Capital Region or Capital District?

albany skyline obstructed smallAbby emails:

Riddle me this: when is it proper to say Capital Region? And when should we call it the Capital District?

We've never heard a great answer to this question. And, to extend Abby's question a bit, where does this region/district stop? Does is it include Amsterdam? Glens Falls? Catskill?

If you have some insight -- or can just make a good case -- please share!


Not sure about Region vs District, but please don't confuse Capitol and Capital. Makes me cringe every time!

Wikipedia seems to prefer the term Capital District and traqces use of the term back to the 1860s.

It usually refers to the four core counties (Albany, Rensselaer, Schenectady, and Saratoga which constitute the US Census's defined Metropolitan Statistical Area, but the census also includes Amsterdam in its Albany-Schenectady-Amsterdam Combined Statistical Area.

Unofficially, the expanded area that also includes Columbia, Greene, Washington, Warren, Fulton, Montgomery, and Schoharie counties is often referred to as the Greater Capital Region.

I would say the Capital Region is the whole area around Albany (aka The Capital). Similar to the "Hudson Valley" or "Finger Lakes Region" it would expand outward from Albany until you hit the next region. Capital District I think of more urban-focused, including Schenectady, Troy, but maybe less-so further out suburban areas.
Nothing official, just the way I think about it.

I feel like Saratoga marks the top of the Capital Region, and Glens Falls marks the bottom of the ADK/North Country.


I have no problem with either, but I cringe when I hear or read Capital District Area.

In my opinion, the southern border of the District/Region is where the TV affiliates switch over to NYC.

I always thought Capital District (or Capitaland) was the older appelation, pre-1980s, used mainly to describe Albany, Rensselaer, and Schenectady Counties. With the addition of Saratoga County, "Capital Region" is the new & improved brand name.

Technically, Glens Falls is a separate Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), comprised of Warren and Washington Counties. However, as development has moved up the Northway, the two MSAs are beginning to come together. I would not be surprised to see an Albany-Schenectady-Troy-Glens Falls MSA at some point in the near future.

Amsterdam and Catskill?? Nah. Although they are close by, I don't think of them as part of the Capital Region. Statisticians often look at workforce and commutation patterns to define MSAs and CMSAs. While I'm sure there are many commuters from Amsterdam, Catskill, and even Schoharie to Albany, there are probably just as many who work where they live or commute to counties in the opposite direction. Many Greene County residents, for example, work in the Hudson Valley.

And the closely related question:

"Where does 'Upstate NY' start?"

For those from NYC, the answer can be anything from '125th' to 'Yonkers' to 'Westchester'. For those from the North Country, it might be 'anything north of Rt 90'. :)

Pre 1985, Capital District. Within a CDTA route, Capital District. Post 1985, within the broadcast area of a local TV station, Capital Region.

Again, just an opinion, but to me:

Capital Region = Albany, Rensselaer, Schenectady, Saratoga Counties

Capital District = Albany, Schenectady, Troy (cities)

komradebob, you shouldn't have brought that up, this comment thread will now run up into the triple digits. Funny story though, I once had this stuck up woman on the Metro North tell me that Albany is a hick town and that her hometown of Poughkeepsie isn't Upstate. Funny how people see things sometimes.

Anyway, as a townie, I can tell you that the only people who referred to it as Capital-anything were the newscasters. You always just said Albany. If by accident you were to say Capital District, it was because you had just been to a Capital District Islanders game. Then along came the Capital Region Pontiacs and everyone's heads exploded.

As for where the Capital Region/District stops, I always went with how high school sports were aligned. The Big Ten schools, even though based primarily in Albany/Troy, played Amsterdam, Cobleskill and Queensbury a few times. Sometimes North Warren will play Catskill or Hunter-Tannersville. If you're in Section II, you're in the Albany area. Why? Because I said so.

And to add to Save Pine Hills' response, the newscasters have their own rules about using Capital District/Region. At The Record, there is an unspoken rule (ok, it's spoken once when you get here and you then remember it) that we don't use Capital Region, ever. That term was apparently started by the Times Union and they get their panties in a twist when we use it.
The whole "upstate" thing annoys me too, Chad. Going by the NYC rule, anything north of the city is upstate. Then, my thought is anything north of Glens Falls is the north country - basically where the ADKs start.

In general, I think "region" implies a larger area than "district", but I think most people use them interchangeably.

I kind of like Erik's idea - "the southern border of the District/Region is where the TV affiliates switch over to NYC".

The term "Capital District" actually has a legal definition, established by a regional cooperation organization whose name I forget at the moment. It includes Albany County, Schenectady County, the western half of Rensselaer County and the southern third of Saratoga County. Capital Region does not have a legal definition, and because for practical reasons we often need to include other areas in our thinking/discussions, is often more appropriate. It's certainly wider geographically.

"Tri-City Area" = Albany, Schnectady, Troy

I still have no idea when to use "District" of "Region", but I would include up to Saratoga in the north, MA border to the east, Schnectady county in the west, and Ravena in the South.

Jessica -- the problem with the Tri-Cities (which appellation used to be used just as often as "Capital District") is that within the Tri-City Region there are five cities. You have to choose to ignore Cohoes and Watervliet to get it down to three. And if you want to include Saratoga, then you have to bring in Mechanicville, and then we're up to seven.

Both terms are inventions of local media, particularly television, as an inclusive shorthand for referring to their audience. They aren't useful to anybody else, so there's no practical difference between them.

Locally, you'd just give a more specific place name. Speaking to outsiders, you can't rely on "Capital [whatever]" to mean anything, so you're stuck with something like, "upstate, Albany area." Good enough.

Regional development types sometimes say "Albany-Saratoga," and I've found uses for it too, depending on audience.

But there's no useful distinction between Capital District, Region or Area, in terms of conveying meaning. Locals don't need them, and remotes don't recognize them.



Wowza. Thanks for all the opinions, AOA Readers!

Not sure if I have any more clarity than before, other than a strong feeling that the today's sunburn on my face was obtained OUTSIDE the Capital District at Moreau Lake.

Clearly 518 is not an answer, as Plattsburgh and Malone would then be included. And as a North Country person, I have to say all y'all are downstaters. You can't have Plattsburgh, that's our only real city.

Anyway, as someone who is a transplant, I didn't know there was a difference, and I consider just the 4 main cities (Sch'dy, Troy, Albany, Saratoga) to be the region. No one outside of this area knows of Watervliet or Cohoes, so I don't think they're really considered major cities.

Just this north country kid's opinion. Also, I agree with Slacker. Capitaland is good enough for me.

Well, if we want to use minor league sports teams as a benchmark, we did have the Capital District Islanders (AHL hockey), as well as the Capital Region Pontiacs (CBA basketball), and the Capitaland Thunder (semipro football). Maybe we're the Tri-City region, at least if you associate it with the ValleyCats. And surprisingly, you know what this region used to be known as in the 1960's and 1970's? Metroland. Yep. Where do you think the newspaper got its name from? A "name-the-paper" contest?

Here's a map I just came across that may help clarify the issue of Capital Region boundaries:

If you want "official," the state government divides the state into 10 regions, one of which is the Capital District, comprising Albany/Greene/Columbia/Warren/Washington/Schenectady/Rensselaer/Saratoga Counties.

Nice map:

Thus sayeth the townie from Schodack (look us up on a map - East Greenbush School District, slightly less hick than Maple Hill):

The terms Capital District and Capital Region are interchangeable. They refer to Albany, Schenectady, Troy and their surrounding areas, and over the last 15 years or so have come to include Saratoga as well. The only people who feel the need to include Cohoes, Waterveliet, Rensselaer OR Schodack in the city rundown are the people from Mechanicville, Duanesberg, Malta and Milton.

The term "Capital Region" does have a gentler, more modern branding feel to it. My guess it was put out by the branding folks up in Saratoga Springs. Point of contention: Does the Capital District/Region includes all of Saratoga County, Albany County, Schenectady County and Rensselaer County?

Side note: Folks who say Saratoga is the beginning of the North Country are blood relatives of those who say Westchester and Rockland are Upstate. Albany area, North Country, Upstate, Downstate, Western NY all refer to cultural state of minds vs. geographical regions.

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