What could make someone want to leave New York and move to Buffalo?

A few days ago, New York Magazine featured an article about a young couple who abandons Brooklyn to move to Buffalo. New York Magazine has always been a publication in love with its city, and that's something I can respect, and I was pleased that the article moved from a position of "why are these people so crazy" to one more like "ok, I can understand this." They also have a great shout-out to Buffalo Rising.

I'd be interested to hear other people's thoughts on the article, I myself was troubled when they referred to Buffalo as "a kinder, cheaper, easier, more manageable mini-New York." Buffalo (and you could insert most any Upstate post-industrial city) is not a mini-NYC (which is part of their appeal to many) and moreover, is more than a cheap place to rent for New Yorkers who can telecommute.

I welcome people to come back and move into our semi-abandoned cities, though I become worried at articles like these which have no problem with the idea of hordes of New Yorkers snatching up every "creative class" job, driving up urban rent prices and thereby reinforcing the cycles of poverty in which so many Upstate families are entrapped. One factor the article's author didn't note was that Buffalo Homecoming, an event he visited, is aimed at bringing back those who have left and want to come home, not just anyone who wants cheap rent.

So, my message to folks look up the Hudson, is: yes, come on up, enjoy the cheap rents (and the cheap beer), the beautiful fall colors and the human-sized communities, we could use your help in getting ourselves back on our feet. But please don't come up and assume that this is a mini-New York and, more importantly, recognize that living here is more than a commitment to cheap rents, it's a commitment to bettering your adopted home.



York Staters said...

Jesse -

I have to respectfully disagree with your interpretation of a passage from the article. The author doesn't refer to Buffalo as "a kinder, cheaper, easier, more manageable mini-New York." That is what he uses to characterize the conception of what people think moving away from the city to a smaller urban center will be like. I think the article does a good job of pointing out that Buffalo, or really anyplace, can't be that. It can only be itself, and for many reasons and for many people, that's worthwhile.

New York Magazine is the sort of publication with listings for shows and movies and goings on and really glamorizes the city it caters to. The idea that residents are part of this glamorous whole is one of the things that keeps people in NYC...the idea that everything else is second-rate. That's why I found this article really important - because it looks beyond that viewpoint.

My mother, who grew up in Brooklyn, subscribes to New York Magazine. Many of my friends live there. So when the article talked about the sense of defeat people feel when they leave or consider leaving, I recognized that mindset. To me, the most important message of the article was that Buffalo and cities like it have their own merits that should not be overlooked, because they may just be the things you were looking for in New York City and couldn't find or afford.

This is the quote that really sums it up:
"But when I ask Eisenberg what she misses most about New York, she says, “I don’t miss my old life in New York. I only miss the life in New York I know I never would have had.” What they’ve done instead is construct a life in Buffalo that is, ironically, much closer to the New York life they once imagined for themselves than their actual New York life ever was, or ever would be."

I could go on about how great I thought this article was, but I've got to get to class ;o)


Wild Turkey Desire said...

Buffalo can be a fun little place. I think they have a lot of good music coming outta there and traveling through. A lotta nice kids and I sometimes hear about the good things going on there.

Here is a youtube movie of abandoned houses in b-u-f-f-a-l-o, put to a nice old soundtrack by Marvin Gaye.

Is yorkstaters planning on making Upstate their future home? Or will you also be moving away? Or have you already? I almost moved outta here this summer because I tried and tried to find a decent job to survive... it's certainly not easy, but then again, where is it? Perhaps, this is one thing that makes this place special, that being the peoples resiliency to survive outside of the confines of the totality.

hehe, what i'm i saying?! im not sure.


- wtd

ps. nice to have you back on the inter-webs. your analysis of upstate is very much appreciated and always gets me thinking.

joe said...

buffalo is a stark reality. I wish it was bulldozed into lake erie. I know it's people's home, but it's one of the handful of places in upstate that stands in the face of my yorkstate fantasyland.

York Staters said...

Both of the editors of Yorkstaters still live in Upstate, though we've both moved around a bit. Jesse (whose doing the writing here) lives in a collective house in the Westcott Nation neighborhood of Syracuse while Natalie is studying in Ithaca.

Natalie, perhaps you're right that I was a bit hard on this essay. Perhaps we're so accustomed to defending ourselves and our decisions to make our lives here that sometimes we don't recognize is nod of recognition.


Natalie said...

it may just be my positive nature! tomorrow is an upstate journey day for me...work to do in rochester, and fun to have in buffalo...i'll tell you what i see out there!