Photo Credit: Flickr
Times Square virtually empty

This year has been a tremendously difficult year. Covid-19 was – and remains – scary and awful.

For so many New Yorkers, what has also been awful over the last year has been watching the destruction of New York City – undoubtedly in large part because of a pair of egomaniac buffoons: Mayor Bill De Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo.

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New York City is a fragment of itself – abandoned stores and empty streets. The city that used to never sleep is in a slumber. After a year in which the city permitted looting and rioting, in which kids remain largely out of school, in which crime is rising rapidly and so many of us are afraid to walk in the streets, the city is largely shuttered and in disarray. Streets are filled with crime, the homeless are everywhere — and so many New Yorkers have left.

“If I can make it there, I can make it anywhere” now seems to be a punishment of how many extra barriers one needs to encounter in NYC to succeed.

Contrast that with Florida which is wide open, where the Mayor tweets asking people what help they need to succeed, and it’s easy to understand why so many of New York’s finest have moved in the past year.

One doesn’t need to sit on Wall Street or Park Avenue in order to work – Miami Beach and the sun works just fine for so many professionals. I have a running list of 50 friends and acquaintances who have moved to Florida, all of whom never previously thought of leaving NYC.

Spending the last week in Miami after a year in New York, I am amazed how many people I run into in Miami who have moved — like my friend Mitch Modell (of Modell’s sporting goods) who had tears in his eyes over dinner at Carbone (a NYC restaurant which opened in Miami) as he said he cannot believe he no longer has a home in New York. He said he simply didn’t feel safe anymore in the city, and couldn’t remain in an unsafe city. Like many, we have more friends in Miami now, and as those of us who live in Manhattan know the streets, don’t feel safe right now.

Another friend of mine for 30 years who works in real estate left once his teenage son was robbed at gunpoint in front of his home on the Upper East Side. He also left because his kid’s private school (for which he paid $55K annually) had his son write essays apologizing for privilege and wealth. Another friend, a nightlife impresario, left after his wife was harassed daily while walking the kids around in a stroller. These stories don’t make the news and all of us who live in Manhattan have similar ones.

People outside of Manhattan have no idea how bad Gotham truly is, how depressed and isolated the residents of the city are and feel. So many of us are shell-shocked – even more so when we come to Florida and see life passing us by. Florida is wide open – and the COVID numbers aren’t worse in Florida. We are more angered when we realize teachers’ unions control the fate of our children, even more angered when even though NY got billions in bail-out money, taxes will still rise there – surely a punitive move.

As a close friend of mine told me when leaving,

“NYC ain’t gonna get its groove back. What has happened in NYC has made it impossible for me. It’s not being a conservative in a lefty city. I’ve always been fine with that – there was a place for me, the resistance. But now, it’s not just that the city has jerked left. It’s that it despises any form of success or ambition. It’s not just the GOP that is disgusting. It’s any form of trying to succeed in business or school or art. The culture of NYC used to adore its big dreamers and big ambitions. Now, it hates them.

That’s why ordinary diners are attacked by “peaceful protestors”. It has nothing to do with any issue or justice. It’s simply about wealth redistribution – diner has money, protestor doesn’t, therefore protestor has the right to disrupt the diner and the restaurant. It sickens me. I can live in a place where I am a tiny minority. I can’t live in a place that wants to rob me.”

So many of us feel this way. We feel hated for succeeding, we feel attacked. I grew up in the Bronx, the product of a single-mother household, and attended NYC public schools, yet Mayor De Blasio attacked people like me who went to the Hamptons during the pandemic for fresh air and space, calling us “fair-weather friends.” I’ve paid tens of millions of dollars in taxes in NYC and employ hundreds of people. I am not evil because I succeed, not a “fair-weather” friend because I have a home in the Hamptons. I’m proud of what I have accomplished and apologize to absolutely no one for it.

De Blasio got what he wanted – many of those “fair-weather friends” haven’t returned. Many of my hedge fund friends moved quietly to Palm Beach and won’t return. Perhaps that’s the strategy of these progressives all along – to destroy business and commerce. Sitting in wide-open Florida, it is hard to think this isn’t part of some sinister plan.

For the first time ever, I have proactively made it my mission to meet the front-runners running for Mayor in the upcoming November election. In a race in which accepting donations from real estate developers is considered controversial, perhaps it’s unsurprising the business community has been overwhelmingly silent surrounding the upcoming election, and the candidates are largely people who haven’t accomplished much. There are no big names and certainly no sure-fire candidate who can turn this mess around.

On the Democratic side, there is Eric Adams, the current Brooklyn Borough President. He appears to be the best of the worst. He’s a former NYPD captain who touts law and order. He has stated that “business is needed in NYC.” He claims to be a moderate – although he also wants to raise taxes, not the brightest move when NY’s best and brightest are fleeing. Andrew Yang, the current front-runner, is an open “progressive” touting universal basic income – a socialist endeavor. Yang, who portrays himself as an uber-successful entrepreneur, has a net worth of $600K according to his financial filings. Not exactly super successful when it comes to NYC cost of living – so what makes him qualified to solve NY’s huge issues? Most of the Democratic candidates identify as “progressives” – the prescription which led us into this situation. On the Republican side is Fernando Mateo, a long-time advocate for livery cabs. In a city where Republicans are outnumbered seven to one, it seems like a lost cause.

I write this from Miami where I’ve been out daily for dinner at restaurants, after days packed with Zoom calls, where real estate is booming, where the sun is shining, and where the energy is what New York City used to have. Offices won’t reopen full-time, and if they don’t do that then why must I live in the city? Many more have left NYC than realized, and when that happens and progressives seek to continue to tax, tax, and tax, then what happens to those who make money who remain?

I’m sad and pessimistic that New York City will ever recover. I have lived there my whole life, and I am terrified about the future of our once-great city.

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Ronn Torossian is Founder and CEO of 5WPR, a leading PR Firm in New York and one of the 20 largest independently owned agencies in the United States. Ronn is an active Jewish philanthropist through his charity organization, the Ronn Torossian Foundation.
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