During the summer and the holidays the streets of New York often seem empty, but now certain Manhattan neighborhoods are looking somewhat deserted year round.
This is due to increasing numbers of people who own or rent apartments in the city, but choose to live elsewhere for much of the year. To some extent this is nothing new, as wealthy out-of-towners have often kept empty apartments and investment properties in the city, but just recently the numbers have increased substantially.
According to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, around 30% of the 5,000 apartments in in the East Side are unoccupied for more than 10 months of the year. This is a much higher proportion than traditional second-home communities such as Palm Beach, Aspen and Virginia Beach.
These numbers look set to continue growing as since 2000 the number of Manhattan apartments owned by absentee owners and renters has grown up by over 70%, up from 19,000 to nearly 34,000.
Gay Talese, an author who has lived on East 61st Street for over 50 years says “My block is like a ghost town. It’s dark on the streets at night, and I’m not talking about some people in the Hamptons and people who have apartments here but spend a lot of time out of town for tax reasons.” He amusingly describes these part-timers as “Skim-milk New Yorkers-only 2%.”
There have been many luxury condominium developments during the last decade, and Manhattan is seen as a safe haven by a lot of foreign investors. Some apartments are bought by those living outside the cities who are contemplating moving retirement in Manhattan. Others are owned by executives who have to travel extensively for work.
Some cities penalize second home owners with higher property taxes, as they are worried that such owners could lead to empty neighborhoods; New York chooses not to do so. An added bonus for those who live in the city year round is that congestion is far lower.