The Stunning Exodus from New York and California to Florida
I grew up in Los Angeles, California and then Miami Beach, Florida in the 1970s. Nearly all of my friends from school ended up leaving the beautiful retirement community and moving to greener business pastures in the Northeast, particularly New York and New Jersey. (I personally started living in Yeshiva dormitories around the world when I was a teenager, going to Los Angeles, Jerusalem, New York, Sydney, Australia, Oxford, England and then to the Northeast).
Perhaps we should have stayed. Then, at least, we might have been able to afford a house in Florida as a mass wave of émigrés now takes over the sunshine state.
It’s not just the coronavirus that is decimating the northeast, particularly the densely populated areas of New York and New Jersey. Even after, God willing, the population is inoculated with the vaccine and we, God willing, push this disgusting and deadly virus out of our lives, New York and New Jersey will continue to hemorrhage vast numbers of citizens, particularly from the Jewish community.
I’m in shock to see how many of my friends and neighbors are leaving to move, mostly to Florida but also to Texas and Nevada.
Nor can the weather alone account for the tsunami of émigrés from the Northeast, since huge numbers are now moving out of California — and Los Angeles, in particular — where the year-round climate is arguably better than Florida, without the sticky, muggy summers. California used to be the state everyone moved to. No longer.
Why the exodus? People in New York and New Jersey have seen the arbitrariness with which governors and legislators can control their lives, lock down businesses and schools with almost no reference to infection rates and science and tax them up the wazoo. They feel they have far fewer rights in California, New York and New Jersey, so they’re moving to states that have no state income tax and have fewer virus restrictions. From California, most say the reason is unaffordability.
And if Governors Gavin Newsom, Andrew Cuomo and Phil Murphy of California, New York, and New Jersey don’t wake up soon, they’re going to see vast numbers depart to the sunshine state causing massive income tax and Congressional representation losses to their states that will not be made up.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe in lockdowns where the coronavirus is raging. I believe in protecting and safeguarding lives. I just don’t believe in stupid lockdowns that unfairly discriminate and destroy jobs, business and undermines the people’s freedom. For example, why did Cuomo decide that bicycle stores, alcohol outlets and acupuncture clinics can operate with zero restrictions but prayer services at certain synagogues and churches — including those built to house hundreds and where there could be ample social distancing — were shut down? Despite Cuomo’s justification that the measure was intended to slow the spread of the virus in high-case zip codes, his discriminate targeting was government overreach, pure and simple. It caused many religious Jews to think of moving to Governor Ron DeSantis’ Florida instead.
Thankfully, the United States Supreme Court stepped in and struck down the governor’s order. Now, as vaccinations proceed and cases slowly decline, restaurants in New York are back to outdoor dining, and in New Jersey, mercifully, you can still eat indoors but at a restricted capacity. In Los Angeles, up until a few days ago, even outdoor dining was forbidden amid the beautiful, sunny climate.
Are these measures necessary? Are they merited? Sometimes yes and sometimes not. But when you go to Florida and see that there are the most minimal restrictions amidst a pretty similar infection rate, it makes you wonder. California has imposed the most restrictive laws of all states. Yet its infection rate, tragically, is going through the roof, which just goes to show you that the rules should be based on science — not a government’s arbitrary right to simply extinguish some businesses and institutions.
But that’s not the reason I’m penning this column as scientists and statisticians far more knowledgeable than me have already addressed these issues all over the country.
Rather, I’m writing as someone who loves New York City, its diversity, its museums, its theater and performing arts, and its vibrant Jewish life. And I’m writing as someone who loves New Jersey, its green spaces, its rivers, its parks and bike paths — and as someone who was born in Los Angeles and loves the beaches, bike paths, and mountains of the City of Angels. I’m in shock that no one seems to give a damn about how rapidly they are losing residents.
I’M IN SHOCK THAT NO ONE SEEMS TO GIVE A DAMN ABOUT HOW RAPIDLY THE STATES ARE LOSING RESIDENTS.
In 1963, when he gave his famous “Ich Bin Ein Berliner” speech at the wall dividing the German capital, President John F. Kennedy famously said that the East and West have long argued as to who has a better system. But, Kennedy concluded, the debate was adjudicated by the Soviet need to build a wall to keep their people in.
JFK was right: people vote with their feet. And if they’re abandoning New York, New Jersey and California in large number because they can’t handle the government restrictions and the absolutely insane taxes, then the matter has been decided. These states will suffer unnecessarily.
I know, everyone believes that New York, New Jersey and especially California will bounce back, as they always have in the past. I hope so, God willing. New York is currently the world financial capital , the world media capital, the world diplomatic capital and, arguably, the world performing arts capital. Yet so much is now closed, and no one knows when they will reopen.
And then you have Jewish life. New York and New Jersey are easily the places of greatest Jewish vibrancy in the country, with the massive Jewish communities of Brooklyn, Crown Heights, Williamsburg, Manhattan, Monsey, Lakewood and countless others, comprising the largest Jewish community outside of Israel. Incredible Yeshivas, day schools and shuls have long served as a magnet for a fulfilling Jewish existence exceeded only by the eternal Jewish homeland of Israel. Los Angeles has the incredibly vibrant communities of the Pico-Robertson and Hancock Park, and California has arguably more Chabad Houses than any state in the Union.
But go to Florida, and you’ll see it’s really beginning to seriously compete. When I grew up in Miami Beach, there was only the Hebrew Academy, which I attended, and Chabad day schools. Today, there are too many to count, along with massive concentrations of shuls and Chabad Houses throughout the Sunshine State.
That just leaves the job market as the principle reason to be in New York. But the Wall Street Journal recently reported that between federal, state, and city taxes, New York is pushing the highest tax rates to some 68% of total income, with New Jersey not far behind. California is right up there with them. Good luck trying to keep anyone there when Zoom, along with broadband, has dramatically changed the calculus of where one must live in order to do one’s job. Indeed, in New York City, the Upper West Side is mostly alive because it’s residential. But a few blocks south of Columbus Circle? Mid-town resembles a ghost town.
It really makes me sad.
I’m someone who sees in New York City — easily the most diverse metropolis on earth — as almost something Messianic in its diversity. During the summer’s racial unrest and ensuing riots, I lamented that New York was being targeted. It didn’t make sense. Yes, there is racial injustice everywhere and it must be strongly and robustly challenged. And I believe the Jewish community must be at the forefront of joining our African-American brothers and sisters in protesting injustice, which is why our Annual Champions of Jewish Values International Awards Gala will this year focus on African American and Jewish brotherhood.
But attacking New York? New York is what all of America should look like: citizens, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, atheist and everything in-between, living together as family. America needs to be more like New York in its complexion, not less.
Thank God, the violent protests have passed. But what has not passed is the damage being done to America’s greatest city and the state of New Jersey by government edicts and insanely high taxes. To many émigrés, these policies say that their voices doesn’t matter, that lockdowns can often be determined not by science but by pressure groups, like teachers unions, which in November pushed to shut down all of New York City’s schools even when the science showed that the rate of infection at schools was incredibly low.
So more and more people are moving south, where the taxes are more reasonable, where citizens seem to have more rights, and where, yes, the weather doesn’t require putting on fifteen layers before you move outside.
The last can be remedied with warm clothing. But the first two can only be remedied with good governance.