What if Upstate New York and Downstate New York were separate states?

new york map broken into upstate and downstate

Not that this would ever happen.

The other day Rob Astorino, the Westchester County exec who's running for governor as a Republican, tweeted a jab at the Cuomo administration over the number of jobs upstate. We'll leave it to someone else to assess the merits of this jab, but a construction Astorino (or whoever tweets for him) used caught our eye: "If upstate New York were a state itself..."

And that got us thinking a little bit: What if Upstate and Downstate New Yorks broke up? What would they look like in a few basic ways?

So we pulled together some numbers...

First off

This is ridiculous. New York State isn't going to break apart.

What do "upstate" and "downstate" mean in this context? Well, that's always a subject of debate, but for our purposes:
+ Downstate = NYC + the Long Island counties + Rockland and Westchester counties
+ Upstate = every other county

Some people might argue that Putnam County should be included with the downstate group. These people wouldn't be wrong. Some other people might argue even more of the Hudson Valley should be included with Downstate. Those people wouldn't be wrong, either. But these are the definitions we used. It's arbitrary.

Also, we're comparing apples and pears in some of these categories.

And again, this whole thing is ridiculous.

Downstate vs. Upstate

This sort of question could be pretty much as complicated as you'd like to make it. We decided not to do that, instead limiting things to a few broad categories. This is superficial at best.

upstate downstate economy comparison


+ Population (ACS 2012 5 yr) and area via the Census Bureau.

+ The tax revenue number is very, very squishy -- at best, a generalized guess. It's based on: 1) That New York State's total state tax revenue is approximately $90 billion and 2) estimated shares of tax revenue by region based on a Rockefeller Institute report from 2011 (which included Putnam County with downstate).

+ Employed and unemployed numbers are 2013 annual avg, via NYS Department of Labor.

+ GDP numbers are via National Association of Counties, which in turn drew on Moody's Analytics data.


Earlier on AOA: What would you call a New York State without New York?


If you were in NYC and writing this article Westchester and Rockland would DEFINITELY be upstate. Then the numbers would really be screwy. Hell, the Bronx is upstate to true New Yorkers.

It'd be interesting to see a comparison between population trends and job creation regarding the two "states." Ever since I moved here I've been constantly hearing what an economic wasteland Upstate is and that the number of people moving out far exceeds those moving in - I wonder how badly Downstate is outperforming us in those fields.

Scotland will be holding a referendum vote to determine whether or not to separate from the U.K. Many of the arguments in that situation sound very similar to arguments for and against upstate NY separating from "downstate." It will be interesting to see how the situation in Britain shakes out. Might be a good thing for Upstate Separationists to keep tabs on.

Ah, what a great article. It raises so many other great questions. Let's see. A few more questions:

What is the number of issued gun permits per capita?
What is the average rent?
What is the average income?
What is the cost of living?
What is the happiness factor? (didn't someone do a city by city or county by county analysis of that)
And, most importantly, how can we get the NYS legislature to start the process?

Personally, I think downstate starts where the accent changes. (That being someplace just outside of Kingston.) Either that or anything south of Rt 20. :)

Also interesting would be the migration of down-staters to upstate. I live in Schoharie - my wife is from Long Island, two neighbors are from Queens, two from Manhattan; the plumber is from the Bronx, my secretary is from Westchester, etc......

If you say the words “New York” to someone downstate, it means New York CITY. If you say “New York” to someone upstate, it means New York STATE. That is the crucial difference between upstaters and downstaters – the people in New York City believe the city is the center of the universe.

Wasn't this the plot of a movie starring Kurt Russell?

Car insurance would be cheaper.

Sh-sh, don't even start all these separatist talks. Someone with his fellow drunks may take a hint and will storm government buildings, proclaim Downstate People's Republic, hold a farce referendum and invite Vladimir Putin's army. What are you going to do then?

Jennifer is right. Mostly. The Brons, up through the Bronx Zoo is Downstate. Everything above the Zoo is Upstate.

And Staten Island can finally go to Jersey, if things are being re-arranged. No loss.

As my Uncle liked to say, "Anything above 125th Street is Connecticut"

I think that the 42nd Parallel (North) is a good approximation. That's Binghamton and north, and it's just about the CT/MA shared border. Though, the Hudson Valley and the Catskills are unique (many weekend City people, many Townies). Sullivan and Ulster are Upstate, but they have their own scene.

(All Over Albany! Do not give me a spell check error for Binghamton! A disgrace! :)

I've often felt that "Downstate" begins at the section of the Taconic Parkway (or the Thruway) where the traffic becomes annoying - somewhere in Dutchess County above I-84.

Upstate gets snow removal and basic, bare bones government services with the tax rates we pay in all of NY. NYC gets charter schools, interactive parks designed by I M Pei, new public art, huge arts and education budgets for museums and public institutions, better security, neighborhood renewals,more public transportation support and credits, cleaner, more accessible public parks, more dollars for tourism support and advertising, better services for the poor and women's health, and higher paid teachers than those in upstate counties. I think they should separate, economically at least. People in Syracuse, Buffalo, Watertown, etc. don't give a damn about NYC and should get the same type of services with the same tax dollars spent out of their paychecks and at the checkout line.

Besides GDP and Tax Revenues, it is necessary to also know State Aid (taxes paid on revenue state wide returned to a region), such as welfare, health, roads, etc. Does Upstate net support the NYC Black Hole, or does NYC net support Upstate? I have heard arguments for both of these view points. If Upstate is supporting NYC, and could define it's laws to facilitate creating a more business friendly Texas type economy, then secession is the obvious choice. If NYS truly supports Upstate, then think twice about the ability to make a streamlined economy, because a lot of folks Upstate would be lothe to live with less than currently provided by state or local governments.

I'm not sure the results would change much, but given the recent elections, it'd be interesting to look at who would hold which elected position if the two separated. Would Upstate "become" more conservative? Would NYC be akin to DC in voting habits? Who knows - could be interesting.

Oh but the tax that the north could levy for water they drink that comes from the upstate reservoirs.

Pretty much every state in the country would have to do the same exact thing, no matter if they are "red" or "blue" historically. All states with major cities in it typically vote democrat, about the only exception being San Antonio. Likewise, California is an exception considering it has four major cities in it and makes it impossible for rural, non-coastal counties to make any kind of a "dent" in the democratic voting areas.

Given the tax revenue that NYC provides for the entire state, I highly doubt anyone interested in this "separation" would be happy after the fact, especially Albany, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo areas.

Jennifer that is a truly ignorant statement. Please go
back to Greenwich or whatever berg you popped out of.

I don't care what this writer says we should break up NY and I think it would be better for most. NY needs to break up. I don't think we should have to suffer the leaders downstate elects. As you can see even if every single person in upstate voted (of age of course) Upstate's votes wouldn't count because we be out numbered by downstate (even if half the people voted) so how is it fair. I don't believe any state has this issue like NY does. Upstate suffers with whatever downstate wants. I showed my mother the election map and within 7 seconds my mother said oh so Cuomo lost? I told her no. How does that sound sensible? Smart people would know that this is not very fair or sensible. A separation of New York is the only solution.

Why is this ridiculous? What is ridiculous is that Up State has to deal with the bad voting choices of Down State, Cuomo won the Gov. race with only 10 counties. Because 12 million folk live in 4000 +/- miles make up the hell for the rest of the state. It is time to break up, and move on! And, let NYC and friends keep their elected officials~

Let's do it!!!!! From dutchess and orange county and up will be the New state and lets us legalize marijuana!!!! We will have more revenue and more jobs growing plants , making lots of marijuana goods. We can sell that, fresh fruits, vegetables, milk and water to newyork.

New York City is the single most important city in the world. Upstate New York is a much larger geographical area, mostly rural, and with clear political and economic differences. It is common sense that the two should be on separate but equal representation, with neither governing the other. I don't care what your political views are. Anyone should be able to grasp this very simple concept.

Okay i live in the thousand islands area. Even more upstate than syracuse. When people say places like buffalo are "upstate" they are so wrong. Try about 3 hours more north then you will be upstate. If you go to school where everyone farms, hunts, and you have to look out for cow shit on your seat anywhere you go in public, then you are in upstate new york.

Also, if you get 7 feet of snow in 2 days, then yes you are upstate. Im just sayin (:

Absoutely! Let the chain saw Rip and split the state! As someone who lived out there in the backwaters of upstate it's a great idea. It lets the rural folk live on their own and pay for their own way - something that is important to them. It also removes the cost of replacing and repairing all the broken and old infrastructure from the money maker of the city.

Either way what you people do East of the Mississip is fine. Just be sure to stay out there. As much as Upstate would like to break from downstate the feeling is the same with the West. If we could free ourselves from the burden of the East decay, rust belt, the bible belt, and the other belts that burden us across the Missippi it would be great! All the same arguments apply. We would be so much better of if we could run ourselves and care for our own people California alone has the 7th largest economy in the world and that's only one of our states. You people would be just fine and better off with out us.

Wish you the best of luck.

Yes, indeed, we need to separate from that cesspool of NYC. We need to rid ourselves of scum who have no interest in issues that are critical to our upstate area. SIMPLY, GO AWAY NYC!!

It's a situation where we both need each other or they would've been split the state. Upstart provides the city with all the agriculture needs and the city provides the whole state with money so we can all agree to disagree when it comes to splitting the state.

Northwestern Rockland county where the ramapos are should be part of upstate tbh. It is wilderness in their too. Same goes with new jersey. If urban/suburban new jersey splits from rural new jersey then the extreme northwestern part of bergan where the ramapos cut throught it should be part of the rural/upstate new jersey. Northern passaic would also be part of upstate new jersey.

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