I Love New York (I Think)

Living near the Big Apple can be sweet — and sometimes rotten

Ask residents what they consider the best thing about living in the Hudson Valley, and you’ll get the same responses over and over. There’s the river. And the parks. And — especially — the region’s proximity to New York City.

It’s the perfect setup, right? We have world-class food, fashion, arts, sports, and nightlife at our fingertips, without the high rent and nonstop noise that city dwellers have to put up with. We can hop in a car or on a train and be on Broadway within minutes. (Well, practically. Assuming there’s no traffic on the Thruway, anyway. Those weekenders from Manhattan treat I-87 like a private country road sometimes. And let’s not get started on the taxes those bloodsuckers draw from us. In fact, now that you mention it…).

It’s complicated, our relationship with the metropolis. The benefits, for us, are obvious. The drawbacks, at first blush, not so much. Get one of us talking, and the complaints come out. The city dominates statewide elections. The city drives up real estate prices. The city overshadows us, a region that might garner more prestige, nationally and even internationally, without it.

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But the biggest complaint? The people. Oh, the people.

Yeah, yeah, we’re all New Yorkers, and ultimately we have each other’s backs. But the hubris! To your typical city slicker, everything north of Westchester is a vast cultural wasteland, which may or may not have need for modern conveniences such as the cell phone. (What possible use could we have for a BlackBerry? To ask Farmer Bob the price of eggs?) We’re Alabama with snow plows, just a passport and an extra vat of maple syrup away from being Canadian.

And the hypocrisy! City folk deride the “bridge and tunnel” crowd, but have no qualms about popping into a Dutchess County B&B for a weekend of foliage-viewing, or sneaking up to Hunter for an afternoon of skiing. They say they live in the “Big Apple,” but where do they think all that fruit at their farmers’ markets comes from? The fertile soil of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway? No. From a Valley orchard, most likely.

Look closer, though, and you’ll see that the Valley and the city are full of conflicted loyalties. There’s the commuter who spends most of his time in Manhattan, even though he has an 845 area code; the expatriate, who eschews her Queens upbringing to embrace Kingston as home; and the boomeranger, who grows up in the Valley, absconds to the city for a decade of debauchery post-college, then retreats north to settle down and have kids.

The truth is, we need New York. And they may not admit it, but they need us, too. The boutiques on Fifth Avenue are great, but it’s cheaper and more convenient to shop the Woodbury outlets — and a lot of city dwellers think so, too. Rockefeller Center may occasionally steal one of our tallest Norway spruces for its Christmas tree, but it’ll look better in the city lights, anyway.

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A belated confession: I’ve lived in Manhattan for the past year. Before you send an angry letter to the editor, let me explain. I was born and raised in Troy, and have lived and worked in Poughkeepsie. I’m in the city, but I’m not of the city, and I suspect I never will be. So forgive me for the use of “we” in this argument. For all its flaws, I love New York. But in my heart, I’ll always be a Valleyite.

Now, if only I could find my straw hat and overalls…

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