Thinking of moving? The differences between upstate and downstate New York.

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Downstate has ocean access.
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Upstate has rivers and lakes.

By Darren Johnson
Campus News

I’ve written these weather-type opinion pieces before, only to get bitten by Mother Nature.

As I am writing this, I have been waking up to frigid temperatures every day in what seems to be the never-ending winter. But by the time this goes to print and you read it — watch — it will be a toasty 80 degrees.

But let me get this piece out anyway before the sun’s vitamin D lightens my mood and makes me totally forget — there is a difference between living upstate and downstate in New York.

I’ve lived about equal parts of my life in both places, plus venture all over the place for Campus News. Driving in February, while this is unusual, all in one day I went from 20 degrees to 60 degrees to 20 degrees again while never leaving the state. Downstate just gets different weather.

In recent years, I have noticed many of my former Long Island friends and former students moving upstate for various reasons.

Here are the pluses of upstate vs. downstate:

Affordable housing. There is a nice, move-in-ready house in my upstate neighborhood about a block from the Hudson River going for about $120,000. This is not far from famous resorts including Lake George and Saratoga Springs. The schools in the area tend to rate very well, if you have kids, and it’s not far from Albany, a medium-sized city that has lots of colleges and some decent jobs. Try to find a house downstate under $300,000 that is in a good school district and ready to move into. And taxes are usually higher downstate, too.

Space. It’s easy to find the wilderness upstate, and there is very little traffic most of the time. Park where you want.

Bargains. Most things are a few bucks cheaper upstate; meals, movie tickets, even my National Grid bill seems a little better than when I lived in a smaller house on Long Island. Now, the argument could be made — wouldn’t you rather pay more and get a better product? I find this true of bagels and pizza — I’d rather pay downstate prices for those items, and get downstate quality. But upstate, there are some regional specialties — the Buffalo chicken wings are better, for example, or tomato pie and half-moon pastries in the Mohawk Valley.

But the big minus is the weather.

Sure, downstate had some super storms, like Sandy, and plenty of snow in recent years, but, I’d say on average it is about 10 degrees colder upstate (by upstate, I mean the habitable area past Rockland County, though not the Adirondacks or beyond). That 10 degrees can be the difference between rain and snow.

So, upstate you get a later spring and an earlier fall, thus less of a summer.

During harsh winters, like this past one, it can send you into a state of melancholy.

I also find it is worse for health, as I do a lot less outdoor activity now. While I live near some nice trails, they are either iced up or at least muddy half of the year.

Another minus could be the lack of economic opportunity upstate and the distance between cities. Even if you find a great job; say, for whatever reason, you have to leave it. Could you find a similar job within commuting distance? Downstate, as the population is so dense, the odds are better.

On the other hand, it may be easier to start certain types of businesses upstate. Office space is cheap, and you can hire employees for a good deal less than what they would expect downstate. You could always ship your product to your connections downstate.
If you are considering a move upstate, either for college or to live, create a pros and cons list and decide for yourself if the move is worth it.

Of course, you could find million dollar houses upstate, too, and realtors will try to get you to buy over your head, but if you move upstate with a reasonable plan and keep a tight wallet, you could make a go of it.

For upstate readers reading this article, here is why you may want to consider a move downstate (for the sake of this article, “downstate” is New York City, Long Island, Westchester, Rockland and Northern New Jersey):

The Big-Time. The New York Metro Area is the big time for a number of fields. Sure, if you move downstate, you may have to live in tight quarters for awhile, but if you truly are good, the potential for reward is greater.

Sophistication. Downstate people don’t fool around. They aren’t impressed easily, and expect the best. That attitude could be good for a young worker looking for focus, and it can’t hurt to be a bit more worldly.

Diversity. Every culture you could imagine lives in the Metro Area. You will experience so much, and also become a lot more understanding of people in general. You will develop a more opened mind, and that’s a good thing.

Beaches. Upstate, a little, dank spot on the lake is considered a “beach.” Downstate, many communities actually touch the ocean. It’s night and day the difference.

The City. This can’t be underestimated. My family and I used to regularly go into Manhattan for shows and other attractions, to Yankees games, the Bronx Zoo. Now we rarely go. While we have compensated a bit by going to off-Broadway touring shows that are about as good as the real thing and finding other attractions (horse racing is kind of cool where we now live), I do feel out of the loop now when I pick up a New York Times.

And other little things will get to you if you move from downstate to upstate; not just the inferior pizza and bagels, but also the TV commercials look like they were shot by Uncle Joe on VHS. The news is also less well done. I have made NY-1 my TV’s default channel.

But, in the end, you could always visit one region or the next. The Thruway goes both ways.

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