Is it irrational to love Upstate New York? | Opinion

ALBANY (TNS) — Warning! Residents of a certain region near and dear to our hearts might find that an upcoming quote triggers anger or emotional distress.

If you think you can handle it, here goes: “No rational person wants to live in Upstate New York. It’s cold. It’s snowy. Its infrastructure is 100 years out of date.”

So said John Podhoretz on a recent Commentary magazine podcast as he argued that, with states competing to attract jobs, economically damaged places need to set up regulatory and tax environments that attract, rather than repel, investment.

I generally agree with the broader point about taxes and whatnot. Still, that bit about no rational person hit like a Will Smith to the head. I mean, could it be true?

Is this a region of irrational fools? Are we daft, deluded and duped? Should we accept the truth and load the U-Haul?

Some of you, no doubt, are nodding your heads, vigorously and traitorously, as you consider which faceless Florida community will soon be home.

But before I answer, I’ll note that defending one’s region against outside sleights feels like a newspaper columnist’s obligation, and that if I were to say, “Well, yeah, Podhoretz is absolutely right,” such an admission could be bad for morale and, um, circulation.

So, with that in mind, a message for the haters: “Keep Upstate New York out of your (bleeping) mouth!”

too much? I don’t want to be irrational.

But is this Podhoretz fellow blind to Upstate charms and beauty? Have you ever gazed upon the glittering water of Lake Champlain or looked out across an Adirondack vista?

Has he never cheered the Bills with the sausage-stuffed masses, strolled Elmwood Avenue — wait, is Buffalo Upstate or is western New York distinct? — or seen with his own eyes that Ithaca is gorges?

Infrastructure? Podhoretz must not know that Erie County will soon be home to a football stadium funded by the most generous taxpayer subsidy in American history. It’ll be a wonder of the world, no doubt, rising like a phoenix from a beautiful ocean of suburban parking lots.

OK, our winters linger. But as someone who has lived in fast-growing central Texas, I can say without reservation that surviving an Upstate winter is nothing compared to the suffering imposed by the summers in Austin.

Honestly, it’s like being trapped in a dog’s mouth. Six months of that and you’ll beg for a blizzard.

Here, without further delay, are five non-climatic reasons why it’s entirely rational to live in Upstate New York.

1.Traffic jams are rare.

2. Recreational/natural wonders are not.

3. The locals are unpretentious.

4. Housing is affordable.

5. Did I mention the light traffic?

Predictably enough, Podhoretz, the editor at Commentary and a columnist at the New York Post, is a denizen of the downstate megalopolis that the writer Willie Morrisaptly nicknamed the Big Cave, a place where a lack of horizons and proper sunlight brings on a Mr. Magoo-style myopia about the broader world.

People in New York City people pay millions for shoe-box apartments, and we’re the irrational ones?

Well, same as it ever was, I suppose, for those of us wasting our lives in this region of gingham dresses and bad Chinese restaurants. The arrows from downstate never stop flying.

Of course, if Podhoretz wanted to press on with his case, despite the not-so-blistering takedown you’re now reading, he could point to the population declines that have withered large swaths of Upstate to the point of moribundity, with the nation’s highest taxes and too little opportunity all but welcoming the Grim Reaper to do his work.

Don’t argue there. It is certainly more difficult to live in many parts of Upstate New York than it should be, leading many thousands to decide every year that moving is a logical choice. And while it’s less true in Albany or Ithaca than in rural areas, many of the people who stick with the region do so at a significant economic cost.

Contrary to what Podhoretz said, though, many of the people who leave want to continue living Upstate. They value the region’s quality of life, its sense of place and history, its natural beauty. They wish they could stay.

They decide they can’t live Upstate, despite the pain that comes with leaving friends, family and community behind. It’s a continuing tragedy about which nobody in power ever seems to care. Year after year, decade upon decade, nothing much changes.


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