The exodus – why these New Yorkers are leaving ... and where they're going
“I so much wanted to be able to say I could make it in New York,” says Rae Lambert. “I didn't realize how much of my identity was wrapped up in living in the city.”
And yet, even in the best of circumstances – “we had most of our income and actually like each other” – 100+ days of being stuck in a 400 square feet apartment in Hell’s Kitchen with her husband Ryan, both working from home, have taken their toll.
"Never did I ever think we would move to the suburbs, but life changed swiftly and bigly."
“About a month ago, we packed up our NYC studio and moved to a one-bedroom in Haverhill, MA,” she says. “Never did I ever think we would move to the suburbs, but life changed swiftly and bigly. Even though I’m a big fan of small space urban living (I even started a damn blog about it), there were too many reasons to ignore.”
As the New York City exodus picks up speed, those reasons to leave started to outweigh the reasons to stay.
“Everyone has to do what’s best for themselves and their loved ones,” she says, “but here are some of the thoughts behind our decision in case it helps you think through some of your own stuff:
“I have my own business so I can work from anywhere, and Ryan’s work (American Express) said no one would be going back to the office until at least January 2021 – and even then it would be a small percentage and optional. Us both trying to take work calls from our space (even with our new pop-up office) was getting old.
“NYC was starting to feel very intense. With so many businesses closed, petty crime was going up and it had a generally ominous feel. I lived in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco for three years so I’m no wimp, but on top of everything else going on, it’s not what we wanted.
"All the things we love are, and will remain, closed for a long while."
“Our rent was $2,900/month, and the otherwise high cost of living in NYC seemed too damn high for just a view of the city. All the things we love are, and will remain, closed for a long while: group yoga classes, hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurants, live concerts at Joe’s Pub – even the High Line had been closed.
“The economic uncertainty. Yes, the stimulus package was big and, yes, the government is pumping the stock market by buying ETFs. The thing is, interest rates are already zero. We’ve lost 30 million jobs. It took us from 2009 to 2019 to create 22 million jobs. All this is to say, we’re taking a conservative view financially and cutting our expenses."
They’ve exchanged their New York studio apartment for a “gorgeous, palatial 900 sq ft apartment with an in-unit washer,” in the town Ryan grew up. “We chose here because he has family nearby,” she says, “but mainly because it has a bit of a downtown and is right on top of multiple train lines. The last stop of the commuter rail is here, and it’s also a stop along Amtrak which connects Portland, ME, to Boston to NY to Phillly and DC. We won’t be getting a car, so this is accessible as it gets in the suburbs.”
"Living in cities has become part of my identity and I crave hustle, culture, and weirdos, but for now this will be good for us.”
She adds: “Our rent is $1,800. I know I’m very privileged to think this is cheap, but after living in downtown SF and NYC, it’s officially both the biggest and the cheapest place I’ve lived in 10 years.”
She doesn’t know long they’ll stay, or what they’ll do next. “But for now we’re really enjoying our bigger space and worrying less about money. I’m sad to leave Hell’s Kitchen, since I feel like living in cities has become part of my identity and I crave hustle, culture, and weirdos, but for now this will be good for us.”
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