Who's Your City?, by Richard Florida
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After 50 Years, Time to Leave Syracuse?

My husband and I are “empty-nesters” originally from and still living in Syracuse, NY. We grew up in historic and charming villages just outside the city and I lived as a back-packing traveler for many years in my young adulthood. Together hubby and I travel whenever we can afford it, but given the difficulty of getting ahead in this city, we mostly go to where we can drive. Thankfully (and this is a plus for Syracuse: its location), that means we have often visited Toronto, Buffalo, Rochester, Albany, New York City, Montreal, Boston, and many other smaller and very charming places. We’ve also been to Spain a couple times as well as the spectacular San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. My own father moved there 20 years ago. Two sisters live in Santa Barbara, CA, and another outside of Raleigh. It isn’t like we don’t have family in nice places! But our network of friends is here, and my part-time employment doing what I love, teaching languages, is here, too. So is one son and his family. The other son is in Napa job hunting with two culinary degrees from the CIA under his belt. So where to go?

We’ve stayed in part because the housing is cheap here. We own a two-family and the rental income pays most of the mortgage. But now that the last child is gone, I’m feeling restless. I’m a community activist who has been struggling with the inertia underlying this region to help keep my own first-ring suburb neighborhood (now part of the city proper) slowly developing into a decent place to live. But I keep running into those more traditional types who have been watching this region go downhill for the past 50 years. They haven’t traveled much, they don’t have any vision, and those who do – and they do exist here in Syracuse – have an uphill battle. Every improvement takes so long, city hall is full of people without degrees in the right fields, and the taxes are, indeed, killing us. So we don’t have a ton of money because we chose to stay here for so long. How to move on to a place where there are more people who like new experiences? who have some vision? who solve problems quickly and creatively? where creative types aren’t just tolerated but appreciated? Seems every housing market in the towns we like (and even those we don’t like!) is more expensive than Syracuse. How do we break the Syracuse habit?

Sent by Lonnie from Syracuse, NY

5 Responses to “After 50 Years, Time to Leave Syracuse?”

  1. Libby Says:

    You’ve traveled quite a bit – so of those places which one calls to you the most? Where have you wanted to go but never gone? If you put yourself on a track to find the best creative city for you and your husband then you’ll be working toward a goal instead of focusing on your fitfulness in Syracuse and remaining stuck in the “nowhere to go” state of mind. I’m not totally convinced that you’re ready to leave Syracuse though – it sounds like you are an active member of the community and that many memories were made in your city. There’s always something to be said for that.

  2. Lonnie Says:

    Libby, you’re right on all counts. With the insights gained from this book, we’ll be tailoring our travels to those areas where we think we could be happy. We have quite a few places left to explore, such as Bridgeport, CT and some west coast cities. As for memories, they don’t mean enough to me to keep me in a going-nowhere situation. So a year or two of interesting vacations and then we’ll see who’s our city!

  3. Libby Says:

    Please keep us posted, Lonnie! Good luck and have fun!

  4. chris Says:

    I have spent time in Syracuse, and I am Italian-American, citizen of both countries, and so I know Upstate NY pretty well. I have lived in 7 different countries, and worked projects in about 10 more. After all of my adventures, I am convinced one can make it anywhere where they want to be. Syracuse has still a lot going for it, and even surpasses in my view so many other places regarding quality of life in certain areas. It’s important to put down roots eventually and develop long-term networks that are local where you can have face to face contact.

    Maybe you need to get out there like I did and explore to find your niche. After years of searching both myself and a compatible city to go with it – I finally settled down in a US city that suits me, and even though it’s not perfect, I want to make it here. I had many chances in the past to make it in all the other places long term, but I said no each time, because it was not the ideal place for what I dreamed of … I almost gave up, but found my current home by accident and plan to stay long term. Our community too resists change and lacks dynamism, but because I love the place, I am OK to be patient and work at a consensus type speed to help move it forward. I am on the 20-30year plan.

  5. Susan Says:

    I live in upstate NY, and am about your same age. I have a new marriage and a young stepson. My husband is a bit less than 2 years from retirement. Boy, are we feeling restless, too! Upstate NY is a good place to go to college, get a job and raise a family–all important things, right? But, when you need more, you really need to search for it. Life here is pretty plain vanilla. I like vanilla, but sometimes, I just need more.

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