Upstate New York

Now that I’ve lived more of my adult years in the state of New York State than I did in California, twelve years versus six, it’s time I had an opinion on how far you have to go before you’ve reached “upstate New York.” My first true trip out of the city was to Mamaroneck, and it seemed like upstate to me at the time. If you’re laughing at me for mistaking a suburban Westchester County town for upstate, I absolutely deserve it.

But as I’ve lived here longer, visited friends as far as Rochester, ridden aboard the Lake Shore Limited through Buffalo en route to Chicago, and have cycled around the Hudson River Valley, I have a better idea of what is “upstate” and what is just suburban New York City.

My working definition of upstate has been Albany or equivalent distance from NYC, excluding Long Island. Other longtime residents, including many of my students, define it as anywhere outside of the five boroughs, Westchester and Long Island. Some will even lump Westchester towns such as White Plains and Yonkers as upstate.

The New York State government actually has a specific definition, and it’s not unlike mine:

Albany’s working definition of upstate New York is based on what lies outside the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s commuter rail area. Besides New York City and Long Island, it excludes Westchester, Rockland, Orange, Putnam and Dutchess Counties.

There you have it. Now let’s never argue about this again.

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