• A video tweet from over the weekend showing long lines at the U-Haul in Manhattan went viral on Saturday, prompting a conversation about the number of people who are fleeing the city.
  • We visited that same U-Haul two days after the tweet was posted to ask people waiting in line if they were moving out of New York City.
  • The line on Monday was unsurprisingly shorter than the tweet depicted, but of the seven people we spoke to, only three people – including a couple and an actor – were planning to leave the city.
  • Weekends in August are historically known to be busy moving times during the year, but according to a study by Redfin, New York City had the highest number of people looking for property in other cities during the second quarter of 2020.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A video tweet from conservative news pundit Greg Kelly showing long lines outside of a U-Haul outpost in New York City went viral this past weekend, prompting online debate about an “exodus.”

“Big lines this morning at UHAUL,” Kelly tweeted. “CATASTROPHIC setbacks in quality of life – people have had enough.”

Darrell Best, a concierge at a luxury condominium building across the street from the U-Haul, told Business Insider he saw lines that stretched down the block over the last few days, longer at the end of this month compared to prior months.

“I think it’s very much pandemic related,” Best said. “People are afraid, so a lot of people are moving.”

But most people waiting in line at that same U-Haul location in Manhattan who spoke to Business Insider on Monday weren’t leaving the city at all. Of the seven interviewed, only three people planned to move out of the city.

The summer months of June, July, and August are a perennially popular time to move, according to a moving guide from MovingLabor.com. Every weekend of August is a particularly “pandemonium” time for moving.

However, despite outrage over the tweet, Kelly’s video post is just one of many describing the supposed “death” of New York City and the rise of suburbia amid the pandemic.

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According to data from real estate consulting and appraising company Miller Samuel Inc provided to The New York Times, property sales have dropped 56% in Manhattan comparing July 2020 to July 2019.

Inversely, suburban home sales in counties near Manhattan, such as Westchester, New York, have seen an increase to the tune of 44%.

The U-Haul in Manhattan on Aug. 31, 2020

Foto: The U-Haul in Manhattan on Aug. 31, 2020. Source: Brittany Chang

Some will stay and some will go

“New York is a survivor,” Phil Burke, who was waiting in line for a U-Haul to move from Manhattan to Canada, told Business Insider.

Burke – an actor who’s leaving New York after 18 to 19 years of living in the city and other parts of the country – made the decision to head back to his birth country, Canada, due to work opportunities, rent prices, and the pandemic.

“Things are pretty difficult in the city right now,” Burke said. “I hate to leave, but the opportunity presented itself, and I have some work possibilities in Canada.”

Chelsea Keyes and Evan McDuffie, an engaged couple, were also waiting in line for a U-Haul to make the move from Brooklyn to Connecticut.

The couple previously left New York City amid the pandemic in March to instead stay in their home state, Connecticut, for five months.

For Keyes and McDuffie, the decision to move came when their lease in Brooklyn started winding down. The couple already had plans to leave the city for more space but were planning for it to be in four to five years instead of right now.

“I don’t think it’s like a mass exodus, but I think you’re seeing a ton of people moving, and I think it all depends on your situation,” Keyes said.

According to a study by Redfin, New York City – as opposed to cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington DC – had the highest number of people looking for property in other cities during the second quarter of 2020.

However, this “net outflow” of New York City residents was lower in 2020 compared to 2019, although Redfin says this could be because the people who were looking for properties outside of New York City had already fled the city.

“Our building has over 20 people moving out in August,” McDuffie said. “Another [building] there has 900 units, and 400 are vacant right now.”

Another U-Hauler, Tyler Nappy, however, was moving within the city – from the Upper West Side of Manhattan to Long Island City.

For Nappy, it was less about leaving Manhattan, and more about finding a new apartment with more space to work from home as the tech company he works for announced remote work will be in effect until at least July 2021.

U-haul truck

Foto: U-Haul moving truck parked in a suburban neighborhood in San Ramon, California, wide angle, February 2, 2020. Source: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

He also acknowledges that the move to Long Island City likely wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for the pandemic and his need for more work from home space.

Nappy says his brother who resides in Long Island and a friend from New Jersey are both planning to move into Manhattan soon.

“Honestly, I feel like it’s half-and-half,” Nappy said. “You have some people who are going out to the suburbs, other people are just traveling around, and I [know] people who are coming back in.

Another waiting U-Hauler, Michelle Morah, said while she doesn’t personally know anyone moving out of the city, she has seen an increase in moving-related activities in her neighborhood

“I’ve seen a lot of moving vans and things, but I think that’s pretty normal,” Morah, a bartender living in the Lower East Side of Manhattan moving in the same area, said. “Every month I see people moving, but I think it’s a little more than usual right now.”

This increased number of movers, and consequently, vacancies, is what encouraged Liz Gavin – a born and raised Manhattanite who’s currently working remotely as a school nurse – to move to a “bigger apartment for a better price” while still remaining in the city.

“My immediate family is here, so I’m happy to stay,” Gavin said. “It would be great to live outside of the city, but I’m also happy to live in the city.”