Hating Rochester From Behind The Picket Fence

I love Rochester more every day.  The summer sun brings a glow about this city and all that’s going on that I am more and more addicted to all the time.  Yes, there’s plenty we have to roll up our sleeves and accomplish, but we have something very very good here.

There is one thing, however, I’m a little tired of, something I would like to address.  The other day I made the mistake (like always) of viewing the comments following a Facebook post about a new and positive project in the city.  Person after person slammed the city and slammed the initiative… “a waste of taxpayer money,” “I don’t even go downtown so I’m not paying for it” and my personal favorite “it’s the Fast Ferry all over again.”

Sidebar.  The Fast Ferry was a disaster, but for God’s sake stop negatively comparing EVERYTHING in Rochester to the stupid boat.

OK, deep breath.  I decided to do a little Facebook creeping on the folks that were making these comments and found that about 75% of them were from people living in surrounding suburbs like  Pittsford, Victor, Henrietta, Faiport, Brockport, Spencerport and Greece.

If you live in Rochester, and/or if you experience the city for work or play, if you support the good things happening and the good people making a difference, you have my love and respect.  You have every right to comment on what’s happening in the city.

But if you don’t live here, if you have chosen suburban life over the urban experience, if you don’t even go into the city because it’s too dirty or dangerous or scary, then please stop negatively commenting on our downtown.  Please.

I understand that you want to raise your family in a place that you feel is safe, where the schools are stellar, or maybe you just want a little more space.  I understand that the urban setting is not for you and you have made a choice to embrace the suburban or rural lifestyle.  I respect and fully understand your decision, as I think anyone would.  But I ask you please, don’t throw stones at my city from behind your picket fence.  Don’t inflame a culture of negativity surrounding Rochester while you mow your 0.73 acres.

We all have our opinions and we are all entitled to them.  We all can make choices (within reason) about where and how we live.  But if you have chosen not to be a part of the solution by not supporting Rochester businesses, organizations and endeavors, I don’t recognize your right to comment on Rochester’s issues or initiatives.

Please note this is not an assault on those living in our local suburban neighborhoods and rural spaces.  They are wonderful places to live and raise a family, and we are lucky to have them.  Some of my best friends live in the suburbs, but still support Downtown Rochester and all that’s happening here.  This post is simply a commentary on the criticism of our city by those who have chosen not to be part of the direction or the solution.

Hate Rochester?  Think it’s a hole of crime and delinquent teens and economic depression, but you don’t get out of your car in Downtown more than twice a year?  Then stop slinging negativity from behind your gate about something you don’t know.  Leave your safety nets and visit here, put on your explorer hat, see what we have, be a part of Rochester’s resurgence… there’s something for everyone!  If you still don’t like it, feel free to comment all you like on how much it sucks.  But if you give it a real chance, I bet you anything you’ll find something that warms your heart, fuels your sense of fun and adventure, and keeps you coming back.

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32 thoughts on “Hating Rochester From Behind The Picket Fence

  1. Please stop writing about Utica or other cities in NYS unless you live there. Right? It’s rediculous to assume people in subburbs don’t support business downtown. There so many poor assumptions about this article it makes the author seem rather close minded. Where you live does not make you an expert (or not) on the policy in question. You should be writing your article on the policy merits, not attacking the persons who take up issue with the policy regardless of where they live. Debate 101.

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    1. Chicken, thanks for your comment. In fairness, my commentary here isn’t critical of people from outside a community, it’s critical of people who speak poorly of an area without seeing it, knowing it and experiencing it for themselves. For example, many people here in Rochester believe Utica is not good place because they saw someone on Facebook say something bad about it once. They don’t know the Utica I know, which is fun, colorful and full of great people. I chose to experience Utica because I believe in changing the conversation to a positive one, which can only come with experiencing a city for yourself.

      Rochester is a wonderful place, but it has a problem with a negative internal image, much of which is driven by those that live on the outskirts and never come to the city to see for themselves that it’s a great place. Like the other cities I’ve visited, I’m trying to change the conversation here to one of positivity. I believe in what we can do together.

      I’m not making assumptions, I clearly state that I know so many good people that live outside Rochester and still support our downtown. These folks have every right to comment on our happenings. My beef is with anyone who is critical of a person, a group or a community without knowing it first. I know Rochester because i live here and actively support it. To some extent, I know Utica enough to love it and try to tell people it’s a great place to be 🙂 Again, it’s all about changing the conversation, a starting point for any real progress.

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      1. In fairness I love Utica chessweb! I started a blog called The Urban Phoenix with a visit to Utica (Google “Utica: A Day of Fun A Story Of Hope.”). Utica is my second home now, check out what’s going on there if you get the chance! 🙂

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  2. Havw you even lived here your whole life? Like stop putting suburbs into a category cause the suburbs get shit on all the time. We don’t have no white picked fences. We have local business. We have crime and issues that make the suburbs look bad according to you downtowners. You all got your high mighty shut about downtown and how Rochester is great, then make Rochester great not just one area.

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    1. Thank you for your comment. As I expressed to the last commenter, and as I explained in post, we have some
      wonderful suburbs with amazing people. My beef is with people who criticize a community and it’s innitiatives without ever setting foot in it. Again, like
      I stated in the post, many many people from the suburbs support the things happening in downtown, and thus have every right to comment on what’s going on. My issue is exclusively with the people that don’t care to experience what’s happening in Rochester but still feel the right to comment on how crappy it is. It’s as if someone who didn’t know you said to you “you suck and the things you do suck.” You’d probably say “hey you don’t even know me!” I’m simply saying if someone lives outside of Rochester, never visits Rochester and still insists on trashing it, you need to come see it and experience it for yourself before you draw negative conclusions.

      For the record, I grew up in Victor. It was a great place to grow up and still is! I live in the city now and don’t hate the suburbs… I love what they have to offer. 🙂

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    2. “We don’t have no white picked fences” So judging by your double negative you do in fact have a “white picked fence” whatever that might be…

      its picket btw I know that attending Wilson High sir, actually born and raised Rochester not some punk suburb

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  3. I found this an interesting reflection and accurate observation. Folks seem to have an inferiority complex. Having lived all over the country, I love Rochester…the people are terrific, compassionate and invested. I am looking forward to wandering around to see what is new on the ground as I participate in the Jazz Festival. For what it is worth, I live in the country where it fun to raise dogs. But I find myself in the city 2-4 times a week.

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  4. Like the negative commenters, the come gets here seem to have a reading comprehension problem. I live in Victor and couldn’t agree with you more. Our area has always put down anything that spends taxpayer money on OUR area but they never complain about their money going to Buffalo, Syracuse, NYC, etc. I’ve never understood the mentality.

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  5. I completely agree with this article. It’s something I think everyday. I live in the Beechwood neighborhood. You go down the street in one direction the neighborhood looks a little tougher. You walk out my back door and take a right the only difference between that street and a suburb are the smaller yards. I LOVE both parts of my neighborhood. The city has so much amazing diversity and unique experiences to offer. I loved living in Brockport during college and visiting my friend’s farm in Painted Post but I choose to live in and be part of the urban community.
    Here’s something I took to heart when I heard it years ago, “A problem isn’t a problem unless you have a solution for it.”

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  6. From a former Rochestarian. Beechwood area too, I understand what you are saying. Any time there is an article or news story about Rochester I can tell you what the comments will be even before reading them. Even when it is a positive story about city living there will be the comments trying to negate anything positive being said about the city. The only reason we left was a change in job or else we would still be there.

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  7. I grew up in Canandaigua believing that Rochester was a hellish place full of murder and crime and drugs, perpetrated, of course, by the local news. Any time I had to make the trek north to go to the airport or train station, I felt actual fear for my safety as a child.
    Flash forward a decade and here I am, living in the Pearl-Meigs-Monroe neighborhood and absolutely in love with this city. I spent a few years living in other cities and traveling across the county, but came back here and fell in love with the quaintness, beauty, and small-city feel of this town. Rochester is a city rich in history, diversity, and nestled around so much natural beauty. I truly feel it is experiencing the beginnings of a renaissance.
    I strongly agree with this article, having come from the other side of the argument, and having my whole opinion of this city flipped on its head once I actually spent time here.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m always fascinated with people who say they love Rochester, I lived on Dewey Ave and Clinton for the first twenty years of my life and it is thanks to Rochester that I now am a gypsy. I have lived in NYC, Boston, Orlando, San Diego and Madrid. These cities plus my unfortunate 20 years in Rochester (can’t help where I was born poor) are my backing for this comment:

    Never have I ever felt like I wasted so much of my time in one place. Rochester is crime ridden, I have been assaulted in my street and harassed several times. Since I left for good four years ago, there were four homocides on my old street by Dewey that I know of. I’ve been sexual harassed and verbal assaulted more times that I can count in Rochester, yes the city. And I am a male, so I cant imagine being a woman living in this hell hole. I don’t want to sound presumptuous but do you live on Park Ave? Elmwood? Culver? The segregation in Rochester is absolutely disgusting.

    I am writing this comment because maybe you need to hear that people who live in the city also think it’s awful. All of my friends, Latinos and blacks (like myself) hate it. Because it is so segregated, poor, crime ridden, and just overall depressing. I’ve met several people abroad from Buffalo, Syracuse and Rochester. All three sister cities are shadows of what they use to be. I’m glad that you love the city but I hate it when people (usually white) talk about how amazing rochester is without really looking at it objectively and through a different perspective. Have you ever lived in another city, in another state?

    And if and when you reply to my comment, can you explain what diversity means to you?

    P.S. I know how you feel when someone from the outside looking in has something negative to say, but with Rochester… You see what you get. There is a reason you can literally drive through Rochester without having to see the city. Not that there is much to see… 😦 How I wish Rochester was as diverse and amazing as these commenters say it is. Try living in NYC or San Diego.

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    1. Barcelona, thank you for your comment, and for providing a different perspective on this matter. The truth is, you could not be more right. The African American experience in Rochester is a difficult one, and one we need to reach across the table and address. Part of why I am writing this is because we need people of all socioeconomic, racial and philosophical backgrounds to start coming together in an effort to make our city a better place for everyone. I was born in Chicago, a city I love but a city that has as much racial and socioeconomic segregation as any city in our country. I’m honestly tired of people who don’t understand what poor folks have to deal with every day in our community, and how difficult it is to change the tide. I do what I can every day to assure people that in order to lift our city, we need to lift everyone.

      Thank you for your post, and for reminding us all there are so many voices that need to be heard.

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  9. I have lived in the city for 10 years. I have sent my children to city schools. Let me tell you I get why they want to renew downtown but not for nothing I believe it’s more important to put the money into the failing school system. Bring back music art and sports. I ended up having to pull my children from the city schools and struggle every month to make a tuition payment and that was with the help of financial aid. My children were more than a year behind of where they should have been. I see drug deals at gas stations everyday right in front of the police sitting across the street in their cars not giving a sh!t. There’s at least a murder a day. Instead of creating prime real estate maybe this dumb ass mayor should fire her family members and get some advisors who could actually point her in the right direction. It starts with the kids , give them the advantages and get them on track and the city will follow.

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    1. Lisa, you bring up a very important but often forgotten point. As we grow our economy, we need to make sure that this growth benefits all of our citizens, not just the affluent. This means tackling poverty and it’s crippling effects, and recognizing that our community and education systems need careful attention. If we do not tackle these issues, we will be left with the same issues, and they will only get worse. Thank you for bringing up the other side of the coin on this, one that is every bit as important!

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    2. Lisa, I completely agree with you. I moved to the suburbs (after I had my daughter) sadly because of the poor education system and lack of resources for children (quality daycare, before and after school etc…). I lived off of Park, Warner (by Cobbs Hill park) and Culver. I absolutely loved it. I never feared the city, nor had any bad experiences.

      The number of summer festivals in this area are incredible (CornHill Arts Fest, Lilac, Park, etc) . The museums for children (MAG, Strong, science center, Eastman house), university’s & schools (Eastman, Hochstien, RIT, U of R), restaurants etc… are wonderful for families. My daughter has taken Violin, early music and dance lessons at Eastman and Hochstien. We are members of all the big museums. We do what we can to support the city from the sidelines. It’s unfortunate that the city loses so much to families moving away…

      The issue of revamping the failing education system is HUGE but must begin with the surrounding communities that are in economic failure and disarray. We can pump all of the capital we want into these communities- but until we address the real issues…sadly I don’t see how any sustainable progress is possible.

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  10. I really do not understand the anger about this commentary. Some people love Rochester, some hate it. That’s true of anywhere. But Rochester does seem to get a very harsh (only negative) rap and it mainly comes from its own region. Kind of the “grass is always greener” thing. That is until you live somewhere else and realize that your new locale (city, community) has the same issues just different street names.

    All the author said was do not judge a book by its cover! Either live in the book or at least read the book a little before you join a book club and give it a thumbs down. Even if you give it a thumbs down (inner loops, fast ferries, or schools) maybe at least temperate it (what we call commuter traffic is NOTHING compared to some cities, we have great festivals, beautiful geography, etc.).

    I kind of wish we never got rid of annexation. If the suburbs knew that eventually Rochester would swallow the burbs, then maybe people would fight to save their neighborhood instead of moving out of it.

    Author: The same can be said for the burbs though. People are leaving Monroe County for your old stomping grounds in Ontario County. Ontario County is the only ‘growing’ county. It is not from people coming to NYS. Its the same people your writing to who have given up on Irondequoit, Greece, Gates, Brighton, and Henrietta.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Though I understand why you might be writing this, you gave no reasonings why us Suburban folk seem to “hate downtown”. Downtown has gotten its reputation for a reason. The crime is uncanny, the nightlife is non-existent, you only feel safe walking on three to four streets, and the environment is just a construction filled mess. And with that said, you say that we suburban folk are in spite of downtown “behind the picket fence”.

    Sounds to me like you don’t realize what’s happening outside your doorstep.

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    1. Thank you for your comment Matt. I respectfully disagree on all counts, and to be quite honest your comment is exactly why I wrote this article.

      Rochester went through a very difficult economic period, but there has been such a strong resurgence in the last 5-7 years. There are businesses going up and growth happening everywhere, neighborhood pride is increasing and the nightlife you mentioned as “non-existent” is actually very much alive and thriving no matter what your taste. Frankly I can’t imagine how anyone could think the nightlife in the city is dead. There’s sooo much to do.

      As for the construction, we all hate when it happens but it’s necessary for growth and prosperity. Businesses need to be built for jobs to be created. Roads and traffic patterns need to be adapted to meet the needs of a changing and expanding economy. It’s a necessary evil!

      Crime is a big problem in the city, you’re right… But I assure you more than 4 streets are safe. I’ve lived in the city for years now and I’ve never experienced a crime personally. I feel very safe and secure. Anything can happen, but you just try to be smart.

      You’re correct, the crime in the city is something we have to address… That stems from a severe poverty issue we need to fix. But speaking poorly of the city will not make the crime go away. Instead, we must focus on what we can all do to make our community a better place. Saying “I won’t go into the city because it’s not safe” doesn’t help the problem and is simply untrue.

      In sum, I wrote this article because Rochester’s old “reputation” you mentioned is out of date, and more people need to get in touch with what the city has to offer today, and what it will offer in the future. Come check it out, it’s actually pretty cool 🙂

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  12. I live on State Street smack in the center of downtown and work at WXXI. I am proud to live downtown and support downtown business. I have family members who live in Pittsford as well as Henrietta. During family gatherings there is always 1 or 2 of “those” family members that make harsh comments about downtown and why do you live downtown? I am sick and tired of justifying that downtown is on a positive upswing. It frustrates me to no end when people run their mouths about some news story they saw that accorded at a location North of the city, then create this generalization that the entire downtown area is a war zone. Crime happens everywhere not just the city. If you don’t visit downtown or just hate it please stop negatively commenting and bringing up old news as quoted in the original article. I understand you have a right to your opinion, however keep them to yourself.

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  13. Hey Arian! Alia here. So funny to stumble upon your post on another friend’s feed! You are so respectful replying to all of the feedback you’re receiving. Nice! As you know, I grew up in Victor. I loved in Phoenix, AZ for a good chunk of my 20s and am now back, living in the Genesee_Jefferson neighborhood of downtown Rochester and attending the U of R. There are problems with systematic poverty, racism, police brutality, inequitable funding of schools, crime, yes… But I do feel hopeful when I see all of the new businesses popping up. I’d like to see more Black owned businesses and home ownership. Folks that say there’s no night life here are not making any kind of effort. There’s a fun live music scene, art, poetry, booze, theater, dance, sports, movie houses, cafes, bars, restaurants, parks…I don’t know what the hell else the haters are looking for… Rent is so much cheaper here than in larger cities. Spending a mere 350 bucks per month on rent has allowed me to save and travel to Denmark and Turkey in the 3 years I’ve been back, along with various US cities… So, yeah, I recognize that Rochester has problems, but I love it too.

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  14. When I go downtown, I’m always a tad bit sad because I can’t tell which buildings are empty and I can’t shake the feeling that I missed out on what was once a much more livelier and bustling place.

    But the only real complaint I have about downtown is this: can a man find a place to park?

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    1. I also would have love to see what Rochester was like back in the day… but those days are soon to return, as many of those old empty buildings are becoming beautifully re-purposed for the next generation of Rochester! Wait till you see what they are doing to the Sibley Building!

      As far as parking, I have never found parking to be difficult (especially compared to larger cities). Being so close to downtown, I almost always ride my bike anyway, so parking isn’t an issue. Still, there is always ample parking in the East End, and closer to downtown where there are several major garages as well as on street parking. Park Ave and Monroe are tricky sometimes on weekends, but parking father away and taking a five minute walk is rarely a bad thing (unless it’s brutally cold lol!)

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    1. I’d like to think it’s less complaining and more of a challenge for all of us to be better Rochestarians.

      But you’re right. I should just be quiet. Change never happens when you stand for what you believe in. 😉

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  15. Sanctimonious. How about I’m moving out of the city because of the myriad of bad choices this city has made with my neighborhood and tax dollars, not to mention a complete inability to raise their standard of education. I am one in a long line of people who tried to live, love and stay in the city, but finally decided to put their children before their wish to appear cultured.

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  16. If you are living in an area that is paying taxes to support Rochester, or spend some of your sales tax dollars in Rochester, I think you are entitled to comment about the use of the tax dollars.

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    1. Jens, thank you for commenting. Respectfully, I think we are a culture that believes that if we have to pay for it, we can say anything we want. To me, being a citizen in the Greater Rochester area, we have a responsibility to understand the issues surrounding our city that we ultimately help pay for. This understanding must go beyond what we simply see on the news and on Facebook. My issue in Rochester is that we have so many citizens who could not be more out of touch with our downtown, yet feel the right to comment as experts just because they are taxpayers. In the absence of facts and research, they use words like “shithole” and “dump.” I am all for taxpayers making educated comments regarding our city’s key issues, but flatly panning ideas with hip-sounding insults and jargon is not going to do anyone any good.

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  17. Jens, thank you for commenting. Respectfully, I think we are a culture that believes that if we have to pay for it, we can say anything we want. To me, being a citizen in the Greater Rochester area, we have a responsibility to understand the issues surrounding our city that we ultimately help pay for. This understanding must go beyond what we simply see on the news and on Facebook. My issue in Rochester is that we have so many citizens who could not be more out of touch with our downtown, yet feel the right to comment as experts just because they are taxpayers. In the absence of facts and research, they use words like “shithole” and “dump.” I am all for taxpayers making educated comments regarding our city’s key issues, but flatly panning ideas with hip-sounding insults and jargon is not going to do anyone any good.

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