The State of...Upstate?

We recently received a short email in our box from 'Brian' that read:
....I love your site.I think it helps give us a sense of belonging to our area. I have always felt that upstate should be a separate state and that we should have our own flag. Something simple like New England's Pinetree flag. What do you think?

The idea of Upstate New York seceding from New York State (or New York City seceding, which would do the same thing) is one that has been danced around in this blog without being directly addressed; we always remain studiously neutral on such issues. Well, since we're up for all types of debates here, I thought it might be interesting to bring up both Brian's request for flag ideas and the topic of secession in general. The idea of one area of a state seceding from another is not a new one. States created in this way include: Vermont from New York and New Hampshire), Kentucky and West Virginia from Virginia, Tennessee from North Carolina and Maine from Massachusetts. The last time this occurred was with West Virginia and that was during the context of the Civil War (1863).

There are several advantages to secession including:

1) Control over local laws. Many of the laws governing taxation and business in New York are created around the idea that businesses will be willing to pay for the privilege to exist in New York City. Of course, that doesn't help us much and may be one of the causes for our continued economic depression.
2) Reflection of our values. Upstate tends to vote more on the libertarian (less government) end of the spectrum and an Upstate state may allow Upstaters to have a government that reflects their values.
3) Protection over local interests. We are susceptible to NYRI, the flooding of the Catskill Valleys and other such tragedies because of our close connection to the City.
4) Development of an Upstate identity and Upstate culture. We could begin to emerge out of our 'shells' and express who we are to other Americans, foreigners and--of course--ourselves.
5) Between ourselves and NYC, there would be a net gain of 2 Senators. In addition, there would always be Senators from our region representing us in Congress; likewise, our Electoral Votes would be decoupled from the City's.

Disadvantages also mount on such a momentous idea as secession:

1) We are economically weak and benefit in many ways from our attachment to the City.
2) It would be a legal nightmare to break the two regions apart. This has not been done in a long, long time. We may have other, more pressing issues to deal with.
3) For Liberals in our region, there would be a relative weakening of status. This could be an advantage, if you're a Conservative.
4) We currently enjoy the prestige both nationally and internationally of the name "New York," we would most likely lose this in a secession event.

I, of course, have probably missed several advantages and disadvantages. What do you think of Upstate secession? A good idea? Absurd? Moreover, what would the new state be called? What do you think would be a good flag?

The idea of a flag--a uniting symbol--is one that I particularly like. A flag does not necessarily have to represent an independent state, there are flags for ideas and dreams. Thus, we will be accepting submissions of ideas for Upstate flags at york.staters@gmail.com, they can be in JPEG or GIF format (or written if you're not much of an artist). We'll survey them, and if there are a number, submit them for public discussion. Perhaps it can become something of a logo for us to come together around to search for a new direction for our communities.



Anonymous said...

Here is an article by my friend, a fellow (former) Upstater, who published it on Rochester Indymedia in 2005 about the Second Vermont Republic Vermont Independence Conference: Confronting the Empire
[you should put indymedia rochester on your links list, they are smoking the competition]

Then you have the:
Second Vermont Republic Website

All with some interesting tidbits of information for you secessionists.

For entertainment around the November election last year, I found myself looking through the NYS voter registration information. Such as how many Republicans are in Oswego vs. Democrats and other stuff like this, you can check out information like this right here.

It seems that Monroe County (which would encompass the city of Rochester) has the most Libertarians and Marijuana Reformers out of all NYS. I just find stats like this interesting and perhaps can tell you a bit about the average person living in the area.

On the other hand, take Oswego county for the reason why there are so many bars in that county
Republicans= 42,420 Democrats= 21,846

Felt the sting of politicos in your hood lately?


NYCO said...

As for a flag, IMHO there is only one pre-existing and historically Upstate choice...but a lot of people probably aren't gonna like it...


Sullivan said...

someone who's aware of the weather in central adirondack should write about how it's affecting the economy there

NYCO said...

I have a few further thoughts...

I think the idea of secession is an interesting mental exercise but it is of course pretty unfeasible (secessions by economically and politically weaker regions generally fail miserably). However, that doesn't mean you can't step back and consider a future where upstate is granted more autonomy -- or rather, is "let go" because the central powers that be do not want to administer it any longer. In that case, you have to be careful that upstate won't be "sold down the river" and in that sense, maintaining unity of purpose and a sense of identity is a laudable goal. No one is going to look out for our interests but us.

I find it useful to consider all this in the context of New York State as an "empire" that is crumbling under modern pressures (and also the dirty little secret, that NYC is poised to fall into the second tier of world financial cities in the coming decades).

Also I think upstate NY is kind of unique in that having fallen out of the economic mainstream, and prevented from re-joining it partly because of our difficult and peculiar state government... yet not being so crippled as to lose a huge standard of living... interesting things could happen in such an isolated "hothouse" environment. (or "coldhouse" as the case may be)

I do believe pretty strongly that whatever happens to New York State's unity is going to be a harbinger of what will eventually happen to the entire United States. If NYS cannot make their empire work, eventually the U.S. will also run into the very same problems and responses to those problems.

Matthew said...

NYC is not the reason that people stream out of Buffalo and Syracuse. Upstate has many problems that government fails to address, but I fail to see how disengaging from the only prosperous part of the state would improve things. In fact, other regions that show signs of life, such as the Hudson Valley and Capital Region, may decide they'd rather hitch their wagon to downstate, leaving the rest of upstate that much poorer. The whole debate is moot anyway, as the 50% of the country that is Republican will never let in a new state (and the two senate seats that go with it) that, though more conservative than the city, leans Democratic these days as a whole.

NYCO said...

Upstate's "poverty" can be seen in a different light when you consider why there are people here in the first place.

I once read an insanely dumb comment from an economist who thought the Northeast should just be allowed to "empty out" (presumably, to give well-to-do people more space for second homes). He said it was unfortunate that the first colonists had landed on the East coast instead of the West -- for, after all, who in their right mind would live in the cold and snowy Northeast when they could live in the warm and sunny south and west?

Of course, try telling someone like this the little historical fact, that there were thousands upon thousands of "colonists" already living in the Northeast, thank you very much, who had found it a prime place to live after pushing eastward from the Alaska land bridge and thought it was a great place to find abundant fresh water, abundant game and a great place to grow food.

Have we forgotten what "resources" really are worth more in the long run? Water, for example, is going to be more precious than oil, especially once the Oglalla aquifer gets tapped out, and the Rust Belt is sitting on the vast majority of the U.S. (and world's) fresh water resources (polluted as they may be - but oddly enough, the departure of heavy industry is in fact helping our waters recover.)

Climate change is going to impact everyone in a negative way, but some will find it less of a negative impact than others. Like upstate, for example; our wine industry actually stands to profit, at least for a while.

Now who's poor?

Anonymous said...

If we decide to exert our political will and become a new state we will do it ourselves. We wont have to wait for anyone to "let" us. If we unite as a region and tell the Republicans and Democrats than no one gets our votes unless they support our goal of becoming a separate state, they will see the light real fast.
In New York State if a candidate fot governor gets 50,000 votes his/her party has ballot position for 4 years. If the Libertarian Party, Green Party, Constitution Party or even the Socialist Workers Party candidate were to support upstate statehood and we had 50,000 suppoters vote for him/her it would change the political landscape.
There is no sense worrying about who will or wont be the party in power because we don't even know when we would be united enough to exert our political will.
We must also remember that besides having members in congress we would also have our own electoral votes.In a close election we could be the balance of power.
I think we have more than enough resources to become a separate state. There are lots of states in the union who have less population and/or less land area and they get along just fine. Our tax structure would probably be different as we would no longer be a colony of New York City.
Finally I would like to suggest that if we did become a separate state that Syracuse should be the capital. By the way I live in the Catskills so I'm not suggesting Syracuse for any sort of selfish reason. I just feel Syracuse is more central and therefore better for the state as a whole.

York Staters said...

NYCO- Where is that flag from? What's it's history?

Anonymous- I am familiar with the Second Vermont Republic, pretty much the first serious secession movement in living memory (I don't count those racists down South), I'm actually a member of the organization. Though this post did not call for secession from the USA, it is an interesting topic that is getting wider and wider appeal, especially in New England.

Check out: Free Maine and Patriots for Liberty (Mass) and the Cascadia Independence Project

Secession of a "weaker" region from a more powerful is not impossible nor is it necessarily a bloody affair. For instance, Wales and Scotland have been devolved from England peacefully in a manner that they haven't enjoyed in centuries... both are 'weaker' than England. Throughout Europe there are examples: Slovakia seceding from Czechia in '94 (I think), the Spanish Autonomous Communities gaining tremendous autonomy from Madrid since the 70s and just a few months ago Montenegro seceding peacefully from Serbia (who would have thought?). The question is more of political will, regional consciousness, perniciousness and a favorable global political climate.

Gideon said...

As far as a name for the new state goes, my friend and I figured that "Adirondack" would be a good choice. It has a nice sound to it, is contained within the borders of Upstate New York and isn't tied to any particular city in Upstate (I just can't see the new state fbeing named "Buffalo" or "Albany").

Anonymous said...

I am so glad that I found this site! I was born and raised in Watertown and love New York as much as anyone who in their twenties moves back to NYS. We have so many natural resources here and so much land (statewide) that is just vacant. It is really depressing that we have lost our status as "Empire State". I am opposed to the idea of seceeding NYC from NYS. Like the above mentioned, it does not make any sense to break away from the only prosperous part of our state...NYC metro region. When I lived on the west coast, I felt priveleged when people asked me where I'm from. They ofcourse had no idea where the hell Watertown, NY was...all they heard was the NY part and they figured they city. Here's my thought...who says NYC owns the name "New York"? If we ever did secede as a separate state, I say we keep the name. NYC does not own it, we do. I know it's not apples to oranges but if Kansas City were to separate from Kansas, who do you think would keep the name of the state it resides in. It's insulting to think that the region that is barely in the state has rights to the name. I know the argument people who think NYC owns NY will say. When people overseas hear "New York" do you think they are thinking Rochester, or Albany? That is not good enough, it means either most people are ignorant or we have failed at promoting ourselves. I think it's a little bit of both.

Anonymous said...

New Rochelle: If upstate NYS were to secceed, my taxes would be cut in half.
You upstaters would have to pay for your own schools and recreation facilities. Your taxes would quadruple. Go ahead.

More realistically, we need to find an industry that can stay in business upstate. All the 19th century advantages of upstate are useless today; and there are few advantages to opening a business upstate. Go ahead, name some.

Never forget, you are all on welfare from down state.

You're welcome.

Anonymous said...

I, for one would be willing to vote for any candidate who espoused a new state in Upstate New York. Libertarian, Demapublican,it doesn't matter what label they wear.Is anyone selling bumper stickers? I'd be happy to put one on my car.
Albany is dysfunctional at best. Decisions are made by a handful of powerful men (usually from the city)in back room dealings. Then the representatives from around the state all file in behind their parties.
If we had our own state, we could hold a constitutional convention and perhaps come up with a true representative form of government. Wouldn't that be refreshing?

Mike Vine said...

What about calling the new state "Bourbony", after the Bourbon Democrats? Led by Grover Cleveland, former Mayor of Buffalo and NYS Governor, they exemplified limited government, impartial justice, fighting corruption (even within their own party), and resisting populist calls for inflation.

They are the proud heritage of Upstate's culture of tolerance, enterprise and independence.

Make sure to include Saratoga Springs in the new state, as it is one of the prettiest cities up there.

-Mike Vine

Anonymous said...

I for one would be willing to pay higher taxes to get rid of nyc. See ya, you won't be missed!

JSevey said...

I concur with the name "Adirondack". I believe that Northern New York Could benefit from becoming its own state, even separate from Western and Central New York.
A rough flag:
The green represents our beautiful nature, the purple represents our pride and spirit in our identity, there are six stars to represent the Northern six counties (St. Lawrence, Franklin, Clinton, Essex, Jefferson and Lewis, and a seventh could be added for Hamilton) and they are gold to represent the wealth that is within the region. The whitecap in the background is obvious as to what it represents, it is supposed to be either Marcy or Whiteface. I kept the black lines in the stripes to show that the lines need to be drawn on the map, boldly. I made the crest and it includes the word Adirondack written in all capitals, and the words "Forever Free" written on top as a play on the phrase "Forever Wild" with Forever Free becoming the official motto, or Semper Liberum in Latin (I think). The three mountains are blue to show our water resources and the three peaks are Marcy, Whiteface and Algonquin. The heart in the center stands for "Heart of the North Country" which is what the Adirondacks are.