Recent NYC immigrants explain what makes this city so tough—and so hard to leave

By Lucy Cohen Blatter  | August 31, 2015 - 1:59PM

On a recent episode of his WNYC radio show, Brian Lehrer asked New Yorkers who'd moved to the city in the last 15 years to call in and discuss how it's been going (this is following a report that 55 percent of New Yorkers are dissatisfied with the direction of the city).

There were some common themes: The rent, and cost of living, is high, of course. But once people get bitten by the New York City bug, so to speak, they find it hard to leave.

"New York is where my heart beats," says one New Yorker who moved to the city originally for school, tried to leave after, but eventually came back. "It's where my soul is happy. I had to come back," she says.

On the con side, one Upper West Sider, originally born in Brooklyn, who moved to California for 35 years but is now back, bemoaned the loss of mom-and-pop shops. "Columbus Avenue looks like the inside of a mall," he says. 

A 28-year-old  writer said the city chewed her up and spit her out. "Because of the high rents and cost of living, I'm constantly overwhelmed with how to pay rent, and I'm not working on my craft," she says. (She planned to move to Hawaii and work on a farm, where food and lodging is taken care of.)

Another caller describes it all as "New York fatigue," thanks in large part to the expense, and the grind. "It never gets better, it only gets worse," she says.  "Rent is always going up."

One ex-New Yorker, who even got a tattoo to commemorate the city says she felt like failure for not quite making it here. "My goal is to come back to the orbit of New York," she says. What she misses most? "That feeling of being at the center of the universe."

But, as one current New Yorker (originally from California) put it, the city has a certain "force" that can feel like it's pushes against you.  Everyone's going somewhere, she says, and moving fast. Sometimes it's very competitive.

"You have to have a purpose, a plan and be going somewhere," she says.

To listen to their stories, click here.


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