Friday, July 11, 2008

We love you as well

I came across this article in the New York Sun, some southerners may find it offensive, not me. I really didn’t read anything that’s not true. The pizza? Sure we got good, great pizza just not on every corner. Yes, it’s a slower lifestyle here, we speak slower and our public transportation sucks. But I love NYC and if I were a rich man I would have homes in both Atlanta and NYC.

Read on

Atlanta sounded pretty good to Scott Merritt while he was squeezed into his parents’ home on Long Island with his wife and two children.He took a new job in the Georgia capital and moved his family to a $275,000 house in the suburbs with four bedrooms, a two-car garage, and a yard with a swimming pool. It came at a cost to his New York sensibilities.”I haven’t found a single slice of pizza I have been remotely satisfied with,” Mr. Merritt, 34, said. “I am not going to the corner pharmacy and being welcomed by name any longer. It was a culture shock.”The Merritts are among throngs of New Yorkers relocating to Georgia for affordable housing, a lower cost of living, a thriving job market, and warmer winters. Displaced Northerners must adjust to Southern accents, a slower lifestyle, restaurants that close early, a ban on Sunday liquor sales, and a reverence for “Gone With the Wind.”They’re hunkering down by sticking together. New Yorkers in Atlanta have their own group on, and crowd athletic venues when the Mets, Islanders, or Jets visit. One exile has a Web log called Voted Off the Island.”We have this pocket of all relocated New Yorkers who hang out together,” Mr. Merritt said. “All damn Yankees.”About 40,000 New Yorkers resettled in Atlanta between 2000 and 2005, double the number from any other state, according to the Atlanta Regional Commission. An additional 14,000 came from New Jersey. Atlanta gained 1 million people in the past seven years, the most of any American metropolitan area. It added 177,549 jobs from 2003 to 2006.”There is a huge migration from high-cost areas to lower-cost areas, and Atlanta is a big beneficiary,” a senior economist with Wachovia Corp. in Charlotte, N.C., Mark Vitner, said.Housing is the biggest catalyst, a real-estate agent and former New Yorker in Marietta, Ga., who helps others relocate, Barry Wolfert, 42, said. The Atlanta area’s median sales price for an existing single-family home was $172,000 last year, compared with $469,700 for the New York-Northern New Jersey region, according to the National Association of Realtors.”For the money, you get double or triple the home,” Mr. Wolfert said.

A career move spurred George Fleck, 32, to give up a $1,800 rent-controlled, studio apartment in Chelsea last year. For $1,300, he got a one-bedroom apartment with a balcony overlooking downtown Atlanta’s Piedmont Park.

Mr. Fleck said he walks to his job at a midtown hotel and gets stares when he tells local residents that he doesn’t have a car. Atlanta’s Marta subway system has just two lines and fewer than 50 stops.

Differences like that make some transplants disdainful of their new address 900 miles south.

“Atlanta is a second-tier city,” Jessica Harlan, 36, who relocated two years ago, said. “New York is cooler and more exciting in every respect.”

New Yorkers may even take exception to the way Georgians speak. Their drawl, and expressions like “y’all” and “bless her heart,” grate on some newcomers.

“If my kids have a Southern accent, I will kill myself,” Brooklyn native Jodi Fleisig, an Atlanta resident since 1998, said. Ms. Fleisig said she tends to socialize with ex-New Yorkers, and finds inviting Southerners to lunch can be troublesome.

“Being Southern means you wait for someone to finish a sentence,” she said. “We talk really fast. They can’t get a word in edgewise.”

City and business leaders have welcomed the new arrivals as good for the economy.

“There are not many of us natives left,” Atlanta’s mayor from 1970 to 1974 and now head of the Buckhead Coalition, a political and business group dedicated to improving that area, Sam Massell, said. “There is a Southern hospitality here. The newcomers have adapted to that style very comfortably.”

Skeptics say Atlanta, home of the 1996 Summer Olympics, risks becoming too cosmopolitan.

“We are not going to get that sophisticated, damn it,” native Mary Dobbs, 62, said. “We are not that involved in sports. We have other things to do.”

Atlantans bear no personal hostility toward New Yorkers, another native, who is director of the Gone With the Wind Museum, Connie Sutherland, said.

“Since 9/11, everybody in the country has bonded with New York,” she said.

Some New York transfers embrace the Southern lifestyle.

Steve Segall, 23, who moved to Atlanta after graduating from Cornell University, said friends up north are envious that when they have a foot of snow on the ground, Atlanta’s climate allows him to play golf after work.

Even so, the New Yorkers-in-Atlanta group on draws suggestions of places for partying together and alerts on low airfares home.

“I miss the lawn on Central Park,” Simone Joye, 42, who organized the site after moving to suburban Stone Mountain three years ago, said. “I miss pizza — real pizza — and bagels and lox. I miss bridges and the water, which creates a sense of serenity. Atlanta has no beaches.”

The pull of Atlanta’s affordability versus New York’s excitement sometimes results in boomerangs. Amy Josephson, 46, moved to Atlanta a first time in 1992, returned to New York in 2005, then came back to Atlanta in September.

“I am a New Yorker through and through,” she said, yet she missed her friends in Atlanta and its lower cost of living. “I may feel different tomorrow.”

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