Guest Post written by: Alexander Vera
I know this headline has an implicit implication. It assumes that the reader might want to leave New York. “But why would you ever want to leave Manhattan?” I can already hear you asking.
I know because today is my last day in this city. Come tomorrow, I will move away, and possibly forever.
It wasn’t an easy decision to leave Manhattan, and there were certainly a multitude of factors that led to my decision. I imagine that anyone making the decision to leave New York would be due to many reasons as well. Regardless of the reason, I’ve done a lot of thinking about it, and here are my five top reasons why someone would want to leave New York.
- You could have countless hours of “city soundtrack” if you really wanted to. New York truly feels like the city that never sleeps, and as such there are always sounds and noises that can be heard, if you ever open your window or take off your noise-cancelling headphones long enough to hear it. As I’m writing this, I can hear 2 distinct types of sounds: vehicles and people. I hear buses passing by the street outside my window. They whoosh by regularly, humming and grunting with every stop on their brakes, occasionally yelling out warning beeps as they let everyone around know that they are lowering themselves to accommodate someone to step on more easily, only to whoosh back up and drive on. Other vehicle sounds include car sirens that go off periodically without fail, car horns blaring when their surroundings aren’t moving fast enough, screeching brakes of other cars, and motorcycle engines revving. Sprinkled along this constant cacophony of vehicular activity is people talking or shouting. Pedestrians yelling across the street to friends, acquaintances, talking on their phones, or simply singing their favorite hip hop tunes. You know the city is alive because its constant sound tells you so; without it, you would never know.
If you easily get offended or claustrophobic, New York City is not the place for you. Tiny subway platforms and small subway cars are offset by frequent and reliable service, and as a result New Yorkers are constantly hustling and bustling. Empty space is a huge commodity in New York City. New Yorkers can’t spread out, they spread up in skyscrapers. The two biggest factors for any New York apartment are size and location. Sidewalks are small, apartments are small, parks in general are small, everything is small in New York. If you ever want to throw off a New Yorker, take them somewhere with space.
Sometimes I wonder if New Yorkers know what it’s like to have a clean sidewalk. I mean an actual, clean sidewalk. One that doesn’t smell like urine, doesn’t have giant black bags of trash filled with sour milk and used ratty chairs, and that aren’t covered in black gum marks. I also wonder if New Yorkers know what it’s like to have a nice sidewalk–not only one that doesn’t smell bad or look bad, but that actually looks nice. I’m talking plenty of space, completely clean red brick sidewalk, with no gum marks and with beautiful trees lining the walkway, making it look like it was straight out of a postcard. Maybe if you live in lower Manhattan or in some parts of Brooklyn you might know, but the majority of New Yorkers I’ll wager do not. Or what about the water that leaks from the dirty streets into the subway platforms below? The black dirt veins snaking their way down, creating watery iron stalactites that drip drops onto unsuspecting commuters cramped on the small platform unable to move. Or of certain streets where the sidewalks and streets are covered in litter floating in the wind, wallowing in the pools by the curb, detritus of New York’s rampant consumerism in vivid display everywhere?
4. Cost of Living
I remember moving to New York from Boston, back when I hadn’t normalized New York prices, and being completely floored that people would pay so much for things that I considered so commonplace. A $14 sandwich? Don’t mind if I do! $16 glass of wine? Why yes of course, it’s a special occasion! $27 for the dinner special? What a great value! Unless if you’re eating at your local bodega or at a fast food joint, finding quality food in New York for less than $10 is difficult. Good thing those $1 pizza slices still exist. But you can only have so many $1 pizza slices until you start wishing there was something more you could afford. Why do you have to pay $13 for a good salad in order to stay healthy? And it’s not just the food: the price to get into clubs, to pay for drinks at a bar, to pay rent for a tiny apartment, transportation. Anything in New York is extremely expensive. Thank goodness there are enough cheap and free opportunities to do things in the city, and that the NYC subway card is unlimited distance-wise, but you really have to make an effort to be able to save money in NYC. In general it tempts you way too easily, way too frequently, making any attempts to save money usually a short-lived affair.
Everything in New York is small, and nowhere else are you reminded of this than in your apartment or on the subway. But also: restaurants. Restaurants are almost always tiny, and navigating out of, next to, or by people in an attempt to find a table in New York is commonplace. But having little space in NYC apartments really can’t be overstated too much. Many apartments don’t even have a living room. Many bedrooms don’t fit both a table and a full sized bed–the owner has to choose. Many apartments don’t have elevators, or don’t have laundry, or even if you do have these nice amenities they’re all small spaces anyways. Most NYC apartments definitely don’t have balconies, don’t have much hallway space, and definitely don’t have gardens.
So if you’re living in New York, I can see why you’d want to live here, but have you been keeping track of everything you’re compromising on?
Did you lose track?
Or have you been actively trying to ignore, avoid, or forget the countless compromises you’ve made in order to live in a city that might not ultimately make you happy?
By no means am I trying to make an argument that everyone should leave NYC; it has countless redeeming qualities, diversity, excitement, and character that no other city in the world has. I’m simply asking that all these excellent, wonderful things be balanced by the many flaws New York has as well.
So what happens if you decide you can’t take it anymore, and choose to take the plunge and leave NYC for good?
If you can actually say you want to leave, especially if it’s of your own accord and not because of family or work that’s taking you away from the city, then I say to you: bravo. Not everyone can escape the pull of this captivating, utterly enticing city. But now that you have, that was probably the hardest part. Everything else is easy. You may frequently doubt yourself, question whether you’re making the right choice, but as the day comes for you to move, you may find yourself becoming excited about enjoying all the things you had since forgotten were sources of joy.
Like clean streets. Peace and quiet. Space. Affordable rent and meals. Like grass and trees and sky and beautiful sunsets.
So take advantage of every NYC-specific thing the city has to offer before leaving, before your last hoo-rah. Go to the MET and the Museum of Natural History, visit the Empire State Building and the Rockefeller’s Rainbow room, go to a rooftop bar, catch a live late night screening, go to the Metropolitan Opera or a Broadway show, discover a new restaurant while strolling through the streets, go to a speakeasy, visit Times Square, walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, and most importantly see all your closest friends.
See them and do things you would always do with them, one last time.
And remember that there is tremendous beauty in ending something old, and beginning something new. Beauty is sometimes revealed to us when we are reminded that that which we have is impermanent and fleeting, making us treasure it that much more.