You might not have heard, but a couple of tinhorn Utica-area politicians with nothing better to do have, with their mighty and authoritative voices, changed the fate of a region.
State officials agreed Sunday to officially rename the Greater Utica area to “Central New York” after retiring the name “Central Leatherstocking Region.” Senator Joseph Griffo (R) and Assemblywoman RoAnn Desito (D) announced that for tourism purposes, the seven-county region will switch to the new name that is used more frequently anyway. The former “Central Leatherstocking Region” encompasses seven upstate counties of Oneida, Otsego, Madison, Chenango, Montgomery, Broome and Schoharie Counties. The Chairman of Empire State Development Corporation, Dennis Mullen, notifies the region’s tourism partners that the name has officially been changed after careful consideration and meetings with consultants.
At this point, don’t we have to consider “consultants” to be useless boils on the butt of humanity? Do they ever produce anything of actual value or insight? (Emerald City, anyone?) It’s not like they actually asked the people living in the actual Central New York that has been called that by the locals for decades, if not more. Onondaga County — the only county in America shaped like an actual human heart — is no longer the heart of Central New York, but rather a far-flung corner of the Finger Lakes region, according to distant people who have probably never visited here in the first place.
Our petty regional names are kind of important. New York is one of the least homogenous states in the country, and we’re all uncomfortably bound to “New York” as the name of a world city that often we feel has emotionally and economically nothing to do with us. We cling to a shallow “Upstate-Downstate” divide partly as a means of ego defense, and to avoid having to deal with the scary reality that “Upstate” is really fragmented and always has been.
You can see the map of the new Central New York over at New York Traveler, which has some wistful thoughts about the banishment of the term “Leatherstocking Country.” (Note that – like everything else in our economy – the geographic location of Central New York has now slid downstateward.)
This name game reminds me of another game you might have played when you were a kid. Remember those puzzle boards covered with numbers, which one had to shift around (up, down, right, left) until the rows added up correctly? Since there were only limited numbers of empty spaces to slide the numbers to, it was often a frustrating or even pointless exercise. One began to suspect that the game came from the factory rigged for unsolvability. It’s gotten to the point where our economic guardians have decided that calling one economically empty space by the rightful name of another economically empty space is the solution to the intractable problem of New York’s future existence. (Here are some more name and number solutions recently tried.)
I know how the numbers game always ended at my house: dug out with the fingernails, and then discarded for a new game.