New Yorkers are gradually returning to town after COVID exodus, inspector says
A new report from New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer shows that New Yorkers who fled the city ate during the height of the COVID pandemic are gradually returning.
The reopening of office buildings, the return from school in person and the revival of the arts and entertainment contributed to a net gain of 6,332 residents, according to the report.
“New York City is gradually reopening and New Yorkers are coming back to the city we love,” Comptroller Stringer said, noting that the city should continue to focus on improvements that will make the city more attractive to residents.
“It’s critical that we invest in New York City’s value proposition and make sure we continue to be the best place to live, work and raise a family,” Stringer said.
“It means investing in our classrooms and teachers to ensure our children receive the best education, investing in affordable and accessible child care so parents can return to work, and investing in our streets and green spaces to ensure that our neighborhoods are pedestrian and breathable.
“We have a unique opportunity to re-imagine our city and to rebuild stronger than ever from the losses of the pandemic.”
Using data released by the United States Postal Service (USPS) from change of address forms, the comptroller’s analysis confirmed that New York City’s net residential emigration tripled from 2019 to 2020.
Data shows that the city’s wealthiest neighborhoods experienced the greatest population loss; Residents of the richest 10% of city neighborhoods, as measured by median income, were 4.6 times more likely to move than other residents in 2020.
And despite recent gains, some neighborhoods have a long way to go to regain the pre-pandemic population.
Stringer said whether these gains continue and accelerate will depend on the trajectory of the pandemic and the city’s ability to maintain in-person activities and attractions, as well as the endurance of telecommuting arrangements and the workers’ ability and desire to live further away from their workplace as travel becomes less painful.
The controller’s analysis found that in the first three months of the pandemic, from March to May 2020, more than 60% of net trips from city addresses were marked as temporary, indicating that the person or household had intend to return, but since then 79 percent of net movements have been marked as permanent.
Excluding movements marked as ‘temporary’, the city’s net emigration increased by around 130,837 from March 2020 to June 2021, compared to pre-pandemic trends.
Residents of the city’s wealthiest neighborhoods were 4.6 times more likely to move than other residents in 2020, registering 109 net moves per 1,000 residents compared to 24 elsewhere.
Moves from wealthier neighborhoods were also more likely to be recorded as temporary. About half of the net emigration from the wealthiest 10 percent was marked as temporary in 2020, compared to 44 percent in the next richest decile and less than 30 percent elsewhere.
In September 2021, New York City’s public schools and colleges opened their doors to full-time in-person learning; some employers, including the municipal government, have recalled office workers; and the curtains went up on Broadway after an 18-month hiatus.
These events coincided with an improvement in net residential migration to the city, particularly in neighborhoods that experienced the greatest leakage in the spring of 2020.
On a per capita basis, the largest net gains over the summer were recorded in Chelsea / Midtown, Murray Hill / Gramercy, Battery Park City / Greenwich Village and Chinatown / Lower East Side.
Each year, hundreds of thousands of households move to or from a New York City home. Some moves are made locally, within the city or even within the same borough or neighborhood, while other residents change state or move abroad. Prior to the pandemic, in calendar year 2019, residential movers submitted 616,091 change of address request forms for temporary and permanent moves from an address in New York City and 525,559 forms for moves to a New York City address. New York address, showing a net loss of 90,532 movers.
But in 2020, migration patterns have changed dramatically. The number of change of address requests for moves from New York City addresses increased 36% to 837,404, while requests for moves, including intra-city moves, remained relatively stable at 534,142. Each month from March 2020 to June 2021, New York City lost more movers citywide than in the same month in 2019. Net losses peaked in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic, as New Yorkers filed 79,793 move forms, an increase of 65% from March 2019. However, since July 2021, monthly net losses are comparable or even slightly higher than in 2019.
When moves first increased, the majority of net moves from city addresses were assumed to be temporary. The post office asks movers to mark a change of address as “temporary” if the mover intends to return within six months. In New York City, net temporary moves, including residential and commercial moves, fell from near zero in February 2020 to 28,625 the following month. From March to May 2020, over 60% of net trips from city addresses were marked as temporary.
After the initial wave of largely temporary moves, a wave of permanent moves from city addresses occurred over the summer and fall. From June 2020 to September 2021, 79% of net moves were marked as permanent.
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