South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday)
THE NEW SNOWBIRD
Young, and working remotely to wait out the pandemic
There’s a new generation of snowbirds flocking to South Florida this season.
They’re young, mobile and working remotely because
COVID-19 has closed their offices. All they want is good weather and decent WiFi.
Many are in their 20s, 30s and
40s and lived in New York and New Jersey until the pandemic made them think twice about life in the big city or its suburbs.
Call them snow chicks, the offspring of our beloved seasonal snowbirds.
These chicks have a lot to get used to in their new Florida environment, including relatively lax rules about mask-wearing. Most had become accustomed to wearing masks anywhere outside their homesin the Northeast, including while exercising or heading to the grocery store.
“Mask compliance up North is much better than here,” said Louis
“We figured, why not come for winter?” Deanna Peysekhman, who arrived last month with her husband and three sons
Stromberg, 32, a Montclair, N.J., resident who has moved in with his parents in Delray Beach for the coming months. He’s a sleepaway
camp director who calls himself a “working snowbird.”
Many newcomers from the North have found Florida’s mixed messages about masks jarring as COVID
19 enters its peak. Still, the crisp, sunny weather seems to counter the anxiety.
“I’d rather be home in Florida where I have space to work and access to the beach,” said Phoebe Dinner,
26, who grew up in Boca Raton and has moved back in with her parents. “It was starting to get really cold andwe couldn’t go outdoors anymore. Nowat least I can go for a walk and be withmy family.”
Dinner lives in Manhattan’s East Village and works remotely for a real estate start-up. She still has to pay rent on her New York apartment as she basks in the sun here but says she’s saving money by living with her parents. She plans to stay in Boca “til it gets warmer” in the city.
It’s not all single people settling in for the winter. Couples are coming too, and they’re bringing the kids. Deanna Peysekhman, 34, arrived last month with her husband, 36, and three sons, ages 3,6and8. They’re staying at her parents’ house in Hollywood through mid-January, at aminimum.
“I switched the kids to virtual school so we could all come,” said Peysekhman, who’s from Freehold, N.J. “My husband works from home for a health care start-up. We figured, why not come for winter?”
It’s hard to measure how many young Northerners have moved for this coronavirus winter to South Florida, said Peter Ricci, director of Florida Atlantic University’s hospitality and tourism management program. People who stay with friends and family are always “a substantial portion of the tourism market,” whose numbers maybe multiplying because of the pandemic, he said.
“It’s likely we’ll see higher numbers of people visiting friends and relatives than we have in a long time,” he said.
‘Where can I go?’
Not everyone moving in is living with family, though. In September, Jen Pugliese learned her office at Culture IQ, a smallcompany in New York that works to improve workplaces, was not going to reopen as planned and she would continue working virtually. Her apartment lease was set to expire at the end of October. She thought to herself: “Where can I go?”
She settled on Fort Lauderdale, which she had visited several times in 2019. She found a furnished sublet on the New River with a month-to-month lease.
But after twoweeks here, she contracted COVID
19, which she believes she caught froma Florida friend who also came down with symptoms. She said she became deeply saddened and depressed.
“I had been so cautious in New York,” she said. “I was upset and felt deflated a bit. I questioned my decision to move.”
She recently finished her two-week quarantine and the recovery has been slow. She still has a cough, body aches and loss of taste and smell. But she said the
70- degree weather over the past week has lifted her sadness.
“The sun is shining and I’m walking my dog,” she said.
Resorts see a market
Resorts are trying to appeal to the sun-seeking, virtual-work crowd to fill the rooms that the pandemic has kept empty. The Ben, a new waterfront hotel in West Palm Beach, has been emphasizing its dog-friendliness, the fast speed of its WiFi and dry cleaning and other amenities to attract mobile young professionals.
Crane’s Beach House in Delray Beach has been marketing its “Work-away Getaway” package, which includes extended- stay discounts in suites with full kitchens and living rooms, a business concierge to assist with work-related chores and a gift of beer or wine in each room upon arrival.
But although many are happy to be in warmer climes, some are feeling a sense of loss about how the pandemic has altered their life plans.
Jessica Stallone, 29, has moved from New York to live with her parents and sister in Boca Raton, where she grew up, and feels like she is missing out on the key life experience of becoming self-reliant after finishing school.
“I want to live my life. I love my independence,” said Stallone, who works remotely for the Anti-Defamation League. “It’s been a difficult adjustment.”
After finishing graduate school at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., Stall one came home to Boca Raton for spring break as the pandemic began and stayed for three months. She moved to New York in September to take the ADL job, came home for Thanksgiving and is hunkering down in Boca now for a second long-term stay.
“I thought I’d go back after the holiday,” she said. “As it got closer to the flight, the reality was that the pandemic was going in the wrong direction.”
Stallone says she’s here “indefinitely.”
“I’m going to stay put down here until I feel like it’s safe to be back inthe city or there’s a vaccine available tome, or both,” she said.