The Urban Phoenix has begun welcoming guest writers who would like to contribute to our blog. If you have an idea for a story that fits our theme, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
The first of our guest writers is Rachel Snyder, who will not hesitate to profess her love for New York State or her hometown of Binghamton which is, as I have discovered as well, on the move again!
My State, My Cities
By Rachel Snyder
I have lived 25 out of my 27 years in New York State. I used to have wanderlust and pine for other places. I thought “I could be a D.C. transplant” or “Atlanta has such a vibrant culture, I would thrive there” but then I left New York, and during the 2 years I was gone, I had daily reminders as to why New York is such a great state. Sure, you hear that all New Yorkers (not just the ones in the boroughs) are tough. You may hear that we’re rude or have “New York values”. I’ve traveled to a few places, and I can say with certainty, that I have never seen a state with such love, and that there is no state like my state. Yes, we’re home to one of the largest cities in the world, but we have more feathers in our cap than the Big Apple.
I grew up in Binghamton, NY. A small city in the Southern Tier. When I was in high school, “Binghamton sucks” crossed my lips more than once, getting out of Binghamton was a rite of passage, a symbol that you had succeeded. I wasn’t going to be the person left behind to witness the downward spiral. Binghamton had once been the booming Parlor City, the Carousel Capital of the World, home to companies like Endicott Johnson, IBM, and Lockheed Martin. I envied my parents experience in our town, hearing the lament in their voices as they passed by empty storefronts and crumbling buildings, pointing out what they used to be. Pile all of that on top of the cloudy weather? Seemed like a no brainer to leave.
Fast forward to 2010 when I was interning in our local senator’s office in Binghamton. It was a warm morning, and I was making breakfast in the kitchen while my Aunt was listening to our local talk radio station, 1290 AM, WNBF. The radio show host at the time (who shall remain nameless) was yammering on and on about how Binghamton University (part of the SUNY system), and its students were a plague to the town, and that we would be better off without them. One after another, his lackeys called in, a cacophony of contempt crawled out through the airwaves. One creaky voice saying “Oh I totally agree with you!”, was followed by a gruff “They clog up all the parking downtown!” “They come to our bars, they drink our beers!” followed suit. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, so much contempt for a world class public university in our backyard. I couldn’t take it anymore, so I called in.
“Hey Rachel, thank you so much for calling in today. How do you feel about SUNY?” (I knew he was ready for me to agree with him, and he wasn’t prepared for what was coming next)
“Well______. As a college student, I have to say I’m disappointed in what I’m hearing you say”
“Oh don’t tell me you go there too?”
“No, I don’t, but I do know that without this university, thousands of people in our community would be without jobs or stable employment. Without this university, our town would lose millions of dollars in revenue because like it or not, those students rent out our houses, they eat at our restaurants, and they are the only thing keeping Binghamton’s head above water and currently, the only viable economic solution to our problems. If you’d prefer, we could have no university _________, and we would be another bump along I-88 and you wouldn’t have a talk show because there would be no city for you to talk about.”
Then he hung up.
I left the show on the rest of the day and heard him curse out the “Rach” that had called earlier, but it felt good to hear him shaken up by someone disagreeing with his pessimistic views.
That was the first time I felt that I could be part of the solution instead of the problem. I fell in love with New York.
After the phone call, I finished my Bachelors degree at my college in the Finger Lakes, and went on to University of Rochester to complete my Masters Degree. Remember when I said I moved away for two years? Anyone that I worked with could tell you that I am New York State’s biggest fan. I should have been working for the New York State Office of Tourism, because I promoted our state relentlessly. When I hear people say “oh man there’s nothing to do here…” I say well there’s actually a lot to do here… We have one of the largest National Parks, we have the 1000 Islands, we have world class colleges, universities, hospitals and libraries. We have agriculture, a blossoming farm-to-table movement, wineries, viticulture, and gardens. We have eight major league sports teams and countless minor league sports teams. We are home to Broadway and Times Square but we are also home to Ithaca, Utica, Syracuse, Buffalo, Rochester, the Hudson Valley, and Albany—and these cities are filled with people who want to rejuvenate their communities.
And Binghamton? Binghamton is bouncing back, it brings me such joy to come home and see people reinvigorated and reinvested in my hometown. I love reading about the new restaurants, breweries and coffee shops. My heart swells when I see innovators and entrepreneurs working together to fill long vacated store fronts. It’s exciting to come home again and say “I can’t wait to check out that new place.” My partner and my work are in Rochester, N.Y. but I will tell anyone who will listen that Binghamton is back, and it’s on its way to more exciting things.
We are unique, New York, so hop on your bike, take a walk, go for a drive, you’ll see why I love New York, I hope you love it too.
Rachel Snyder is a Binghamton, N.Y. native who has a hard time sitting still. Rachel has been working in the fields of health and higher education for 5+ years, including roles at PPCWNY and the Pennsylvania State University. When she’s not at work, she’s still working, either for her college alumni association, or as a servant to the causes of civic engagement, community mobilization, and increased access to public services. An occasional contributor to the Press and Sun Bulletin and Democrat and Chronicle, she enjoys flexing her writing muscles by discussing issues close to her. As the granddaughter of a former town supervisor, and daughter of a lifetime NYS public servant she is no stranger to discussing politics at the dinner table, in fact she relishes in it.