Splitter!

Secesh talk has made it as far as Rochester’s WHAM-TV this week. In a daring break for freedom, conservative talk show host Bill Nojay makes a proposal:

Most people in New York City don’t pay property taxes because they’re renters. Therefore, the crushing burden of property taxes that we feel in upstate is not felt in New York City,” Nojay says. One longstanding proposal that conservatives like Nojay want to revive is the plan to take New York state and split it in two. New York would be comprised of New York City and Long Island with upstate becoming the 51st state under the name “West New York.”

It’s details like this that make me doubtful that “Upstate New York” has a future as a coherent entity unto itself: the proposed name West New York — proposed, naturally, by a Western New Yorker. It’s an inappropriate appellation for a theoretical post-Empire State, a name that surely has no resonance whatsoever to anyone from, say, Watertown, Binghamton or the Catskills. It’s the sort of idea that still betrays how the rest of the state is still split into petty political fiefs. It is not ready for primetime.

I used to think that Upstate New York had a future as a region, but my feelings on that have evolved over the past few years. I find myself increasingly inclined to give up on the idea of any sort of coherent political union across that wide of an area. Central New York’s future is Central New York’s, and I’m beginning to think more and more that it lies along a north-south axis, rather than on the old east-west one (although I can see its relationship with the Mohawk Valley continuing). CNY is not a bad place to be when it comes to communicating with other regions of the state, country and continent.

And I don’t think much of Richard Florida’s “TorBuffChester” concept either – if we’re shopping for buzzwords, I’m still more impressed with “Atlantica” even though environmentalists and labor advocates have raised valid alarms. In fact, the already-joined battle over the future of the Canadian Maritime/New England/Upstate corridor shows that this area has the possibility of someday being a true pressure point (or flash point) of political and economic development. We here in CNY need to be paying more attention to these developments. Meanwhile, TorrBuffChester is just academic concept that is producing no light and no heat, merely the hope for a “new brand.” And in times like these when many are coming to believe that we are facing an economic reordering not seen in generations, we need more than simple rebranding.

Possibly this is me declaring my allegiance to the Judean People’s Front over the People’s Front of Judea, but… well… if I don’t want my region’s future defined by New York City and Wall Street, I’m not so sure I want it defined by Buffalo and Rochester politicians either.

4 Replies to “Splitter!”

  1. I don’t see Tor-Buff-Chester as something that splits us from the remainder of NY. I see it as a potential economic union that is currently an impossibility due to customs & immigration hassles. It’s possible, but far from easy, to live in WNY and commute to Ontario, and vice-versa. If it became easy-peasy, it’d be phenomenal for the Golden Horseshoe/WNY region as a whole.

    The people who live in those three cities do visit the others at various times for various reasons, and there is some interconnectivity there.

    The problem as I see it is that currently Toronto has little use for us, but we sure wouldn’t mind if some of Toronto’s glitter washed up on our shores.

  2. Yes, that is a problem – when you want someone’s attention and they aren’t very interested in you. Toronto seems very self-satisfied with what it currently is under the existing economic and geopolitical system. (They didn’t care for Rochester either, as I recall, with that Fast Ferry thing.)

    The Atlantica alternative at least specifically names Upstate New York as a part of its master plan. Whether that plan, as currently envisioned by its leading proponents in the business world, is fully acceptable to people here is something to be concerned with. What seems clear is that both pro-Atlantica and anti-Atlantica people would probably be very concerned with public opinion in the North Country, Adirondacks and on the Lake Ontario shore: they’d want us on their side against the other. (For instance, a real bone of contention with the Atlantica trade concept is the construction of new highways for transport across the Maritimes, northern New England and along the US-Canadian border. New England environmentalists hate this idea, perhaps not without cause. But there are probably thousands of North Country residents who would love the idea if they only knew about it.)

    So why concern yourself with wooing the glitterati who don’t even know you’re alive, when you might actually make a difference in a regional trade/development dispute that’s already gotten kind of politically hot?

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