This week's Ask A Native New Yorker question comes from a New Yorker who is contemplating a departure during the pandemic.
I considered myself a New Yorker for life before COVID hit, but after three months of sheltering in a small apartment in Carroll Gardens with my wife and kid, the suburbs are starting to look pretty tempting. What's the point of being in the city if there's nothing to do — no restaurants, no museums, no shows? And even when life starts up again, the idea of riding the subway every day just gives me the creeps — if I can work from home, why not do it in a place where I have more space?
Am I wrong to consider leaving?
Considering COVID Relocation
To be honest I've been having a hard time summoning up my trademark humorous sarcasm against the backdrop of all this suffering, and so instead of writing my column the last few months I've been mostly focused on updating our COVID stats page, which seemed like a better way to be of service to my fellow New Yorkers during this very tough period. But your situation is one that a lot of people are facing, and I think it deserves an honest answer, so here goes:
If you're seriously contemplating leaving New York because of three months of quarantine, my guess is you weren't going to make it here for much longer, and you might as well clear out and make room for people who will appreciate the city more than you do. They'll probably be more interesting anyway — moving to New York during or after a pandemic is a pretty ballsy move that shows the kind of spirit that we lifers look for in new arrivals.
Listen, I get that things aren't exactly rosy here right now, and it's been a stressful three months for everyone, especially the people on the front lines. But you're not going to see most of them heading out, because let's face it, 95% of New Yorkers can't move — their jobs (if they're lucky enough to still have them), their families, their whole social networks are here. It takes an exceptional amount of privilege and social capital to just pull stakes and run, especially when so many of our neighbors are worried about just getting fed and keeping a roof over their heads. So it's hard for me to muster too much sympathy for your plight; sounds like you'll be fine no matter where you live.
You know who I do feel kind of bad for? Your kid — not only are you depriving them of the opportunity to have a New York City upbringing, but you're also ruining their future street cred. Like when they come back here to go to NYU in ten years, a common get-to-know-you question is going to be "where were you during coronavirus?" and instead of being able to say "I was in Brooklyn the whole time- had to spend half of 5th grade indoors!" they're going to have to tell some story about how that was the year their dad freaked out and made them move to Tenafly. Really sad.
It was the same way after 9/11, you really found out pretty fast who were the real New Yorkers and who were just passing through, because the second group fled with the tourists and never came back. Back then, people said the same things they're saying now- the city will never be the same, it's going to be a ghost town, who will ever want to work in Manhattan again? Guess what- the people who ran missed some of the best years in New York history- the High Line! Citi Bike! Universal Pre-K! A new subway line! Russ and Daughters opening a restaurant! The place got so popular that by 2005 gentrification and getting priced out were the big problems, not abandonment.
It'll be the same thing again here, the month after a vaccine you're going to see the streets blow up like Times Square on VE-Day. There's going to be so much pent up energy that the bars are going to have to stay open 24 hours a day for a month. Subways will be packed again, Broadway will be sold out, you won't be able to get into a museum without waiting in a two-block line. While the people who fled are contemplating their lawns in the suburbs, those of us who stayed are going to be having the time of our lives- at least until the rents start going up again.
Until then, even if we are the COVID capital of the world, it could be worse. I can put on a mask and get great bagels at three different places within ten blocks of my apartment, and if you go to the park on a weekday, there's plenty of room for a socially distanced walk, jog, or run. A lot of bars are selling drinks to go, and the take-out options are plentiful. The weather is getting warmer, the birds are singing, and thanks to the work of thousands of hospital workers, delivery drivers, and other essential employees, the city is getting back on its feet. Every night I look forward to the rousing applause that fills the air here — that's something we're going to remember the rest of our lives.
Be thankful — the city has suffered tremendously, but we're going to honor everyone we've lost by rebuilding this place back better than it was. And it's going to be a hell of a thing to see. Do you really want to miss it?
N.B. Instead of leaving, maybe consider just taking a socially distanced trip to one of our city's many attractive outdoor destinations? You can go to the beaches today, even if you can't swim yet, and gardens and zoos will begin opening soon. You can put on a mask and take a hike at one of many nearby State Parks. You'd be surprised at how a day or two outside can make the city feel like new again, and make life seem a lot more hopeful.
N.B.2 A colleague asked if it's okay, NYC reputation-wise, to take a month long vacation out of town, say to their in-laws house. I think that it is, as long as you would take a vacation like that normally, and you can do it responsibly, with appropriate amounts of testing, to avoid moving the virus back and forth. What loses points is fleeing the city out of fear, while most of your fellow citizens toughed it out.