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Flight from NYC during COVID-19 pandemic concentrated in wealthy Manhattan neighborhoods

Wealthy neighborhoods of New York City saw up to 11% of their population flee the city permanently during the COVID-19 pandemic, a new study has found.

Four zip codes in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhoods of Manhattan from 40th to 59th Streets saw the greatest rate of departure, with 12,000 residents leaving four of its zip codes as the pandemic swept through the city.

The area is home to thousands of young professional who work in the financial hubs of Midtown and the Financial District, as well as creatives working in nearby Broadway theaters, which have remained shut since last March. 

An analysis of 29 million address changes by the commercial real estate firm CBRE the population outflow from New York was concentrated in Manhattan’s Midtown and surrounding neighborhoods.

On the Upper East Side, the study showed 34,600 residents permanently left the area’s five zip codes in 2020 – 10 times the previous year.

The company assessed people who have permanently left, rather than those who have swapped a city apartment for a second home – as an estimated 420,000 New Yorkers did at the height of the epidemic in Spring 2020.

The report from commercial real estate firm CBRE found New York was second only to San Francisco for the number of net departures last year.

The areas with the highest proportion of departures from New York in 2020 – colored in green – are centered around Manhattan and some parts of Brooklyn

As New York became the center of the global COVID-19 pandemic last Spring, streets deserted and  thousands fled the city for good. This file photo from April 9 2020 shows an empty Seventh Avenue looking south to the World Trade Center

As New York became the center of the global COVID-19 pandemic last Spring, streets deserted and  thousands fled the city for good. This file photo from April 9 2020 shows an empty Seventh Avenue looking south to the World Trade Center

The normally bustling Washington Arch in Manhattan lay empty last April as NYC residents either fled the city or stayed at home (File photo)

The normally bustling Washington Arch in Manhattan lay empty last April as NYC residents either fled the city or stayed at home (File photo)

The mapped data, is based on 29 million permanent address changes made with the US Postal Service Office, looked at the change in net population moves between 2019 and 2020.

CBRE director of research Eric Willett, who oversaw the study, told Gothamist the majority of those who left were mobile young professionals. 

‘The real substantial change was that a small subset of the population — young, affluent, childless urban dwellers — moved dramatically more,’ Willett told Gothamist. 

‘About 33 percent of them moved in 2019. That increased by 10 percent in 2020. That’s the real driver of these migration patterns.’

The four zip codes with the largest rate of departures – 10036, 10019, 10022, and 10017 – saw approximately 12,000 of their 108,708 population leave in 2020.

Gentrified areas of Brooklyn including DUMBO, Greenpoint and Crown Heights also saw an exodus of young residents. 

The major exodus has coincided with a drop in rental prices in Manhattan.

In October, the average rent in Manhattan had fallen to $2,990 – the lowest it has been since 2011. 

Many of those who shifted homes didn’t go far: around 41% stayed in the borough to take advantage of new, cheaper rents, and around 7,000 shifted to Westchester. 

Of those who moved further afield, the most common destinations were Los Angeles, Miami and Palm Beach, Gothamist reported. 

Sun Belt cities such as Austin in Texas and Charlotte in North Carolina saw the largest population gains. 

New York was second only to San Francisco as having the highest proportion of its  population move last year. 

As New York became the global center of the epidemic last year, financial companies closed their offices, restaurants shut and Broadway shuttered its doors.   

The city’s 8.4 million population had been gradually declining prior to the pandemic, but between March 1 to May 1 2020, about 420,000 residents fled the Big Apple, particularly from the wealthiest neighborhoods, an analysis from the New York Times revealed.

Then, zip codes, others 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.

Cell phone data showed popular destinations for the so-called ‘coronavirus refugees’ include Martha’s Vineyard, Cape Cod, Rhode Island, the Hamptons, Hudson Valley, the Jersey Shore and southern Florida.

There are encouraging signs the city is bouncing back from the population exodus.

Nearly four in ten city residents have had at least one vaccine shot and restaurants, cinemas and bars have reopened with capacity limits. 

Last week, Coney Island amusement parks were allowed to reopen at 33% capacity. 


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