New York City’s population drain in 2020 occurred not only in wealthy Manhattan enclaves but in less well-off neighborhoods across the five boroughs, according to a new report by real-estate firm CBRE. 

And although the market has begun to modestly rebound, experts say luring people back won’t be easy. 

Among the most-walloped areas were high-revenue-generating parts of the affluent Upper East and Upper West sides, Tribeca and Dumbo, which lost up to 2 percent of their respective populations. 

But less well-off neighborhoods took a beating, too — including Brooklyn’s Crown Heights. The area’s three ZIP codes — 11216, 11213 and 11225 — lost 5,796 residents in 2020 versus 2,759 in 2019.

CBRE used US Postal Service change-of-address filings to tally neighborhood net move-outs (taking into account the smaller number of people who moved in) in every one of the city’s 145 ZIP codes — possibly the first such study to do so. 

view of Lower Manhattan
New York City’s population drain in 2020 occurred not only in wealthy Manhattan enclaves but in less well-off neighborhoods across the five boroughs.
Noam Galai/Getty Images

Net flight from the five boroughs last year amounted to 2.4 percent of the total population, according to CBRE. 

New York City boasted a population of around 8.3 million in 2019, according to the US Census Bureau, meaning an estimated 200,000 people left last year. Overall, 25 more people per 1,000 residents left town in 2020 than in 2019. 

“The change is significant relative to normalcy but still reflects a relatively small number compared to the city as a whole,” said CBRE’s Eric Willett, who wrote the report. 

A view of The Dakota building during the coronavirus pandemic on April 15, 2020
A view of The Dakota building during the coronavirus pandemic on April 15, 2020.
Rob Kim/Getty Images

But because many fewer people moved in than away last year, the out-migration trend accelerated frighteningly from 2019 to 2020. 

“Net move-outs were 51 percent higher in 2020 than in 2019,” Willett said. It was worse in Manhattan, where net move-outs last year jumped 62 percent over 2019. 

The loss of high-spending residents can’t be undone overnight, warned CBRE tristate CEO Mary Ann Tighe, who was not involved in conducting her firm’s survey. 

“The numbers add specificity of what we’re already knowing,” she said. “As work became more fluid, people gravitated to cities where taxes are lower, schools and streets are better and crime is less. The data tell us that this is not a perception, but a reality. 

“Our political class doesn’t seem to get the story. This week’s stories about huge tax increases for individuals and corporations show us they’re tone-deaf in terms of what the city needs,” Tighe said. 

People wear protective face masks outside Zabar's on the Upper West Side
Although the market has begun to modestly rebound, experts say luring people back won’t be easy.
Noam Galai/Getty Images

Market guru Jonathan Miller, CEO of Miller Samuel Real Estate Appraisers, said, “There are always outbound people, but this time, the data are skewed by lack of inbound migration, which was cut off at the knees by the lack of a sense of safety.” 

The Manhattan ZIP code which saw the largest loss in 2020 was 10019, part of the Theater District and roughly bounded by West 48th and West 59th streets and by Fifth and Twelfth avenues. It lost a whopping 3,935 residents in 2020 on a net basis compared with a mere 763 in 2019. 

Cars a parked on an empty street in the DUMBO neighborhood of the Brooklyn borough of New York, Friday, April 10, 2020.
The outer boroughs lost residents as well, although at lower rates than Manhattan.
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

While 11,511 people left, only 7,576 arrived. Although total losses over the two years accounted for only 1.65 percent of 10019’s prior population of 45,334, combined with the loss of tourists they left behind some of the city’s emptiest streets. 

Of course, the true number of departures is higher because the postal data doesn’t include temporary relocations to summer homes or to parents’ houses to escape the city’s high infection rate. 

Miller attributed the West Midtown hemorrhage to the area’s more “transient” population. 

“West Midtown has many more renters [than owners], he said. In transient areas such as Fidi, they were some of the first to leave because they were less anchored to the city.” 

The dramatic acceleration of move-outs from 2019 to 2020 was reflected across ZIP codes. In 10022 — an East Midtown area rich in foreign missions, Saks Fifth Avenue and luxury residences such as River House — net move-outs of 932 in 2019 jumped to 3,490 in 2020. 

Movie-star haven Tribeca, most of which lies in 10013, saw net exits skyrocket from 506 in 2019 to 2,067 in 2020. Net move-outs from trendy Dumbo more than tripled from 2019 to 2020 from 730 to 3,178. 

Even in the more mixed-income ZIP code 10025, between Central and Riverside parks and between West 91st Street and West 114th Street, net exits of 1,552 in 2019 more than doubled to 3,782 in 2020. 

The outer boroughs lost residents as well, although at lower rates than Manhattan. In the mostly affluent Riverdale community in the northwest Bronx, ZIP Code 10471, some 40 net departures in 2019 mushroomed to 138 last year. 

People wear face masks outside Fairway market on the Upper West Side on March 12, 2021
People wear face masks outside Fairway market on the Upper West Side on March 12, 2021.
Noam Galai/Getty Images

The most surprising data were in ZIP 11373, which covers pandemic-epicenter Elmhurst, Queens. Among 105,000 residents, net out-migration merely upticked from 1,467 in 2019 to 2,146. That’s a mere one-fifth of one percent of its population. 

Miller attributed it to the fact that, “People had less mobility, especially people in the service sector. Unlike in Manhattan, they simply had nowhere to go.” 

Things are on the upswing citywide at last. Thanks to reduced prices and a greater sense of safety, “The market has begun to claw itself back,” Miller said. “Now, with a higher comfort level due to the vaccines, the rental market has seen unusually high leasing activity since October. 

“And in the purchase market, the first quarter of 2021 saw sales exceeding the first quarter of last year — the first quarter-over-same quarter upswing since then.”

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