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New York's richest fled coronavirus-hit city to live out lockdown in luxurious Catskills and Hamptons villas: Data

Among the 420,000 who fled to summer destinations to avoid the pandemic, the top 1% are the wealthiest. While the movement was less between March 1 and 15, it became a massive exodus later on
UPDATED MAY 23, 2020
(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

New York City has been hit so badly by the coronavirus pandemic that several thousands of its residents have exited the Big Apple, particularly the wealthiest, over the last two months to bring down its overall population by five percent, smartphone data revealed.

According to a report in The New York Times, around 420,000 residents of NYC fled the city between March 1 and May 1 and the population in some places like Morningside Heights, the Upper East Side, Midtown, Brooklyn Heights and others have become thinner by 40 percent. Meanwhile, Manhattan’s overall population shrank by nearly 20 percent as the lockdown entered the third month. The city is home to nearly 8.4 million people.

More than 24,000 people have died in NYC between March 11 and May 2 but the actual death toll could be much higher than the official figures, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said this week. The city and the state have been the epicenter of the outbreak in the US which has witnessed more than 1.4 million people affected and over 87,000 dead. 

High-income people fleeing NYC

According to the findings on NYC’s reducing population, income was the strongest indicator of how many residents in a particular area of the city fled. The data showed that people who fled the city mostly shifted to Long Island, upstate New York like Catskills and Florida - places known to be summer destinations. Residents who left the city were from neighborhoods comprising mainly whites and having annual household incomes of more than $100,000. The data were given by New Mexico-based Descartes Labs which used anonymous geolocation data to spot where the NYC residents were located in February and whether they chose to flee the city after the Covid-19 outbreak. The sample population featured 140,000 people belonging to nearly all census-counted neighborhoods in the city’s five boroughs. 

However, the less well-to-do stayed back as the data showed residents from neighborhoods where the median annual income is $90,000 or less did not follow their wealthier fellow residents. 

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio (Getty Images)

Smartphone data, however, do not present a perfect picture since not every resident owns one. It is more about a general picture about the city dwellers’ mobility in the times of the pandemic. The NYT, however, checked with two other papers it looked at and found the cell phone data to be consistent with them. They are from NYU and Teralytics

It was learnt that while the movement was slight between March 1 and 15, it transformed into a massive exodus after NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city’s schools would remain closed. 

Local people are not happy with arrivals from NYC

People in small towns where the wealthy NYC residents were going were not happy. According to a report in New York Post in March, local people in vacation towns like Hamptons in Long Island and the Catskills in upstate alleged that their grocery stores were being ransacked by the rich refugees. In April, officials said the price of rental homes in the Hamptons increased from $5,000 a month to over $30,000 for a period of two weeks. The local people also complained that the visitors were bringing the virus with them. The rising number of cases in these places where the healthcare infrastructure is not too strong was also leaving the local residents worried. 

In upstate New York, Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin requested state Governor Andrew Cuomo to put a ban on travel from NYC but no action was taken.