Are Tribecans moving to the suburbs?

All you have to do is count windows after dark during a curfew to see that the neighborhood has now gone beyond just half empty. And while we have to practice social distancing rules, including waiting on lines to go to the supermarket and sit in pre-drawn chalk circles at the parks, maybe that’s had its advantages. (Of course the local restaurants counting on takeout orders no doubt feel differently.)

But the question on a lot of folks’ minds is, are they coming back? Precedent says yes. Downtown’s population has boomed in the nearly two decades since 9/11 (below Murray it’s gone from 14,000 to 60,000) and barely a block has been spared a new residential construction project. (Add the rash of new hotels to that list as well.) But anecdotally I have heard several stories of people who left for quarantine and have now decided to decamp permanently — mostly families with young kids.

Finding data on the trend is tough to do, short of waiting on school registrations (Downtown Soccer League just opened theirs, so that might produce some good numbers soon) or real estate listings. The Times tracked cell phone data last month to see where people have headed, and Crain’s notes that apartment vacancies are at an all-time high. But that doesn’t help us understand who has left temporarily and who might try to sell once the real estate industry reopens in full.

So in the meantime, I asked Anna Grossman, who founded and runs HRP Mamas, to see if she could measure how her group of 3000+ local mothers are reacting. The short answer: there is definitely more chatter than ever before about leaving the city.

The HRP Mamas suburbs subgroup, which is for mothers who have moved from lower Manhattan to the suburbs or those thinking of exploring that option, has a total of 230 members, and while every spring there is an uptick, this year it’s about four times bigger. Typically the subgroup sees about 20-50 people joining by summer, but this spring there was a jump in May alone with more than 130 people joining.

“We used to see that jump in June and July, and now some may feel there is less of a reason to wait till school is out because it’s virtual anyway,” Anna said. But she cautioned that just because folks are talking about the suburbs does not mean they have their bags packed. “There are all sorts of reasons people may have moved elsewhere just to cope for right now; whether that’s a permanent choice is often a complicated and hard decision — and may be unclear to even those simply trying to manage for right now.”

She notes that there are a lot of strains on parents right now, and not just because the playgrounds are closed. Some are working from home without childcare, since daycares and schools are closed and many babysitters can’t commute or have to care for their own children. Some of her parents are furloughed and working with a smaller family income. And based on what she has seen among her members, rent concessions have not been that generous.

Some people may have accelerated a timeline they already had in place. Before COVID, they may have been waiting until kindergarten or middle school or even high school to bust a move. But with school now being virtual, there isn’t as pressing a reason for those who have decided to move to delay till school is out.

Then there’s the cohort who are living at second homes or with out-of-town family. Those talking about the suburbs may just be looking for resources to get them through the past three months. Or not. So the other short answer: everything right now is up in the air.

“Many of the things everyone loves about New York are on pause right now,” said Anna. “But just because some families may be thinking of moving doesn’t necessarily mean they are ready to do so. A lot of people don’t know themselves and are managing this situation as it comes since so much is unknown.”

But adding to the unknowable in this case could be the people who just decided to tip the balance towards the weekend home as a middle ground, Anna notes. The Times story is missing that middle ground.

“The fact that work/school has proven to be able to go virtual actually means that a whole new opportunity to enjoy city and country has emerged,” she said. “With families not thinking about air travel and far-away vacations, the prospect of a nearby second home is more appealing. Especially if we have future PAUSE moments and school and work go virtual again – the second home can serve as a spot to quarantine. It’s like after 9/11, when many bought homes upstate for weekends and period of time to get away.”

Time will tell. But for now, I think we can count on a late-August Tribeca through till September.



  1. Seems simplest owners versus renters.

    If you rent you’re probably on your way out of town, or looking for a major bargain.

    If you own, you have an anchor around your neck and probably have to wait it out here.

    • Agreed. We own our apartment and are staying put! In fact we live in one of the dark buildings shown above. I have noticed several moving trucks around the neighborhood every day and I’m pretty sure none of them are moving people in. We are enjoying this quiet, not crowded summer so far.

  2. When schools open again, in September.

  3. There is a FB group called TriBeCa Moms, and on it, I see posts every other day seeking others to take over early lease breaks. Additionally, I live across from a large luxury condo and there have been 2 sets of moving trucks moving people out for the past 3 weeks. The building currently appears about 20% occupied. It is going to be an especially quiet summer.

  4. Hopefully, most of the kids won’t come back.

    • Yes, it’s better for the kids out in open space drinking Lemonade and smelling the fresh grass and apple trees. Tribeca has a lot of pollution and never mind the rats eating away at the beautiful flowers planted on the courtyard of every buildings. You go Tribeca!

      • Angie – hope you enjoy the flowers and lemonade in Westchester. Looking forward to a summer with locals only and no tourists. I will take rats over soccer moms any day.

  5. Wish I still lived in TriBeCa, lived there from 97-03. Really enjoy reading this publication/webpage, so informative. Can’t believe so many a exiting. Is it just for the summer?

  6. I’ve lived here for over twenty years (and my Dad’s business was here long before it was called Tribeca) and, yes, we have had floods and enemy attacks and depressions and life.

    City living isn’t for everybody and downtown isn’t for everybody. But I grew up in the ‘burbs and lived uptown for decades and there is no place I would rather live than here.

    Of course, it isn’t for everyone. No place is. But for those of us who have stayed, it is home.

    • I agree with you Betty. We’ve loved living in Tribeca since 1972. Of course it wasn’t the Tribeca we know now when we first came here but we raised our kids here, helped make it what it is and stayed through 9/11, Irene , Sandy, you name it. Funny thing is when the Virus hit we couldn’t even consider going to our place in RI because cars with NY plates were being stopped at the State line. LOL. No, Tribeca isn’t for everyone. New York City isn’t for everyone. People have to do what makes them feel best.

      • Amen Betty and Jean. You long-term locals are what makes Tribeca so special and I can’t wait to see you on the streets this summer!

        Tribeca is not for everyone but for those of us who love it, there is nowhere else.

        • I definitely do not want to see Betty or Jean on the streets this summer! They are in a highest risk category! Until a vaccine is found, Betty & Jean, please hunker down at Jean’s RI chalet! And Jean, really think about registering the car in RI. For insurance purposes.

          That’s really courageous to be proud of living in Tribeca. More gutsy to say it out loud!

  7. May guess that unless there is an effective vaccine developed sometime in the near future the exodus will continue and will accelerate ; health is a critical component of a good life

    • You’re right – health is important. And with the virus spreading to even rural areas across the country, the availability of high quality healthcare is key. Many of the places Where people own summer homes have inadequate healthcare in he best of times. How would they deal with a surge in COVID cases?

  8. I’ve lived and loved living in TriBeCa since the 80s( with a chapter in the gorgeous Fingerlakes, Aurora to be precise in a BIG c1905 Stanford Whitesk 26 room Lakehouse, moved up with my 3 ps234 schooled daughters when they were 6,8 and 10, great chapter of their childhood, at ages 13 and 16( eldest went off to Tufts) the girls missed NYC and so one went to Leman Prep, the other LaGuardia, then to USF and Cornell… Aurora has an AMAZING tiny school called Peachtown, almost like home schooling but way more nurturing, social and the the prep for HS, tremendous with the personalized education, 30 kids nestled into the old deans house on the Wells College campus c1868… the most historically intact village in all of NYState, population 400. So, you can always come back, I did… if your interested in exploring a chapter in the country, happy to discuss, it worked for us! Warmly, Paddington 212.227.2252

  9. this has been going on forever. many people move here, have kids and move out before their kids hit middle school.

    • If you can’t afford to give your child their own bedroom in NYC, then you should move where you can. The NYC quarantine should have made that more apparent. If not, you’re being selfish.