New Yorkers leave for Florida for more freedom, fewer taxes - opinion

It’s not just the coronavirus that is decimating the Northeast.

NEW YORK Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks to reporters during a news conference at a COVID-19 pop-up vaccination site in William Reid Apartments in Brooklyn last week. (photo credit: MARY ALTAFFER/REUTERS)
NEW YORK Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks to reporters during a news conference at a COVID-19 pop-up vaccination site in William Reid Apartments in Brooklyn last week.
I grew up in Miami Beach in the 1970s. Nearly all of my friends from school ended up leaving the beautiful retirement community and moving to greener business pastures in the Northeast, particularly New York and New Jersey.
Perhaps we should have stayed. Then at least we might have been able to afford a house in Florida, as a mass wave of émigrés is now taking over the Sunshine State.
It’s not just the coronavirus that is decimating the Northeast, particularly the densely populated areas of New York and New Jersey. Even after, God willing, the population is inoculated with the vaccine and we push this disgusting and deadly virus out of our lives, New York and New Jersey will continue to hemorrhage vast numbers of citizens, particularly from the Jewish community.
I’m kind of in shock to see how many of our friends and neighbors are leaving to move, mostly to Florida, but also to Texas and Nevada.
Nor can the weather alone account for the tsunami of émigrés, since huge numbers are now moving out of California, in general, and Los Angeles, in particular, where the year-round climate is arguably better than Florida, without the sticky, muggy summers.
No, the reason is government overreach, plain and simple. People in New York and New Jersey have seen the arbitrariness with which governors and legislators can control their lives – without any basis in science – and tax them up the wazoo while doing so. They feel they have far fewer rights in New York and New Jersey, so they’re moving to states that have no state income tax and cannot just arbitrarily shut everything down at a whim.
And if governors Andrew Cuomo and Phil Murphy of New York and New Jersey, respectively, don’t wake up to it soon, they’re going to see vast numbers depart to the Sunshine State, causing massive income tax losses to their states that will not be made up, let alone continue to lose congressional representation in every 10-year census.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe in lockdowns where the coronavirus is raging. I believe in protecting and safeguarding life. I just don’t believe in stupid lockdowns that have zero basis in science and simply destroy jobs, business, and undermine the people’s freedom.
That Cuomo decided that bicycle stores, alcohol outlets and acupuncture clinics can operate with zero restrictions, while at the same time he tried to limit the size of prayer services at certain synagogues and churches – including those built to house hundreds and where there could be ample social distancing – was government overreach pure and simple. It caused many religious Jews to think of moving to Gov. Ron DeSantis’s Florida instead.
Thankfully, the United States Supreme Court stepped in and struck down Cuomo’s order.
Restaurants in New York are back to being allowed outdoor dining in the freezing cold. In New Jersey, mercifully, you can still eat indoors but at a restricted capacity.
Are these measures necessary? Are they merited? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. But when you go to Florida and see that there are the most minimal restrictions amid a pretty similar infection rate, it makes you wonder.
California has imposed the most restrictive laws of all, including banning all outdoor dining in Los Angeles. Yet its infection rate, tragically, is going through the roof, which just goes to show you that the rules should be based on science and not a government’s arbitrary right to simply extinguish businesses.
BUT THAT’S not the reason I’m penning this column, as scientists and statisticians far more knowledgeable than me have already addressed these issues all over the country.
Rather, I’m writing as someone who loves New York City, its diversity, its museums, Broadway, and its vibrant Jewish life. And I’m writing as someone who loves New Jersey, its green spaces, its rivers, its parks and bike paths. And I’m in shock that no one seems to give a damn about how rapidly they are losing residents.
In 1963 when he gave his famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech at the wall dividing the German capital, John F. Kennedy famously said that East and West have long argued as to who has a better system. But, Kennedy concluded, the debate was adjudicated by the Soviet need to build a wall to keep their people in. In the final analysis, people vote with their feet. And if they’re abandoning New York and New Jersey in large numbers because they can’t handle the government restrictions and the absolutely insane taxes, then the matter has been decided. These states will suffer unnecessarily.
I know, I know. Everyone believes that New York and New Jersey will bounce back, as they always have in the past. I hope so, God willing. New York is currently the world financial capital, with Wall Street; the world media capital; the world diplomatic capital, with the UN; and, arguably, the world performing arts capital, with Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and Broadway. Yet so much is now closed and no one knows when it will reopen.
And then you have Jewish life, where New York and New Jersey are easily the places of greatest Jewish vibrancy in the country, with the massive Jewish communities of Brooklyn, notably Crown Heights and Williamsburg, Manhattan, Monsey, Lakewood and countless others forming the largest Jewish community on earth outside of Israel. Incredible yeshivot, day schools, and shuls have long served as a magnet for a more than fulfilling Jewish existence.
But go to Florida and you’ll see it’s really beginning to seriously compete. When I grew up in Miami Beach, there were only the Hebrew Academy and Chabad day schools. Today, there are too many to count, along with massive concentrations of shuls and Chabad Houses throughout the Sunshine State.
Which leaves the job market as the principal reason to be in New York. But The Wall Street Journal recently reported that between federal, state and city taxes, New York is pushing the highest tax rates to some 68%, with New Jersey not far behind.
Good luck trying to keep anyone there when Zoom, along with broadband, has dramatically changed the calculus of where one must live in order to do one’s job.
Indeed, in New York City, the Upper West Side is alive mostly because it’s residential. But a few blocks south of Columbus Circle and the midtown resembles a ghost town.
It really makes me sad.
I’m someone who sees in New York City – easily the most diverse metropolis on earth – something almost messianic in the diversity of ethnicities living, mostly, harmoniously side by side.
During the summers riots I lamented that New York was being targeted. It didn’t make sense. Yes, there is racial injustice everywhere, and it must be strongly and robustly challenged. The World Values Network Gala, our signature annual event, is this year dedicated to African-American and Jewish brotherhood, and I believe the Jewish community must be at the forefront of joining our African-American brothers and sisters in protesting injustice.
But why were people attacking New York, literally? New York is what all of America should look like – citizens, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, atheist, and everything in between, living together as family. America needs to be more like New York in its complexion, not less. So why were demonstrators tearing down a truly diverse city?
Thank God, those protests have passed. But what has not passed is the damage being done to America’s greatest city and the state of New Jersey by government edicts and insanely high taxes that say to the citizens that their voices don’t matter, that lockdowns can often be determined not by science but by pressure groups, like teachers unions, which shut down all of New York City’s schools even when the science showed that the rate of infection at schools was incredibly low.
So more and more people are moving south, where the taxes are more reasonable, where citizens seem to have more rights, and where, yes, the weather doesn’t require putting on 15 layers before you move outside.
The last can be remedied with good clothing. But the first two can be remedied only with good governance.
The writer, “America’s Rabbi,” is the author most recently of Lust for Love, coauthored with actress Pamela Anderson.