Retiring to the City That Never Sleeps

Older Adults Eschew Florida, Choose NYC’s Art and Cultural Offerings

By Max Gross

Published April 18, 2003, issue of April 18, 2003.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Judy Goldman was restless.

Goldman, 65, had spent most of her life in Houston, where she raised her family, but after her husband died in 1989 and her children went off to college, Goldman wasn’t sure how to fill her days. She went back to school to become a registered nurse, but she found the work dreary.

Three and a half years ago, when some friends were about to sell a studio apartment in New York’s West Village, Goldman decided to buy it. Two of her children had settled in New York, and Goldman, originally from Philadelphia, planned to divide her time between New York and Houston.

But Goldman found that she didn’t really want to divide her time — she wanted to become a full-fledged New Yorker. Last year she sold her house in Houston and has since lived in Manhattan fulltime.

According to a survey of brokers at some of Manhattan’s elite real estate agencies, in the past four or five years hundreds of affluent Jews from the suburbs or out of state have decided to spend their golden years not in the pink-flamingo paradise of south Florida, but in the whitefish haven of New York.

While, according to AARP (formerly known as American Association of Retired Persons), most Americans tend to stay in their homes for as long as health and their finances allow, Jews attached to New York might be the exception to this rule.

“Jews are much more likely to [retire to the city] than gentiles,” said a specialist in social trends, Joel Kotkin, who is a senior research fellow at the Davenport Institute for Public Policy.

Kotkin said that while retirees tend to leave New York at probably twice the rate as those who choose to settle in the city, retirees who do adopt New York as their home tend to be “people who are affluent, people who are culture mongers…. Jews are vastly over-represented in that cohort.”

Fred Siegel, a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute in Washington, concurs. “I know it’s happening,” said Siegel. Siegel says he observed a similar phenomenon in Highland Park, a predominantly Jewish town on the Gold Coast of Chicago. “In Highland Park you’ve got a good classic movie theater, a library, cultural events. It’s basically what people would retire to in Manhattan on a small scale.”

Siegel attributes the recent move to New York City to a number of different factors. People are retiring with higher incomes, and the city itself underwent a renewal. “Once crime came down, that became one of the key things,” said Siegel. “That’s a prerequisite.”

Siegel says that many cities will want to encourage this. “Mayors like to attract [retirees] because they’re low tax” cost, said Siegel. “They don’t have kids in public school, and they’re big spenders. Rich Daley [the mayor of Chicago] has thought about these people. They’re very attractive to have.”

Kotkin calls retirees like the Kramers and Goldman “a self-selected group of sophistos.” The retirees experience the many-sided splendor of a city that most natives are too busy to enjoy.

“Our son Danny says that we’re tourists,” said Fradie Kramer, who four years ago moved with her husband, Dr. Milton Kramer, having spent most of their lives in Ohio. “I came to New York a yokel. I was just besotted with the city.”

The Kramers have been exploring New York life in ways that New Yorkers rarely get a chance to. Dr. Kramer teaches a class at Maimonides Medical Center. Fradie Kramer sits on the boards of the National Labor Alliance and the New York Regional Committee and is a vice president of the Habonim Dror Foundation. They attend the theater, the opera and the ballet. “Our big thing is lectures,” said Fradie Kramer.

Likewise, listening to Goldman describe her day would make many native New Yorkers jealous. “New York is a smorgasbord, and I’m hungry,” Goldman said proudly. Goldman leads tours at the American Folk Art Museum, teaches a class on 1960s cinema at the New School University, is an active member of the Town and Village Synagogue, takes Talmud classes at the Skirball Institute and does volunteer work making audiocassettes of books for the blind.

Steven James, executive vice president at Douglas Elliman, one of the largest realtors in Manhattan, casually mentioned this phenomenon to some of his brokers and was stunned to hear how many of them had been selling to retirees from outside the city. “It was sort of a surprise, but not [really a surprise] because the city is quite wonderful,” said James. “You have the arts, part-time work for the elderly, health service, and it’s easy to get around. You can take a cab, get on the bus.”

“We always had two cars,” said Fradie Kramer. “We got rid of both of them, and we feel liberated. All of Manhattan is a no-parking zone, anyway.”

For the Kramers and Goldman, Manhattan has the additional advantage of being a Jewish cultural mecca. The Kramers regularly dine at their neighborhood Moroccan kosher restaurant and shop at the kosher butcher.

“The options for Jewish learning in New York are something that you can’t get anywhere else,” said Goldman. Goldman can’t understand why anyone would retire anywhere else. As she was about to expound on this, she cut herself off. “I didn’t think I would talk this long!” Goldman apologized to a reporter. “I’m late for my class!”






Find us on Facebook!
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.