Like many before him, Brenan Hefner arrived in New York 20 years ago in search of a career on Wall Street.
His journey will sound familiar to those drawn to the nation’s financial capital. Hefner got a job at an asset management firm in Manhattan, found love and career success, and eventually moved to Pelham, an upscale town in Westchester, to start a family.
He would still be there if it wasn’t for the coronavirus pandemic. When Hefner, co-founder of a research platform called Analyst Hub, sold his house this summer to a couple from London, he wondered if it made sense to look beyond the surrounding neighborhoods for a new home. He ended up moving his family to Dallas last month.
Hefner is one of thousands of high earners who’ve left New York this year, an exodus that is deepening concerns over a projected $9 billion budget shortfall. While the city is no longer the national virus hotspot it was earlier this year, those leaving cite anxiety over the region’s economy and quality of life and a conviction that higher taxes are coming. Last month, business leaders publicly upbraided Mayor Bill De Blasio for “deteriorating conditions in commercial districts and neighborhoods across the five boroughs.”
By forcing the mass adoption of remote work and crimping many of the advantages of urban life, the pandemic has turbocharged migration from high cost, high-density places to lower-cost states including Texas, Florida and Nevada. Nearly half of New Yorkers earning more than $100,000 a year said they considered leaving the city recently, with cost of living being the top factor, according to a Manhattan Institute survey.
“The cost of living down here is significantly less,” Hefner said by phone from his new home. “There’s no state income tax. I’m not riding mass transit during the middle of a global pandemic to get to a subway to live in a WeWork or something.”
For Hefner, the pandemic showed that for those in financial services, the gravitational pull of New York still exists, but is far weaker. He says he is about as effective operating his business over Slack and Zoom, and plans on flying to New York monthly for client meetings. His company, founded in 2018, helps star Wall Street analysts leave big banks to form independent research shops.
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