What is it about Plattsburgh and (no) respect?

Last winter, Saturday Night Live singled out the city of Plattsburgh in a skit about then-Governor David Paterson.

“Well, I’m going to do a farewell tour of upstate New York, hell-holes like Plattsburgh,” declared the actor portraying Paterson.

“I’m going to go speak at their town halls or whatever abandoned Shoney’s they huddle in. I’m going to give those rock eater something to cheer about.   Those freaks love me up there.”

Ouch. Speedy Arnold down in Keesville was so irritated, that he made a song about it, going so far as to call Derek Jeter a “rock eater.”

And now, in a column in the New York Daily News, writer Kevin Williamson singles out Plattsburgh as one of New York state’s “nowhereville places.”

As in the case of SNL’s barb, Plattsburgh is sort of an innocent bystander in Williamson’s argument.

He is trying to make a point about New York City faring poorly in the state budget, compared with other communities.

But why the heck do people keep singling out Plattsburgh for this kind of slam?

North Country folks know this is nonsense.

Plattsburgh is a fascinating community, with a rich history, a cool location at the pivot point between Lake Champlain and Quebec, and an increasingly vibrant economy.

Unlike some parts of Upstate New York, the city is actually growing, having rebounded from closure of the Plattsburgh Air Force Base.

I don’t want to sound defensive by protesting too much, but really, what’s the deal?

If downstaters really feel the need to pick on an Upstate community, they should sling mud at someone else next time.

Tags: , ,

31 Comments on “What is it about Plattsburgh and (no) respect?”

  1. Many NYCers feel that they come from the greatest city in the world and that it therefore gives them license to mock everyone else. (Much like Americans mock people from other countries).

    It’s a sad and somewhat pathetic display of insecurity.

  2. Mervel says:

    They are too parochial to know much about the area so they just pick out an interesting name that is way way north. But I find it astounding that a bunch of billionaires down there in the City are crying over not getting their fair shake of the state budget. Who does this guy think got the biggest benefit from Cuomo’s budget? The biggest individual beneficiaries were the millionaires and billionaire earners in New York City who got a tax reduction.

  3. Peter Hahn says:

    Their argument might be that they send a lot more money to Albany than they get back (kinda like a topic we just had).

  4. Pretty easy to find support for the hometown boost, or even the regional boost. I’m not saying Plattsburgh is a pit — it’s not Newburgh — but it’s not Saratoga Springs, either. Years ago, the NY Times compared the Saranac Lake area to Siberia, eliciting local protest. But the shoe fit. As locals love to brag, Saranac Lake is one of the coldest spots in the continental U.S. It’s not far-fetched to compare the area to Siberia, nor is it wrong to say that Plattsburgh, like other North Country communities, has a desolate feel. I think you do protest too much.

  5. scratchy says:

    will doolittle,
    I disagree. The writer appears completely dismissive of Plattsburgh, a community that has much to offer. I would be suprised if he’s even been there.

    The writer and New York Daily News shoud offer an apology.

    And with regard to NYC sending money upstate, they get that figure from all of the Connecticut and New Jersey people who commute into NYC and pay state income taxes.

  6. Mervel says:

    Of course the ultra rich down there in the City send more in to Albany than they get back, I would hope they do! I don’t understand why that is a problem for anyone? But the fact is Cuomo served his billionaire buddies in the City by giving them a tax break, New York City benefitted from this budget as that is where the ultra-rich live and earn.

    As far as making fun of Plattsburgh or Northern New York in general; I think that is okay I don’t think spending though should be based on some city guy’s idea of what is nowhere and what is not, in fact he is hurting his own case. Sounds to me like the City is doing just fine.

  7. oa says:

    Mervel is right on most counts, as usual. It’s the name, really, picked out of a hat by a hack on deadline.
    Williamson, by the way, is not even a Daily News writer. He’s a writer for the conservative bible, National Review. So much for the liberals being elitist.
    That said, Bloomberg does have valid complaints. The city gets screwed out of state dollars every year, especially for education funding. And when he tried to raise revenue and cut traffic and pollution using congestion pricing for cars in Manhattan, the state vetoed him.

  8. Bill G says:

    Could the snide remarks about upstate towns and cities have something to do with the contrast between them and their New England counterparts? I’m a NYC transplant and have voted with my feet but I am struck by the differences I see when I cross from the Catskills to the Berkshires or from the High Peaks to Northern Vermont. I can’t help but wonder how much of that contrast is the result of a dysfunctional state government and misguided policies.

  9. Mervel says:

    What is the contrast Bill? What do you see as someone with an unbiased eye?

  10. Bret4207 says:

    Funny, NYC would be rid of anything north of Orange Co if they could and NNY would be rid of anything south of Albany. Hey! That’s not a bad idea!

  11. Bill G says:


    Burlington, Shelburne, Middlebury vs. Plattsburgh and its environs; Pittsfield, Lennox, Lee vs. Kingston, Saugerties, Hunter. Obviously, this is a selective list but as I’ve driven along the NY/NE border over the years, the contrast has always made me wonder why NY towns and villages look like Dog Patch in comparison to their NE counterparts. I’m not suggesting that our neighbors in the Peoples’ Republics of VT and MA don’t have shabby towns and cities but on balance I believe that they shine in comparison to their NY counterparts.

  12. mervel says:

    Thanks Bill.

    It is a very good question, what is the difference, why do those places simply 20 miles away have better housing stock and simply look better?

  13. Bill G says:

    Merv, beats the hell outa me.

  14. oa says:

    Bill and Mervel,
    Here’s a theory: The North Country lost out to Burlington and environs because, ironically enough, it was a welfare state for the GOP. Saint Ron Stafford gave a lot of state govt pork to the area, and Clinton County, for instance, fed largely off the Plattsburgh Air Force Base and prisons, while turning its back on anybody from downstate. (It’s a common sentiment: See Bret, above) Meanwhile, Burlington and northern VT, with a socialist mayor-cum-senator named Bernie Sanders, developed real entrepreneurs like Ben and Jerry’s and Vermont Teddy Bear, grew a tourist and craft-agriculture industry, supported UVM, and did this all in large part by welcoming Gothamites and Bostonians and their scandalous big-city ideas. But it’s not just Vermont. Look at Saratoga as an example of a place that was not ashamed to “sell out”–which some people call capitalism–to attract and cultivate people of means, and ideas, from other places.

  15. Chris Whalen says:

    I grew up in NJ and have lived in Plattsburgh all of my adult life – 34 years. Why do we have to compare ourselves to places like Saratoga and Burlington, the have different cultures than Plattsburgh and thankfully so. While I enjoy visiting Saratoga and Burlington, I chose to live in Plattsburgh and raise my children in a safe, friendly, slower paced community. It may not be the most prosperous area, with cutting edge ideas but it is growing, albiet slowly.
    It all depends what you veiw as important – to each his/her own!

  16. verplanck says:

    There are plenty of northern NY-looking towns here in Franklin Co., VT. St Albans, Swanton, Highgate, Milton, all of these towns are run down, with little innovation and creativity on how to move their burgs into the 21st century.

    It’s a definite cultural mindset. People in Franklin Co have a similar attitude to NY, while those in Chittenden Co have a different attitude.

    Funny thing is, it’s not really population-density dependent. Hardwick, at the edge of the Northeast Kingdom, is the center of the VT local food movement, home to many small start-up companies. Its size and remoteness are similar to the towns I listed above.

  17. oa says:

    “Why do we have to compare ourselves to places like Saratoga and Burlington, the have different cultures than Plattsburgh and thankfully so.”
    Chris, I agree. I like Plattsburgh. But Mervel and Bill G asked why there are differences in economic development and how the places are viewed. Thought it was a question worth taking a stab at.

  18. Bill G says:

    Prosperity and growth are generally accompanied by vibrance and opportunity. I actually prefer the adirondacks to northern Vermont but the lack of opportunity in the adirondacks bodes ill for the younger generations. I witness young people with healthy ambitions regularly leaving the area because of that very lack. The dog-eared appearance of many of our communities is just an outward manifestation of their stagnating economies.

  19. verplanck says:

    Bill G,

    I’d move back to the Adks in a heartbeat if there was a job there for me. Until then, NW VT will have to do for me.

  20. newt says:

    Saugerities is not a dump. Wife and I stumbled on it in May last year, and it had a vibrant downtown, with outdoor cafes open stores, a busy downtown movie theater showing 1st run shows, and lot of reasonably presentable. citizens.

    Even mighty Plattsburgh can’t make this claim.

  21. Mervel says:

    It’s a double edged sword; we all want the best of both worlds. Burlington really IS nicer, but I can’t afford to live there and would not really want to anyway.

    So I guess I am just stuck with my un-presentable friends. But we do have a good time and unlike in Vermont I can go hiking in the woods on some of our trails and not see one single other person the whole day, even in the middle of summer.

  22. verplanck says:


    I miss the Adk’s trails. When you hike in VT, the question is “what leg of the long trail are you doing”?

    The lakes are also radically different. Thanks to the large state land purchases, there are so many pristine lakes to paddle on. In VT, there is only one lake in the whole state (Green River Reservoir) that rivals a lesser Adk lake. Otherwise, they all have cabins on them, the water is silty, and milfoil chokes the bottom.

  23. scratchy says:

    Some people prefer solitude of the North Country. I know I do. I used to work for the Census, traveling the back trails of northern Herkimer and Hamilton counties and I enjoyed it.

    That writer should also get his facts straight about Plattsburgh. Clinton county grew faster than NYC, according to the Census. And the new jobs with the aerospace company, Plattsburgh area will continue that growth. Of course, he’s probably never visited Plattsburgh.

    And as far as NYC not getting enough money, I disagree. Perhaps if they didn’t pay teachers to sit around and do nothing all do in “rubber rooms” and were so lax in administering their medicaid program (medicaid spending in NY is much higher in NYC than elsewhere) they wouldn’t have a fiscal mess. Reimbursement rates for medicaid are 2-3 times what they are in the North Country. And, NYC is much wealthier than much of upstate with a much larger tax base, they shouldn’t get back all the money paid in taxes. I believe in progressive taxation/spending, school districts with a lmited tax base should get state more money per person than those that are wealthier. Kids shouldn’t be penalized. Of course, NY already spends a lot on education, a lack of funds really isnt the problem, excessive mandates and administration costs, lax classroom discipline, and rigid employment rules are more of problem.

  24. oa says:

    “a lack of funds really isnt the problem,”
    You need to see some NYC school buildings. There’s really not enough money for maintenance. Lack of money is a problem. And they’re mad because it’s money we get in STAR benefits.

  25. scratchy says:

    NYC would have money for maintenance if they didn’t pay teachers to sit around in “rubber rooms” doing nothing and they weren’t so many unnecessary state mandates. NY spends more per pupil than any other state. I have a hard time believing that we’re spending too little.

  26. scratchy says:

    Also, NYC residents get STAR city income tax benefits.

  27. rockydog says:

    As for the SNL skit, Plattsburgh is just a funny name. The writers also used Peekskill in that segment. In comedy p and k sounds are funny. It’s really just that plain and simple.

  28. oa says:

    Scratchy, having been around NYC schools, I disagree. NYC tax money subsidizes our schools. I’m grateful for that, but it’s a bummer for them. Plenty of waste in their system, to be sure. But eliminating that waste, and the small number of rubber-room cases, would not nearly cover the needs NYC schools have. If they kept more of the money that’s rightfully theirs, however…

  29. dbw says:

    Plattsburgh does have a lot to offer as a community. Too bad for it that it is so close to Burlington. Comparisons are inevitable and Plattsburgh comes out on the short end.

  30. scratchy says:

    Well, Plattsburhg only has one, not three, colleges and no IBM

  31. scratchy says:

    “If they kept more of the money that’s rightfully theirs, however…”

    What about progressive taxation?

Comments are closed.