Manhattan-ifest Destiny

It is with a certain fear and loathing that New Yorkers think of Los Angeles. Seared into the Gotham psyche 31 years ago: Woody Allen’s Alvy Singer following Diane Keaton’s Annie Hall to La-La land—stop and go, stop and go, in a car; a house party full of phonies on the make; and then, thankfully, back East on a plane. We’re the careful pioneers; they’re nuts. But more Manhattan and Brooklyn residents this decade have relocated to L.A. than vice versa, according to an Observer analysis of I.R.S. data.

The annual numbers of L.A. émigrés from the two mainline boroughs are relatively small. They’re also steady and consistent.

From 2001 through 2006, the last year data was available, a net of more than 3,000 Manhattanites relocated to Los Angeles County. In the same period, 1,664 Brooklynites did.

Between 2002 and 2003, as many as 752 Manhattanites relocated, the peak for that borough’s L.A. emigration; for Brooklyn, the peak came from 2003 to 2004, with 391 net residents leaving. In no year has either Manhattan or Brooklyn, together or separately, experienced a net gain of Los Angeles County residents—always a net loss.

Why? For the same reasons people likely move anywhere, including real estate, no doubt.

In all of Manhattan and in a hefty slice of what the papers now call brownstone Brooklyn, home prices and rents have remained stubbornly high amid an otherwise collapsing national housing market.

In L.A., the collapse has been felt much more acutely. During the first quarter of 2008, according to research site PropertyShark, 8,877 homes in L.A. County entered foreclosures—about 0.28 percent of all households. In Manhattan and Brooklyn total, 163 homes did (a fraction of the 918 for the entire city).

And, like the rest of the United States, the dollar has stretched for years now much farther in L.A., real estate-wise, than it does in Manhattan and Brooklyn. The average sales price per square foot in L.A. County was $325.42, according to a report for January by research firm Radar Logic. The average is over three times that in Manhattan; and more than twice that for much of brownstone Brooklyn.

It’s a trade-off, though: Cheaper property 3,000 miles west; but what price victory in leaving New York, perhaps for good?

“Sure, you can get a house with a backyard, and kids can play outside, but L.A.’s very encapsulating,” a film critic who relocated from Manhattan to L.A. in 2005 told The Observer this past winter. “You don’t really get a sense of what’s going on outside of the city. Kids in New York have the potential to be more worldly.”

Manhattan-ifest Destiny