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Big City Exodus

Earlier this week, riot-besieged Chicago raised bridges to keep raiding parties out of downtown (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

From the New York Daily News this evening:

New York’s savage summer of violence raged on this weekend with nearly two dozen shootings — four of them fatal — and a deadly beating during a 36-hour citywide tsunami of terror.

Police recorded 23 shooting incidents involving 36 victims between 12:01 a.m. Friday and mid-day Saturday, with an off-duty Department of Corrections officer fatally blasted with 11 bullets over a Queens parking spot and three other victims killed by the gunfire echoing across the city’s boroughs.

The ongoing indifference to human life included the savage beating death of Deshawn Bush, 36, of Brooklyn, during an early morning fight with another man in the West Village.

Businesses are getting out of NYC:

“There’s no reason to do business in New York,” Mr. Weinstein said. “I can do the same volume in Florida in the same square feet as I would have in New York, with my expenses being much less. The idea was that branding and locations were important, but the expense of being in this city has overtaken the marketing group that says you have to be there.”

Even as the city has contained the virus and slowly reopens, there are ominous signs that some national brands are starting to abandon New York. The city is home to many flagship stores, chains and high-profile restaurants that tolerated astronomical rents and other costs because of New York’s global cachet and the reliable onslaught of tourists and commuters.

But New York today looks nothing like it did just a few months ago.

In Manhattan’s major retail corridors, from SoHo to Fifth Avenue to Madison Avenue, once packed sidewalks are now nearly empty. A fraction of the usual army of office workers goes into work every day, and many wealthy residents have left the city for second homes.

Earlier this week in Chicago, there was mass looting, again.  Now the Daily Mail reports that people are leaving Los Angeles. Excerpt:

Junkies and the homeless, many of whom are clearly mentally ill, walk the palm-lined streets like zombies – all just three blocks from multi-million-dollar homes overlooking the Pacific.

Stolen bicycles are piled high on pavements littered with broken syringes.

TV bulletins are filled with horror stories from across the city; of women being attacked during their morning jog or residents returning home to find strangers defecating in their front gardens.

Today, Los Angeles is a city on the brink. ‘For Sale’ signs are seemingly dotted on every suburban street as the middle classes, particularly those with families, flee for the safer suburbs, with many choosing to leave LA altogether.

British-born Danny O’Brien runs Watford Moving & Storage. ‘There is a mass exodus from Hollywood,’ he says.

‘And a lot of it is to do with politics.’ His business is booming. ‘August has already set records and we are only halfway through the month,’ he tells me.

‘People are getting out in droves. Last week I moved a prominent person in the music industry from a $6.5 million [£5 million] mansion above Sunset Boulevard to Nashville.’

More:

The pandemic has made many in Hollywood realise they don’t need to live in LA – or anywhere near it – to keep working.

Talent manager Craig Dorfman has moved to upstate New York. ‘A lot of people in the industry are re-evaluating their lives and saying,

‘You know, I never really loved LA. Where would I like to live? Because I can do what I want to do from anywhere,’ ‘ says Dorfman.

Read it all. 

Let me ask you readers who live in big cities: are you planning to move away? Why? Where are you planning to go?

For you who are planning to stay, tell us why.

I’m not interested in people arguing on this thread. I’m just interested in what people are thinking, and why.

UPDATE: The writer James Altucher, a native New Yorker who owns a business in New York, believes that New York is over –– and explains at length why. Here’s the key factor:

In 2008, average bandwidth speeds were 3 megabits per second. That’s not enough for a Zoom meeting with reliable video quality. Now, it’s over 20 megabits per second. That’s more than enough for high quality video.

There’s a before and after. BEFORE: no remote work. AFTER: everyone can remote work.

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The difference: bandwidth got faster. And that’s basically it. People have left New York City and have moved completely into virtual worlds. The Time Life building doesn’t need to fill up again. Wall Street can now stretch across every street instead of just being one building in Manhattan.

We are officially AB: “After Bandwidth”. And for the entire history of NYC (the world) until now we were BB: Before Bandwidth.

Remote learning, remote meetings, remote offices, remote performance, remote everything.

That’s what is different.

Everyone has spent the past five months adapting to a new lifestyle. Nobody wants to fly across the country for a two hour meeting when you can do it just as well on Zoom. I can go see “live comedy” on Zoom. I can take classes from the best teachers in the world for almost free online as opposed to paying $70,000 a year for a limited number of teachers who may or may not be good.

Everyone has choices now. You can live in the music capital of Nashville, you can live in the “next Silicon Valley” of Austin. You can live in your hometown in the middle of wherever. And you can be just as productive, make the same salary, have higher quality of life with a cheaper cost to live.

G) And what would make you come back? 

There won’t be business opportunities for years. Businesses move on. People move on. It will be cheaper for businesses to function more remotely and bandwidth is only getting faster.

Read it all. 

UPDATE.2: A Los Angeles reader isn’t buying the alarm:

The best indication of whether persons are fleeing in large number is whether real estate prices are dropping.

Despite the Covid-19 and despite the riots (which are still going on in although one wouldn’t know it from reading the L.A. Times.  A statue of George Washington given to L.A. County in 1933 on the 201st anniversary of his birth which stood in the heart of downtown in Grand Park which is a sort of mall between the L.A County Hall of Administration and the main L.A. County Courthouse was toppled and vandalized on Friday night)  high end property values have held pretty steady.  I am excluding the super wealthy mansions that sell in the $50 to $100 million dollar range, but anything under $20 million is selling without significant reductions in the asking price.

My house which is not in a great area has increased slightly in value according to Zillow and from the real estate ads I get from agents listing properties, listing the ones in escrow and the ones that have closed escrow there is no significant erosion.

Just for comparison sake, you might be interested in my house’s value fluctuations.  My wife and I bought it in February 1991 for $450K.   The house’s value peaked in 1989-1990 at $500K.    After the 1992 Rodney King riots and the Northridge Earthquake, an identical house (and I mean identical.  The building in 1930 repeated many of the designs) to ours a block away sold for $275K.  Property values stayed stable until the late 90’s when they began to rise again.   They reached a fever in 2006-2007 to the point where our house was worth something between 1.5 million and 1.8 million dollars.  The bubble burst in 2008 and by 2009 had declined to something between 750k and 900K.  Values have increased and according to Zillow is now worth $2 Million.

The Rodney King riots really tore the heart of the city because the rioting was no longer limited to the Black parts of town as was true in the 1965 Watts riots.  As you probably know, they devastated many of the areas that had grown out from the traditional Koreatown area and looted and destroyed many Korean owned businesses.   Although the political leadership denies it there still remain tensions between the African American and Korean American communities today.

I am not trying to minimize the impact of the BLM protests, the Antifa violence and the looting in Los Angeles.

The first Floyd protest was four blocks from my house and all the businesses in that area were either looted, had windows broken , damaged, or had extensive graffiti.  I have lived in L.A. my whole life (except for five years when I lived in Berkeley and Oakland) and my father’s family moved here from Chicago in 1921.  There is no question that persons are upset about what happened and fearful of the future, but I don’t think the widespread exodus will happen.  The British reporter, I don’t think has much understanding of why persons live in L.A. and that not everyone’s job is as portable as the high end music executive who can easily move to Nashville.

It is not true that for sale signs are sprouting up all over.  It is true that when a property goes on sale it is quickly snapped up.  The persons who own the house kitty corner from me (I am actually next to the corner house) sold it within 10 days after listing.

UPDATE.3: An interesting comment from reader Tsar Dodon:

My family and I live in the saner of the Twin Cities, and I’ve lived in mid-to-large cities all my life, but we’re actively seeking an out at this point.

My wife and I have long felt we’re not really welcome here. I’ve lost count of the number of times that neighbors or coworkers casually start crapping all over conservatives, Republicans, etc., as though it’s taken for granted that we–being degree-toting professionals–must surely agree with them. And y’know, we were willing to put up with that, but things really changed this year. First came the fashionable COVID restrictions blue-voting areas love to impose regardless of their impact on working people. And then there were the riots, followed by the crime wave Minneapolis is suffering as its police pull back. That’s real, by the way, it’s not just in Tucker’s head.

But the change isn’t just in the crime, you can see the fabric of things beginning to fray if you just get outside and look around. It’s also in the homeless encampments that have sprung up not just in south Minneapolis, but in other spots as well. They’re in the park near our old apartment, they’re in downtown St. Paul, and it feels like they just keep multiplying. Last year I was asking a friend in Seattle how their city could tolerate that sort of thing; now it’s my problem too. You can’t stop at a stoplight here anymore without having to encounter a panhandler. And don’t ask about the high-speed rail, which was sketchy a few years back when I used to ride it daily, but has now turned into a mobile homeless shelter/flop house for addicts.

And even that would be ok if there were some evidence the public and local leaders were inclined to do something about any of it. But they’re not. The response, to the extent there is a response, is that concerned citizens should check their privilege, that underprivileged communities need more resources, and/or that we need a community conversation about issue X. That’s it. Just raise taxes, virtue signal, and throw good money after bad, and everything will be alright.

And that’s not ok. That’s a signal that things are not going to get better; they’re going to get worse. It’s like white liberals have drunk so deeply from the well of race-guilt that they’re content to just let their neighborhoods implode around them because to lift a finger to stop it would be to exercise their “privilege.” It is the most bizarre thing I’ve seen in my life.

Meanwhile, our property taxes go up every year. Not just because this old house’s market value keeps climbing because every young idiot with a fat wallet wants to live in the city, but because the government keeps raising the tax rate itself. And in return we get what, exactly? Garbage schools? Restaurants we’re not allowed to eat in? Rising crime?

My friend’s apartment–about five minutes from here–was broken into a couple months back while he and his young daughter were asleep; the burglar came in through a window and stole his laptop and an assortment of other things, but happily no one was hurt. Two weeks ago, there was a shooting around the corner from us outside a residence everyone thinks is a drug house. That’s what paying top dollar to live in the city gets you here.

So, as I said, we’re leaving. The where has yet to be decided, but we’re eyeballing the Dakotas–which have the merit of being nearby–as well as the mountain- and south-west. I have to finish up my current contract which will run into the Spring, but after that all bets are off. We’re not wealthy by any stretch, so pulling up stakes and moving won’t be easy. And I don’t imagine we’ll find some conservative utopia out there, but a place where basic minimum standards of law and order are observed would suffice. We have young children, and we’ve no interest in raising them in a place where the people in power have given up on civilization. They deserve better than that.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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