In 2017, with a baby on the way, Lia LoBello Reynolds and Colin Reynolds realized staying in the city wasn’t feasible and commuting to and from the suburbs each day wasn’t a life they wanted. The couple got new jobs in Pennsylvania and bought a home in a small town 27 miles west of Philadelphia.
“I just couldn’t imagine being on a train for three hours of my life every day just because I want to work in a city I couldn’t afford to live in,” said Colin Reynolds, a 34-year-old who works in digital marketing.
Reynolds isn’t alone. According to recent data from the US Census Bureau, more people are leaving the state of New York. Between July 2017 and July 2018, the Empire State lost 180,306 people and gained only 131,746 new residents. A difference of 48,560 abandoned New York — the biggest decrease of any state in the U.S.
The problem is especially acute upstate where 42 out of 50 counties have seen a population decrease since 2010.
“Much more needs to be done to improve the basic climate for economic growth” upstate, said E.J. McMahon, the Research Director for the Empire Center for Public Policy, a conservative think tank based in Albany. “It’s just not dynamic enough to hold more of its people.”
In New York City, the population is still growing, with the number of people living in the city increasing by nearly half a million from 2010 to 2017, but more and more people are moving away. In 2017, roughly 131 people left the metropolitan area each day, compared with 43 in 2014.
“The thought is, ‘I like it but I can’t afford it here and it’s hard,’” McMahon said of the driving force behind people leaving.
Here, former and soon-to-be former New Yorkers reveal why …
‘We were burnt out by New York City’
After moving to the city from Ohio in her early 20s, Victoria Libertore, 43, always thought she was a lifelong New Yorker. But her wife, Jennifer Koltun, had been wanting to leave for years.
“I was so burnt out on New York, it seems to have gotten noisier and dirty,” said Koltun, 57, also a native New Yorker. “I needed a lifestyle change, warmer climate and a more laid-back environment.”
In 2015, the couple, who lived in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, took a trip to Los Angeles, where they have many friends, and Libertore was surprised by how charmed she was by the palm trees, the friendly people and the old Hollywood history. She wasn’t quite ready to leave New York, but they started to plan for it.
In 2017, Koltun, who oversees operations for an IT leasing company based in Manhattan, told her boss she wanted to move to California. He was surprisingly receptive to it, and she spent a year automating the business so that she’d be able to relocate and work from home.
They finally made the move a few weeks ago, renting a three-bedroom, two-bath bungalow in Monrovia, a small city in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, about a half-hour’s drive from downtown LA.
Before they started house-hunting, they made a list of everything they wanted, from a back yard and a soaking tub to central air and a sliding barn door somewhere in the home. They found a luxuriously renovated 1922 bungalow that had 21 out of the 23 things they wanted, everything — even the barn door — except a pool and a refrigerator, which they had to purchase. They pay $3,000 a month for the 1,500-square-foot home, $170 more than they paid for a 1,067-square-foot loft near the Brooklyn Navy Yards with coin laundry in the basement and window units for A/C.
“It was loud, it was noisy, we lived by the BQE,” said Koltun, who loves that she now lives by a beautiful public course for golfing, a passion she wasn’t able to pursue in Kings County.
“I will say [our old] building was full of a lot of amazing people,” said Libertore. “Tattoo artists, film people, painters … that vibrancy was wonderful.”
The couple estimated that their expenses will be roughly the same as those they had in New York, but their quality of life already seems much higher.
“New York is like no other place. That boldness, that intensity, the grittiness,” said Libertore. But “life doesn’t have to be so hard.”
‘I can’t find any jobs upstate’
Upstate’s population is especially dwindling, and some of the most severe losses have occurred in Broome County, situated on the border with Pennsylvania.
Mike Gehm, 38, was born and raised in the county and currently lives in Binghamton, but he said it’s time to get out. He and his fiancée, 26, an overnight stocker at Walmart, and 5-year-old daughter are planning to move south in about a month’s time.
“We finally made the decision to just say, ‘the heck with it’ and go,” said Gehm, who plans to move to Lexington, Kentucky, or a smaller town in West Virginia — areas he has selected based on school ratings, cost of living, jobs and landscape.
He previously worked in construction but has been a stay-at-home dad for the past year, in part because he’s lacked opportunities to work outside the home.
“Jobs are limited around here … It’s hard for me to find [one],” said Gehm, who plans on working in construction or retail once he moves. The minimum wage will be lower down south — $7.25 an hour in Kentucky and $8.75 in West Virginia, compared with $11.10 in New York state — but Gehm thinks the lower cost of living will more than make up for potentially lower earnings.
“I’m dropping $250 a month on electric,” he said. “Everything is an outrageous price for us [up here].”
They currently pay about $750 per month rent on a two-bedroom trailer. Down south, Gehm estimated that they’ll be able to get a four-bedroom house for $400 to $500 per month.
Ultimately, the move is about providing a better life for his young daughter. A milder climate will allow her more time outdoors, and Gehm worries about the levels of radon — a naturally occurring gas that can cause lung cancer — in the area. He also hasn’t been thrilled with the local kindergarten and says schools are rated better where they’re headed.
“The biggest thing to me is school systems up here. They need to do better,” he said.
While moving will mean being a nine-plus hour drive from family, Gehm said part of the appeal is making a fresh start somewhere new.
He said: “We want to make it on our own.”
‘We didn’t want to have kids in the city’
Colin and his wife Lia LoBello Reynolds, 38, knew they didn’t want to raise a family in the city, so when they found out she was pregnant in July 2017, moving was on their mind.
Conveniently, that same month they were both offered jobs by a multinational Malvern, Pennsylvania.-based manufacturing company that was a client of Lia’s, who works in communications and was at an agency at the time.
“That was sort of like the universe aligning for us,” said Colin.
They moved to Pennsylvania in December 2017, first renting an apartment in Phoenixville and then buying a four-bedroom home in Glen Mills, a town about 27 miles west of Philadelphia with a population just under 20,000. Their mortgage is $4,000 a month, just $200 more than they were paying for their apartment in the Financial District, which had one bedroom that lacked a door.
They both took roughly 30 percent pay cuts with the move but say with a lower cost of living, lower taxes and potential bonuses, they are still coming out ahead.
They love having a big backyard for their dog and plenty of space to play indoors and out for their 9-month-old son, but living in a relatively sleepy town has been an adjustment.
“It’s quiet,” they both said with a chuckle.
“Our last apartment, if you craned your neck a little bit, you could see the World Trade Center right out our window,” Lia continued. “Now you make two rights out of our development and you see an Arabian horse farm. It could not be more different.”
After living in New York City for 14 years, Lia finds the single-lane country roads and unlit streets a bit unnerving and insisted they get an alarm system, though the area is quite safe.
“Lia could walk around Alphabet City at 3 in the morning and not blink an eye, but we are in a house and it’s dark out and we are alone and she’s, like, freaking out,” said Colin.
Their commute is relatively easy, a 25-minute drive they make together, and their office is all about work-life balance. Everyone tends to commute and leave around 4 p.m. to avoid traffic, which is nice, though Colin misses grabbing drinks after work with colleagues. They both lament how easy it was to socialize when they lived in Manhattan.
“We’re still kind of working on making friends,” said Colin.
Lia noted that she has to make more of a conscious effort to stay up on what’s in and out, something that seemed to occur naturally riding the subway and walking around New York City.
“You don’t pick up as much,” she said. “Whatever the next trend is, I’m going to be reading about it instead of seeing it.”
But overall, they are happy with the move and their new life.
“In New York, people live to work. Out here, it’s really work to live,” said Lia. “There’s something really nice about it.”
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Source: Housing Trends Feed