Juan Negroni (opinion): Hey New Yorkers, learn to drive on CT roads

A “Welcome to Connecticut” sign on West Putnam Avenue at the New York State border in Greenwich, Conn.

A “Welcome to Connecticut” sign on West Putnam Avenue at the New York State border in Greenwich, Conn.

Karen Tensa / Hearst Connecticut Media

During 2021 I traveled on business throughout the United States for some 14 weeks. Recently, nine of those were consecutive weeks in Colorado. I would fly back each weekend to my Connecticut home. The only time I ventured away from home was to catch a flight back to Denver.

Two weeks ago, as my daughter drove us throughout Fairfield County, I began seeing many cars with New York license plates. They were all around us. It was as if we had been invaded by out-of-state drivers.

Was this new or had it been going on since 2020 during the outbreak of the pandemic when New Yorkers decided to move to Connecticut and elsewhere? Had I been oblivious to this ongoing invasion? As I often say, “Sometimes we see without really seeing.”

As we made our way on the Post Road and then onto Interstate-95, New York license plates seemed to be glaring at me everywhere we went. The 1956 sci-fi movie “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” came to mind. Now I knew that plant seeds inside pods were not about to snatch our bodies and change our personalities as they did in that movie. But were these out-of-state drivers snatching our space?

My lingering question was whether what I perceived rested only in my imagination. Or was there anything online to substantiate my perception? Which there was.

For instance, a recent study indicated that in comparison to other states Connecticut saw the largest percentage increase in transplants, up by 66 percent in 2020 from 2019. Fairfield County was at the top of the list because of its geographic proximity to New York City.

Real estate agents here have fared well. Housing prices have been driven up. And houses have often been gobbled up almost immediately after they were put on the market.

As to the increase in cars, a Realtor colleague said, “Most New Yorkers don’t have cars. They take buses, subways and taxis to get around. A younger family’s moving to Connecticut means two more cars, and regular driving is not in their DNA.”

He added, “Consequently, New York drivers are used to a faster pace environment. They’re apt to be more subconsciously aggressive. Sometimes, they believe they are in a race. It gets crazy. You should spend time around the school area as people drop of their kids. You’ll see what I mean.”

Another colleague, a Weston resident since the 1950s, told me about his experience as a child, and contrasted it with today. He said, “When I was eight years old, my father and I would play the identify-the-car game. We would sit on the edge of the road and try to guess the model names of the cars as they went by. From a distance I knew what Crosley and Hudson autos from that era looked like.”

He went on, “Sometimes it would be 30 minutes between cars passing by. It’s changed recently. Cars speed by regularly. Often, it’s out-of-state drivers. They forget that country driving is different from Manhattan driving.”

Another Connecticut resident said, “Sadly I think out-of-state drivers have had a negative influence on how we drive. Because of them we tend to tailgate more and up our speed and weave in and out more on the road.”

A long-time New Yorker friend who now lives near SoHo said, “I’m not sure how New Yorkers are driving in Connecticut. But a cousin in Litchfield, Connecticut, told me they are being overrun by NYC drivers. Here in NYC, we have always had out-of-staters come in to dine and take up parking spaces. But with the pandemic, restaurants began building outside dining structures that extended into the streets. If parking was bad before, it’s impossible now.”

I feel for my SoHo friend. Individual perspective often is a question of where one sleeps.

Moreover, I don’t begrudge NYC drivers for looking for housing in the Connecticut area or anywhere else. After all, they want only what they believe is best for themselves and their families. But this invasion of drivers has become real and challenging on the roadways.

The Long Island Expressway, because of its frequent bumper-to-bumper traffic, is labeled as the longest parking lot in the world. Are Connecticut’s major state roads about to challenge the LIE for this tag?

Our woes with these out-of-staters reminded me of the children’s picture book, “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” Things got so bad for young Alex that he thought of moving to Australia. The moral of the story is that often there is an end to each bad day.

I don’t know how this invasion will turn out. But as with most seemingly temporary setbacks, I’m hopeful. But if this influx continues, for sure, I will not be moving to Australia.

Juan Negroni, a Weston resident, is a consultant, bilingual speaker and writer. He is the immediate past chair/CEO, Institute of Management Consultants. Email him at juannegroni12@gmail.com.