Consider this exercise: Take population shifts from the past two decades — which correspond with big, life-altering events like 9/11, the Great Recession and Hurricane Sandy — and merge them with an annual out-migration model for New York City.
The result? A scenario in which in which some 250,000 Big Apple residents might be expected to move upstate following the coronavirus pandemic.
“That’s sort of a major city being relocated up into upstate New York,” said Ted Kolankowski, a registered landscape architect with the Colonie office of engineering and planning firm Barton & Loguidice.
The projection came in a series of slides that Kolankowski and colleague John Steinmetz, senior managing community planner at the firm, presented last week in “Planning for the New Normal: Post-Covid-19 Planning & Zoning Discussions,” a training webinar for local planning and zoning board members.
The session was one of several on municipal topics that will be offered in the next few months by the Capital District Regional Planning Commission, which formerly presented day-long workshops twice a year to help board members meet annual state training requirements. Now, with the pandemic canceling in-person meetings, CDRPC arranged the online sessions.
Kolankowski and Steinmetz said they approached the workshop as “planning for the new normal” by looking at what were current trends and how the pandemic might influence them. Steinmetz emphasized that he and Kolankowski were offering “our thoughts and opinions at this point — so little is known.”
They wondered whether “social distancing” might lead to new urban flight, and tried to look at New York City population losses after other significant events — 9/11, the Great Recession and Hurricane Sandy.
But no such statistics exist, Kolankowski said, although U.S. Census Bureau data can provide approximations.
Those numbers show that 2 million people left the city between 2000 and 2010 — the decade encompassing the 2001 terrorist attacks and the 2008 recession. Between 2010 and now, another 1 million people moved out. (Hurricane Sandy hit the city hard in 2012.)
Kolankowski said that if that pattern were repeated and 1 million to 2 million residents left the city due to fears over Covid-19 between now and 2030, 250,000 people “could possibly be migrating upstate,” based on the relocation model of StreetEasy, a Zillow-owned housing-locator platform.
StreetEasy says 900,000 New York City residents typically change their address each year, with nearly half relocating within the city, about a third going to the suburbs and the rest moving out of state. Of those who leave, nearly 12 percent head upstate beyond Westchester and Rockland counties.
That percentage is behind the 250,000 possible post-Covid-19 new residents upstate, Kolankowski said. Another 125,000 could possibly relocate to Westchester and Rockland counties.
Anecdotally, he said, some see the post-pandemic exodus being larger than the 2 million who moved from the city between 2000 and 2010.
Marlene Kennedy is a freelance columnist.