NYC Holds Allure for 2020 Graduates With Dreams of Big-City Life

Theaters are dark, concerts are out, bars and restaurants are limiting gatherings, if they’re open at all. The streets are eerily quiet with thousands of New Yorkers gone to ride out the pandemic.

Yet the city holds its allure for people like Justin Cabot-Miller. Last month, the Hofstra University graduate moved into an apartment near the Brooklyn Botanic Garden after accepting a new job working remotely as a software engineer for Google. He could have picked anywhere to live, including his parents’ house in Rhode Island.

“Growing up in a more suburban area -- you know, stereotypical white picket fence, everyone has a yard -- you grow up and hear stories about the other, the hustle and bustle of city life,” Cabot-Miller said. “I always wanted to experience that.”

Living in New York is still the dream for a lot of this year’s college graduates -- even if it’s not the big-city life they imagined. Some are moving in to start new jobs, others are lured by the fabled promise of opportunities they can’t find anywhere else. Or they just yearn for that flashy Big Apple lifestyle glorified in binge-worthy old shows like “Friends” or “Sex and the City.”

NYC Holds Allure for 2020 Graduates With Dreams of Big-City Life

This year through July, saved listings for New York studio apartments renting for less than $2,000 a month jumped 37% from the same period in 2019, signaling a surge of interest from young people, data from StreetEasy show.

It’s a good time to look for an apartment. As more companies give their employees the option of working from home long-term, units are piling up on the market. To fill them, landlords are offering incentives of as much as six months of free rent, along with the usual perks like gym memberships, said Aleksandra Scepanovic, managing director of Ideal Properties Group in Brooklyn.

“Everyone is trying to stay competitive,” said Jacob Entel, director of residential properties for developer Moinian Group. “We haven’t seen the typical summer demand we’re used to.”

Liv Staub is shopping around for an apartment in Manhattan’s Murray Hill neighborhood -- a hot spot for young professionals -- where she wants to settle before starting a job at a large tech company in October. The William & Mary graduate said she’s seen sweeteners ranging from complimentary TVs and Wi-Fi to three months of free rent, and that building agents have been lax about requiring a guarantor for her lease, despite her entry-level salary.

Still, she’s concerned that a mostly young crowd will be less responsible about social distancing while Covid-19 is still a risk.

“It’s definitely going to just get worse as we near the second wave and people flock back to the city,” Staub said.

NYC Holds Allure for 2020 Graduates With Dreams of Big-City Life

For anyone without employment, the search has gotten more difficult. Open positions in New York labeled as entry-level or for new grads fell 42% in August from a year earlier, data from job-search firm Glassdoor show. Younger workers have been hit especially hard by the economic slowdown as companies scale back hiring to save money, senior economist Daniel Zhao said.

Even with many cultural offerings still shut down, Joanna Chen, who moved to Manhattan last month to work as an analyst at an investment bank, said she’s been having a blast.

“It’s sort of like, you know, what everyone dreams of,” said Chen, a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley. “I told my roommate my freshman year of college that I for sure would end up in New York City.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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