Many older New Yorkers say they're likely to leave
New York City is a nice place to visit, but you wouldn't want to grow old here.
That seems to be the sentiment of a new AARP survey of registered voters aged 50+ showing that 58% of the city's boomers who are working and confident they will be able to retire are likely to leave.
Respondents kvetched about cars not yielding to pedestrians (69% said it was a major or minor problem), crime, traffic and streets in need of repair, but a giant 78% of all older renters said they were concerned about paying their rent in the coming years. More than half of all respondents (54%) deemed a lack of affordable housing a major problem and 17% said it was a minor problem.
Many aging New Yorkers want to remain, but "simply can't afford to do so," said Jonathan Bowles, executive director of the Center for an Urban Future.
"It's a real shame that people who give so much to New York in their prime can't afford to retire here," he said.
Many older New Yorkers threaten to depart, but more often they remain and complain, said Philip Kasinitz, a sociology professor at CUNY Graduate Center.
"If you're in a doorman building and you can get takeout, you're already in assisted living," he said. Who departs is very much dependent on an individual's housing situation, Kasinitz stressed: While co-op taxes have soared, older folks in the boroughs who own single family homes "have greatly benefited by the fact that NYC property taxes are so low," and have failed to keep up with their property's appreciation, said Kasinitz.
Further, many older renters benefit from "some form of rent regulation," that is rarely available to young newcomers, he noted.
Augusto Onna, 55, a professional musician and business owner, is one such New Yorker. "I have a rent stabilized apartment my wife and I have had for 30 years," where he plans to remain. While Onna, who lives on the Upper West Side, believes government could do a better job making subways and taxis accessible, he dubbed Manhattan a great place to age, saying,"I love the city!" He disputed study participants who complained that traffic lights are timed too fast to cross a street safely. The new "countdown" lights, showing the number of seconds left to cross, are terrific, he said.
Upper West Sider Dr. Irwin Abraham, 66, and his wife, also a physician, "will be in our apartment until they drag us out in a box," but Abraham concedes they are lucky. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, he said, "hasn't done enough to make housing affordable for people and that's a real problem."
Kasinitz conceded that affluent retirees who move to NYC to enjoy public transportation and its plethora of cultural events are not the same as those who have been squeezed out.
"The older people who have been there a long time help create deep connections in communities. They're often neighborhood figures," who volunteer, organize, and strengthen bonds between neighbors. "You lose a lot of that," when they go, he said.