Why I Stay in NYC

Traffic on 42nd Street with setting sun

At the end of last week, I came across an interesting question from WNYC: Why do you stay in NYC?

As they put it:

In one of the first episodes of our new show, Death, Sex & Money, we talked to a freelance documentary producer who came to New York in the 80s, but is now finding herself priced out, feeling broke and tired. And if you read the comments left by our listeners, you’ll find that many people can relate.

A recent Gallup poll found that 41 percent of New York residents would move to a different state if they could, and 16 percent are planning to move in the next 12 months. Do you want to leave? If not, why do you stay?

It’s definitely a thought-provoking question—and one I’ve actually asked myself, recently.

As a native New Yorker, I always believed that I’d live in the city forever. Most likely, in Manhattan.

But during the past few years, many dear friends have left the city—including my best friend, who departed to London, with no plans of returning.

For most of my twenties, I was fine living on what felt like the edge of poverty. (My Washington Heights studio eating up more than half a month’s take-home pay? No problem!) But lately I’ve been wondering whether it might be nice to have a larger—much larger—place one day. With outdoor space and multiple rooms and ample areas for entertaining. (Sure, some of those exist in the city, but they’re likely out of my price range!)

And there have been occasions when I returned home from a trip and felt like my wanderlust hadn’t been satiated. Each time, I thought about how easy it would be to just put my stuff in storage and travel for months—no kids, spouse, mortgage or car to worry about. But each time, I stayed.

I don’t regret it, at all. Because when it comes down to it, it’s really been no contest, for me. I have many reasons that make NYC the place where I want to be, more than anywhere else, right now. Among the stronger:

The food. That sounds cliche, I know. But when your cravings come from all over the world, it’s nice to know that you can find a place that cooks that cuisine authentically and affordably. (In the past few days, alone, I’ve eaten Filipino, Bolivian, Colombian, Sichuanese, Jamaican…)

Ballet. Sure, you can dance anywhere in the world. But I’d argue that in NYC, we have some of the best teachers and accompanists, and can take their classes every day of the week. Plus, I’ve worked really hard to get back into ballet shape after several years off. I really didn’t want all that work to go to waste, again. Plus, many of the top ballet companies make their way through the city, and it’s awesome to have access to their performances.

The 24-hour lifestyle. When I lived in Boston, right out of college, I hated that the bars closed at 2 a.m. Now, a decade later, I don’t go out drinking that late. But I really do appreciate being able to grab the subway or a good meal at any hour.

My parents, who also live in Manhattan.

meme and e at the met

These two, who live just north of the city.

mal and peter

This dude—who was also born and raised in the boroughs, and has all his loved ones there.

heather and evan

Knowing that I’ll always have opportunities to see my good friends who don’t live in the city—because at some point, everyone has a reason to come to NYC.

That’s what’s keeping me here, now. But as more friends get married, have kids and buy houses—real houses with lots of rooms and outdoor space!—outside the city, I’m wondering if any of those factors will outweigh those above.

(Top photo from Getty Images, via Pinterest)

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