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Why did a diehard New Yorker decide to move to Miami?

Victor Harary

Victor, or as his friends call him, Vico was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, then moved to the Upper East Side of Manhattan after graduating un...

Victor, or as his friends call him, Vico was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, then moved to the Upper East Side of Manhattan after graduating un...

Dec 12 10 minutes read

Why did a diehard New Yorker decide to move to Miami? 

From when I was a teen, I just had to get out of Brooklyn and move to “The City.” 

This was before Brooklyn became Brooklyn, and was just Brooklyn. 

All the art that resonated with me was either about escape or romanticized city life. 

Saturday Night Fever, Born To Run, Annie Hall, and Bright Lights Big City, all lead me to one conclusion - I have to say goodbye to Avenue J and move to Manhattan. 

Avenue J? Well, my elementary school was on Ave I, and I lived on K, so that made it difficult to circumvent. 

My high school was on Avenue J, and the 6 bus I took to Brooklyn College went, you guessed it, right through  Avenue J. 

I knew the best pizza/bagel places, where to get the lowest price on Spaldings for punchball, and which candy store under the tracks made the best egg creams. 

Avenue J was etched in my mind and was my universe. It kicked ass on Avenue M but maybe Kings Highway had us beat. 

At 21 my dream came true - My childhood friend, Ikey, and I found a studio apartment on 8th street off Broadway in the city. Life took off! 

It felt like the city was a replicating organism that just kept producing one place better than the other. 

Restaurants from Caramba, Bar Louis, to Canastelles, Cafe Iguana, clubs like Palladium, Limelight, and a 5-floor gym called Vertical Club, were such a feast for our senses and such innovative concepts, that this Avenue J guy mistook it for the  Italian renaissance all over again.  

It felt like every week a new place opened that we had to be the first ones to check out. 

We ate, drank, danced, met so many people from all over the world, and if we got the free fruit plate for dessert from the chef in Canastelles, we felt like kings.

Was I  a party animal? Umm, yes in the beginning, but I also fancied myself a growth, cultural, liberal arts intellectual, kind of guy, and when age made those drinks start hurting the next day more and more, I pivoted towards more enlightened pursuits and mind stimulation. 

Throughout my years in the city, I took literature classes at the New School, film classes at NYU (Hitchcock and Film Noir were my favorites), French classes at Alliance Francaise, lectures at the 92nd Street Y on Sunday nights, and got a post-graduate certificate at NYU School of Continuing Ed. 

These were not obscure treasures that one had to seek out but were literally packed/sold out, with educated people that were there to learn for its own sake.

I was never bored. Culture, education, depth was infused into the very fabric of New York. The Angelica Theatre, Quad, Film Forum always had foreign, classic, and obscure movies showing,  and I remember seeing Amelie at the Paris Theatre at a 9:30 pm slot, that had a  sold-out crowd. 

The music scene was also incredible with small venues like  Mercury Lounge, Irving Plaza, and Roseland. 

If not there, I was at the Comedy Cellar, Gotham, or the Comic Strip, which was a 5-minute walk from where I lived. 

I saw a swing dancing exhibition at Swing 46 one night by pure chance, and subsequently became an avid student in partner dancing, going to dance schools like Dance Manhattan and Dancesport, learning Swing, Salsa, and the Cha-Cha. 

I ended up winning some amateur competitions and even performed at SOB’s. 

I don’t believe any city in any era could have given me this array of choices and kept life so new and exciting that consistently. 

After moving to 15th street and 5th Ave (a one bedroom, woohoo!), then  Murray Hill (big mistake at the time), Ikey and I ended up on the upper east side with separate one bedroom apartments in the same building. 

Life became more subdued, although we still enjoyed the city immensely. 

Usually, Tuesdays were Serafina on 61st (where the cool European, cigarette smokers dined in the front), then  212 or Ferrier on Thursday nights. 

Saturday night maybe we went a little crazy and went to Sams, Living Room, Lotus, or Tao. 

A typical Sunday was Soho brunch or Central Park, sometimes coffee at Barnes and Noble with a stack of books and magazines, then dinner at Mediterraneo, or Baraonda’s Sunday night party which went on all night long.  

Dating, gym, tennis at Roosevelt Island, charity events, Hamptons summer shares, all rounded it off to make our life’s existence truly feel like a mixture of Seinfeld, Friends, and Sex and the City all at once. 

I really had a charmed life and believe I lived in the best of all possible worlds, geographically, economically (most of my friends became very successful), and chronologically. 

I would not have wanted to live in any other place at any other time. 

But alas, things started to change. I’m not sure what it was exactly but was rather a combination of factors. 

I think age had a lot to do with it as most of my friends, including Ikey,  got married and as Chris Rock brilliantly said “I was the oldest guy in the club”. 

But I don’t think it was only that. I know you do not step in the same river twice, but this new river felt muddier and murkier. 

Maybe it was the internet/smartphone that depleted some of the educational and artistic vibrancy that was part of the city’s fabric. 

Maybe it was the proliferation of homelessness in my neighborhood and on the 6 train that I used to take to work every day. 

Maybe it just wasn’t as fresh and new to me anymore. 

The seasonal moodiness was getting worse and I just wasn’t excited about taking a class at the New School anymore, or another share in the Hamptons. 

Baraonda, Per Lei, Medittaraneo, and Serafina didn’t have the same vibe to me and left me feeling meh. I was played out. 

Around that time, my parents would rent an apartment at Turnberry in Aventura for the winter, and I would go visit them, perhaps more often than they liked. 

It felt great being in shorts and a t-shirt, by the pool, or playing tennis outdoors in the middle of winter - that first day of sleepaway camp feeling. 

People felt less stressed here, and everything was spotless. No garbage on the streets, potholes, scaffolding, or honking. 

At night I ventured out - new neighborhoods like Wynwood, Design District, Brickell, Midbeach felt fresh, different, and exciting. 

The restaurants like Komodo, Zuma, Villa Azure, Papi Steak had the old  Canastelles vibe with dancing, music, a bar scene, that felt sexy/fun and they had an older crowd as well. 

New hotels like Faena, Edition, St, Regis, and the One were magnificent and structured to be hung out in, even if not a hotel guest with live music and great lounges. 

Aventura Mall, Bal Harbour, and Brickell City Center made it fun to shop again. 

I started looking for apartments and I liked the fact that the condos all had valet and you can go anywhere in town and park for free or a nominal fee. 

My New York building was charging me $600 a month for a spot and parking became impossible when venturing out in Manhattan.  

Pool, jacuzzi, gym, a den,  closet space, and incredible views for cheaper than my apartment looking over 2nd Avenue got me thinking. 

My apprehensions were that I loved New York and New Yorkers and I would feel alienated in Miami. 

I went to the synagogue, tried Match and JDate, connected with friends of friends, and it started feeling more comfortable. 

The recurring anxiety and depression I felt when landing back at La Guardia, and in the yellow taxi back to 2nd Avenue kept reaffirming my tinkering with possible concrete changes. 

Was I really going to pick up, and move SOLO to Miami?

The seed of that idea kept growing, sprouting, as I kept building my case for finally leaving New York. 

Ultimately I said to myself that I would try it for a year and though I may have moving costs and would have to find a new apartment if I returned, it would be worth the small risk. 

If I was happy there, just the tax savings alone would pay off from a financial standpoint. 

I actually would rent an apartment in Sunny Isles for a few weeks to try for one last trial run. 

Eating outside at Miami Juice on a beautiful sunny day, seeing some people I knew, anticipating going to the beach with them that afternoon, I made my final decision that I am doing this!

That was in late 2013. I have to say that not only do I love it here, but I always encourage everyone I know to do the same. 

For the same rent I paid in Manhattan, I now have a two-bedroom in a brand new building, with a gym, movie theatre, pool and lap pool (no more swimming circles with 3 other people in one lane at Equinox), billiards room, and free valet service. 

I play tennis or swim every day and go to incredibly fun restaurants, lounges or rooftops most every night. 

Weekends are at the beach, brunch overlooking the water, or a bicycle ride to Key Biscayne. 

I have a social event filled synagogue, one block away from me, where I keep meeting more and more New Yorkers that are moving here every day. 

There is always a new place opening that is a must-see, and it’s easy to make friends, as most everyone here is an ex-pat looking for new friends too. 

When I go back to New York, I do relish moments of it, like a nice day eating lunch in Bryant Park, but after 5 days I want to go back to Miami. 

I feel like I hit the refresh button on my life. I really can’t foresee ever wanting to move back.

Miami is my new home!

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