Pandemic Exodus: Moving companies turn customers away as people leave Tri-State in record numbers

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- It's a sad reality during the pandemic: People are leaving New York City in record numbers, and moving companies are so busy they are even turning people away.

7 On Your Side Investigates analyzed postal service address change information to find out just how many left, and since the middle of March, we found many people have fled the state entirely.

Jana Ernakovich moved temporarily to be with family in New Hampshire.

"It was pretty surreal, and I feel like I absconded in the middle of the night because that's kind of what I did," Ernakovich said.

Casey Madden moved in with family in Long Island and then moved out of state to Tampa, Florida, with her boyfriend.

"All of the things I loved about New York City kind of just disappeared because of COVID," Madden said.

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And others, like Mitch Stein, moved back in with family in the Midwest.

"I felt bad about leaving, even though it was the right decision for me for now," he said.

Stein, like many of the people we spoke with, said he loaded up his belongings after being able to work remotely and after seeing the city he loves become unrecognizable.

"Since everyone's in the same boat, there's no downside to being elsewhere," he said. "There's actually an upside because living expenses are so low."

7 On Your Side Investigates requested from the United States Postal Service how many families requested a change of address and moved to zip codes outside of New York City, and the numbers are big.

In the month of March alone, there was a 256% increase in people moving out of the city compared to the same month last year.

Overall since March, more than 246,000 people have filed a change of address request. That's an almost 100% increase compared to the same time period in 2019.

"Back then, it was really scary and I just couldn't be there," Ernakovich said.

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Many of those who didn't leave the state opted for the more open spaces of the suburbs, where prices have increased and the inventory has decreased.

"It's now just on steroids almost," said realtor Amanda Saraceno, with Keller Williams Realty Group.

Saraceno said it started out as people searching for temporary homes and then transitioned into more permanent situations.

"Rentals, rentals, rentals, all of the rentals were gone," she said. "And that quickly turned, once they disappeared, into sales."

But not all of the moves are permanent. Many of the longtime New Yorkers we spoke with say they plan on returning, they just don't know when.

Meanwhile, that means fewer people visiting restaurants, stores and the other attractions that help make the city come to life.

"We hope by the New Year, there will be more clarity of what's going on and what state is safe to live in," Madden said.

(Moving data compiled by Frank Esposito for Eyewitness News)

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