Bobos in Paradise

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In 2015, when the Hudson Valley had filled in with growth pouring out of New York City, and as the rest of Upstate continued its dramatic population decline, the State of New York decided it was time to make the rest of Upstate New York as accessible to New York City as the Hudson Valley had been.

The state purchased railroad rights-of-way and tore up roads where necessary to build two high-speed rail lines connecting Buffalo to New York City, one following the Thruway and the old New York Central, and the other following the old Erie line and Interstate 86. A third line climbed up to Plattsburgh from Albany, and then ran south along the St.Lawrence, where it reconnected with the east-west line south of Oswego.

While the distances, even with burst speeds around 200 miles per hour, were still too long for an easy commute from Buffalo, the trains, powered primarily by windfarms all over Upstate, made parts of Upstate into convenient vacation homes for those living Downstate, and provided new (and cheap) permanent homes for people who could telecommute most of the time - something New York City's media and finance jobs could support easily in an age where videoconferencing was normal.

Unfortunately, mixing New York City culture with Upstate produced conflicts, including a few riots at schools as newcomers and older inhabitants came into conflict. Upstate's generally poorer residents and the wealthier newcomers had little in common, resentment between 'natives' and 'colonists' peaked in the 2030s, when several trains derailed because of damage to the tracks. Conflicts emerged over issues from styles of speech and dress to religion and ethnicity to local taxation and spending. State police crackdowns on theft, vandalism, and the more dangerous problem of train derailments led to the arrests and imprisonments of thousands of 'natives', reducing resistance to newcomers except for occasional outbursts.

In 2050, Upstate New York is thriving, with active cities along its high-speed rail lines and tourism and farming along its branch lines. Rochester, and Syracuse have grown into engineering centers, while Buffalo has become an important hub for finance and legal work, a gateway between similar work done in New York City and that done in points west. A generation of change, as well as steady accumulation of wealth, has calmed the conflicts between old-timers and newcomers.

(The title for this entry comes from a 2001 book by David Brooks.)



robinia said:

well, I can see that in this scenario the missing Rt. 81 Corridor train line does not allow for the development of the Ithaca-Binghamton arts scene. That is doubtless why there is so little cultural understanding and cultural mixing through social learning. Just add the N-S Central NY route, and harmony between upstaters and new arrivals will be properly established through the skilled mediation of the artists.

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This page contains a single entry by Simon St.Laurent published on September 20, 2007 8:55 PM.

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