city is uncertainty about when the pandemic will be over and how quickly the New York economy will recover,” said Kathryn Wylde, head of the Partnership for New York City. “More than half a million city residents who were employed in the retail, restaurant, services sectors have lost their jobs and cannot afford city rents. The late decision on re-opening public and private schools forced many families to relocate so they could make enrollment deadlines in districts where they were living during the pandemic.”
The partnership was behind a September plea from top business leaders to Mayor de Blasio urging him to crack down on crime and quality-of-life concerns.
Even with public assistance, it’s hard to get by in New York. And with schools closed, that may have been the last straw for many who simply can’t afford to have a parent at home or a babysitter.
So where is everybody going? The rich are going to the nearby suburbs of Scarsdale and Greenwich Connecticut while most of those who can find a way out are going to New Jersey or entirely out of the state.
But some New Yorkers went far afield — 8,587 asked for their mail to go to Los Angeles and 421 to Honolulu. There were 13,009 requests for the Sunshine State counties of Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade.
The data does not show whether the requests were permanent or temporary. The Post Office will forward mail for six months when it receives a temporary request.
Change of address data may not be the most reliable measurement of the exodus, but it’s certainly a good indicator. Regardless of whether the moves are temporary or permanent, many residents of the Big Apple are fed up and getting out while the going is good.
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