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The British Are Coming... to Manhattan's East Side

By Amy Zimmer | November 29, 2016 1:42pm
 Ex-Londoner David Mathews, who now works at Mdrn. Residential, is seeing an influx of people from the U.K. moving here.
Ex-Londoner David Mathews, who now works at Mdrn. Residential, is seeing an influx of people from the U.K. moving here.
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David Mathews

MANHATTAN — Jessica Nield moved to Stuyvesant Town from London last February, shortly after then-Prime Minister David Cameron set the referendum date for Brexit that culminated in the U.K.'s vote to leave the European Union.

As her country moved toward a more isolationist stance, Nield wanted to expand her own horizons. For her and many others, Brexit from the E.U. turned into Brentrance to New York.

She seized the chance to move here shortly after her employer, Oliver James Associates — an international recruitment firm for financial services — opened its first New York office, importing several U.K. employees to its new space on Third Avenue, a few blocks from Grand Central.

“It’s certainly the case that a lot of people want to leave the U.K.,” said Nield, 25.

“Brexit, I think, affected a lot of things. What’s our situation going to be as mid-20s professionals?”

Nield’s roommate is in a similar boat, recently coming here to work in the new branch of the U.K.-based Production Factory, which produces fashion shoots for magazines and advertisements.

A growing number of U.K.-based firms have opened New York offices in the last year or so, often on the East Side, luring Brits to apartments from the Upper East Side down to the Lower East Side, several expats and brokers said.

And for British families, there's a growing cadre of schools on the East Side rooted in international educational philosophies — both public and private — catering to them.

“The British are really coming,” said ex-Londonder David Mathews, marketing director with Mdrn. Residential, which has a growing roster of British clients.

“It’s happening more and more.”

Mathews previously worked for Golin, an international marketing firm that opened an office on Third Avenue and East 45th Street nearly two years ago and brought over several high-level employees from its London office since that team was outperforming most of the offices it had in the U.S. market, he said.

“They wanted the New York market to be the pinnacle,” said Mathews.

While the West Village has long been a hub for those who missed Marmite, meat pies and HP Sauce at shops like Tea & Sympathy and Myers of Keswick, many of the current wave are moving to the East Side, at least initially, to be within walking distance of their offices, Mathew said.

A group of his former colleagues at Golin, for instance, had a “car pool” of sorts from the Upper East Side, walking to work together.

And schools on the East Side are catering to British families as well, he pointed out.

England's Wetherby-Pembridge School, which educated Princes William and Harry in London, is setting up its first American outpost in the fall on East 96th Street, bringing many of its British traditions with it like its iconic gray uniforms with red trim.

Brokers predict that the school, which will cost $45,500 per year, will draw even more well-heeled British families to the area.

For families without such deep pockets, the Clinton School for Writers and Artists, a public school for sixth through 12th grade, is now pursuing authorization to be an International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, which means it would be able to administer diplomas denoting its students meet rigorous, internationally recognized standards. Gramercy Arts High School, in the Washington Irving Campus on East 17th Street, also offers the IB.

“Where they choose to live usually ties in with where they work, but the Union Square area seems to attract the British more and more,” noted Nadine Hartstein, a broker with BOND New York.

A recent property she had for sale in the East Village, being sold by a British family, coincidentally attracted several prospective buyers from the U.K., Hartstein said.

Several worked at the United Nations. Others were involved with tech start-ups.

“There’s a gravitational pull to the East Village,” she said. “There are a lot of similarities to London. There are lots of foreigners there, a music scene, a sense of community with community gardens.”

For Nield, who was about to decamp to her firm’s Hong Kong office when the New York spot became available, she was fortunate to have relocation help from her firm, she said.

“New York is always a good option because of how similar it is to London and that it’s on the East Coast. But it’s quite difficult here logistically. It’s so expensive,” she said. 

Though she’s being sponsored here on a work visa by her company, the new political situation with President-elect Donald Trump raises questions about how long she’ll be able to stay, she added.

“I’m not American,” she said, “so in that respect it may become more difficult.”

It’s unclear what kind of relationship Trump will have with the U.K.

In a conversation meant to assure the “special relationship” between the two nations will continue, Trump spent less time on the phone with Prime Minister Theresa May after his victory than he did with British TV personality Piers Morgan, according to Business Insider.

But some wealthy Brits don’t seem too concerned.

Charlie Attias, of Corcoran, has a client from London who works in finance and has a budget of $5 to $8 million for a pied-a-terre. After a year of looking, he's ready to buy.

“He feels that prices have come down considerably and thinks prices are attractive enough to pull the trigger,” Attias said.