The Manhattan Institute, a conservative (by New York standards) think tank, recently published a survey of New York residents; a few items are of interest to urbanists. A few items struck me as interesting.
One question (p.8) asked “If you could live anywhere, would you live…” in your current neighborhood, a different city neighborhood, the suburbs, or another metro area. Because of Manhattan’s high rents, high population density, and the drumbeat of media publicity about people leaving Manhattan, I would have thought that Manhattan had the highest percentage of people wanting to leave.
In fact, the opposite is the case. Only 29 percent of Manhattanites were interested in leaving New York City. By contrast, 36 percent of Brooklynites, and 40-50 percent of residents in the other three outer boroughs, preferred a suburb or different region. Only 23 percent of Bronx residents were interested in staying in their current neighborhood, as opposed to 48 percent of Manhattanites and between 34 and 37 percent of residents of the other three boroughs.
Manhattan is the most dense, transit-dependent borough- and yet it seems to have the most staying power. So this tells me that people really value the advantages of density, even after months of COVID-19 shutdowns and anti-city media propaganda. Conversely, Staten Island, the most suburban borough, doesn’t seem all that popular with its residents, who are no more eager to stay than those of Queens or Brooklyn.
Having said that, there’s a lot that this question doesn’t tell us. Because no identical poll has been conducted in the past, we don’t know if this data represents anything unusual. Would Manhattan’s edge over the outer boroughs have been equally true a year ago? Ten years ago? I don’t know.
Another question asked people to rate ten facets of life in New York City, such as the economy, mass transit, and housing. Not surprisingly people were most dissatisfied with housing costs; 48 percent of adults rated New York housing as “poor.” By contrast, New York’s mass transit was the most highly valued part of city life; only 20 percent of people rated it as “poor.”
A third question asked people to endorse or oppose various policy changes. One was “loosening land-use regulations in order to allow the building of new housing”. Surprisingly, 59 percent of adults endorsed this change; evidently, NIMBYs are in the minority. Roughly equal proportions of Democrats and Republicans endorsed more housing!