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I always hated the “Goodbye, New York” genre of writing. “Good riddance,” I’d think. “More room for us.”
I was raised in Brooklyn, my husband in Queens. Our three children were born in Manhattan. I was a New York supremacist. Your city is fine, really, it’s just that it’s not New York. It’s not even close. I’ve been to your city. Yes, I’ve been to that deli or that restaurant. That one street, it’s wonderful. But it’s not comparable to the greatest city in the history of the world. It’s just not.
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So it’s with some sadness and a lot of anger that I feel our family now needs to leave the city we’ve loved for so long. We’re going to Florida, a state we’ve come to regard as the beacon of freedom in this country.
It wasn’t that we suddenly realized Florida was sunny or had no state income tax. It isn’t because, as the Onion joked years ago, that as New Yorkers we woke up one day and realized it’s a horrible place to live. Not because of New York’s increasingly leftist politics, though obviously that didn’t help.
It was because they took away school during the pandemic and not enough of my fellow New Yorkers cared. I kept looking around at a civilization that does not value education. Or worse, values it for their own kids, in the form of private pods or putting them into open private schools, but won’t fight for their less fortunate neighbors to have the same.
And then, when schools finally reopened there was no discussion about the broken system that had kept them closed. The very same people stuck kids in masks indefinitely, even outdoors.
But the worst part was that New Yorkers quietly accepted this. At least schools were open, they said. We were a city of strivers! We were never a city that accepted the bare minimum, that was for … other cities, and here we were imposing just that on our children.
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My leaving New York story isn’t about how hard it got to live here. It was always hard and I loved every second. It’s about a shift that happened in New York society and how deeply scarring it was. “They ordered public schools to close, but private schools stayed open,” I scream into the void. “And that was after the same people spent the whole summer marching for equity.”
We spent nearly five months in Florida last year giving it a test run. My kids got to go to real school. It’s absolutely because the leadership of Florida, with Gov. Ron DeSantis at the helm, understands the importance of children, of education, of normalcy. He drew lines in the sand and did not let anyone cross them. It was dazzling to watch kids be put first after living in a state that has them dead last.
It was leadership in action. I interviewed Gov. DeSantis nearly a year ago and he told me then he was “most proud of getting our kids back at school. We knew the data, we knew it was low-risk. We felt we had to hold the line on this. We knew it was the case six to eight months ago. We were able to save the upbringing of hundreds of thousands of kids.”
The seriousness with which he treated the lives of children stuck with me. When my own New York leaders, led by their ultimate boss American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten, discarded kids, I remembered the Florida governor’s words.
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Still, you can’t move your family to another state because there is an effective leader. You can’t make decisions for the rest of your life based on one politician. What makes Florida appealing starts with Gov. DeSantis but does not end there.
I see a sanity in Floridians that is simply missing from New Yorkers right now. The masking, for example, is a tell. During our time in Florida last year, no one masked outdoors, not Republicans I met nor Democrats.
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In May, Dr. Anthony Fauci said, “The risk when you’re outdoors – which we have been saying all along – is extremely low.” But even today, so many New Yorkers continue to mask outdoors. It’s no wonder there’s no end date for kids to remove their masks in schools.
There’s nothing more crushing than watching kindergartners masked outside at recess while their geriatric Gov. Kathy Hochul is never photographed in a mask at her numerous events around the state.
It feels like mania. I had always considered New Yorkers as wise and able to see all the angles. Why can’t they now?
When World War II began, my grandmother, her sister and their mother left their town of Gomel and ran east. My grandmother’s two brothers had been drafted to the front. Her father had died in a gulag several years before. They didn’t know for sure that times were about to get very bad. That’s the thing about fleeing somewhere – you usually don’t know what will happen or if you’re doing the right thing. It’s hard to leave your home before things really come to a head.
I’m not comparing NYC in 2021 to Belarus in 1939. But the idea of doing what is necessary for your family is one that my family has lived in a number of variations.
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We can’t stay somewhere that treats children as an afterthought. We can’t stay somewhere that doesn’t fight for their own kids and the kids of their neighbors. We can’t wait for kids to get their childhood back and just hope for the best.
We saw something we can’t unsee. It’s time to go.
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