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New York City's population growth exceeds the suburbs: Report

A walk through WNYC Transmitter Park in Greenpoint.

A walk through WNYC Transmitter Park in Greenpoint. Photo Credit: Jeremy Bales

The huge green lawns and picket fences of the suburbs are not the dream destination for people anymore.

For the first time since World War II, more residents moved into the five boroughs than Long Island, New Jersey and southwestern Connecticut combined, according to a Rutgers University study released Monday.

In fact, between 2010-2013, there were nearly twice as many people settling down in the Big Apple than the suburbs, according to the report that analyzed census data decade-by-decade between 1950 and 2010 and from '10-'13.

The surge in new Big Apple residents can be attributed to improved city conditions and a general change in taste among millennials compared to their parents, according to James W. Hughes, the dean of the university's public policy school and the study's co-author.

"During the '70s, New York lost its cache. It wasn't as glamorous as it used to be," he said. "Now it's a reverse flow."

Between 2010 and 2013, the city's population grew by 215,840 while the suburban communities (which the study defines as including four Pennsylvania counties, three in Connecticut, nine in New York and eleven in New Jersey) grew only by 113,227. Brooklyn led the city with 82,426 new residents followed by Queens with 61,135.

The New Jersey counties of Essex, Hudson and Union (which saw a 2010-13 population increase of 40,013) were considered part of the "regional core" by Hughes' team and exempt from the suburban total.

Although the five boroughs saw various degrees of population growth and decline between 1950 and 2010 the suburbs always had a bigger surge of residents in those decades. More than 2 million people flocked to the suburbs in both the '50s and '60s and another million moved there in the '90s.

Hughes said that when baby boomers became young adults in the '60s and '70s they preferred to settle in suburban counties such as Westchester, Fairfield, Connecticut, and Hunterdon, New Jersey, because they offered an alternative to a city that was stricken with higher crime and other quality of life issues.

"The suburbs were a different place in the '60s and '70s. It was much more youthful, it wasn't as congested," he said.

In contrast, baby boomers' offspring are drawn to up-and-coming urban neighborhoods and all that they have to offer.

"The 'echo boomers' and millennials like the city setting. They like walking to work and living near the best restaurants, parks, etc.," Hughes said.

The population influx will boost the city's economy, according to Hughes. Institutions big and small, such as Google and even "The Tonight Show," are taking root in New York and tapping into the growing number of young professionals.

The Department of City Planning, which tracks population changes, said it will continue to complement the population boom with policy alterations that improve the quality of life in the five boroughs.

"We recognize that the key to continuing the city's dynamic growth is increasing housing production generally and affordability in particular," City Planning Commission chairman Carl Weisbrod said in a statement.

Hughes said it wasn't possible to accurately predict if the city will keep soaring past the suburbs but said it is highly likely because of enduring buzz surrounding Brooklyn and Queens.

"The city must have been doing something right," he said. "The ability of people to live safe in the environment in all of these places is growing and it coincided with this demographic mentally change."

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