Goodbye NY History, Hello Utilitarianism: Central Leatherstocking Region Changed to Central New York

Sunday, April 04, 2010

It's official. The unifying regional name for Oneida, Madison, Chenango, Broome, Otsego, Schoharie, and Montgomery counties-- Central Leatherstocking region-- has been changed by the New York Legislature to "Central New York." Sure, Central New York is more efficient, more economical, more utilitarian, but this is what makes the changeover sad.

Who knew what "leatherstocking" referred to, anymore?

That's what makes it sad.

Greater Utica Area officially renamed "Central New York" *[see my note below]

Assemblywoman RoAnn Destito said, "The Finger Lakes, The Hudson Valley** and the Adirondacks** [see my notes below] are designations that clearly define regions of New York State. White (sic) James Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking Tales is an important part of our history, the Central Leatherstocking designation never really created an identity for our region's tourism industry. The new name, Central New York, will help us do this, and it will greatly improve our ability to market and promote tourism in our region.”

Senator Griffo said, "The new name will simply better identify our geographic region. While it may seem trivial today – changing the name of the area was a huge step for the region."

I grew up in the 1980s; and I have lived in the Central Leatherstocking region Central New York region most of my life. Even as a kid, I had NO IDEA why my region was called "Leatherstocking."

You see, that's what makes it so sad. Kids are not taught their history, their heritage, their culture. I think this is purposeful of the government school education: a whole populace educated about our history and heritage of constitutionalism and freedom can't be counted on to kowtow Washington's every whim, now can it?

"Leatherstocking" comes from the James Fenimore Cooper stories. I never knew of them as a kid. I found out much, much later as an adult, when I decided to become more educated about our history and heritage.

It's a weird term, I admit. It's outdated. And I wish I could say that Cooper's books are riveting stories of passion and adventure. They are real snoozers, they are. But Cooper wrote them about our region, back when this was all wilderness, when brave men and women were forging houses in the woods and the glorious seeds of self-government in their hearts. Men were valiant, women were moral, children were eager, and God was revered.

Some will say I'm making too much of the name change. It's *just* a name change. Ah, but words MEAN things; names MEAN things. When we mention the "Adirondack region," we visualize pointed pines on rugged mountains that burn our noses with their tangy fresh air**. When we mention "Finger Lakes" or "Thousand Islands," we visualize the geographic majesty of New York's blue waters contorted into unusual shapes, twisted around emerald isles or in between languishing green hilltops.

But "Central New York" is so cold and utilitarian. We have no pointy pines or long lakes or bejeweled islands here. All we had was our history, that last thread of leatherstocking history that showed the other regions that we were of good stock: scrappy, industrious, and valiant. Now all we are is a central blob on the map. And what distinguishes us from all the other regions? Nothing, except that we are wedged between them.

I think it would have been much better to educate New Yorkers about their history than to change their name from under them.

*We are not the "Greater Utica area," either, journalists!

** The Adirondack tourism department successfully crafted an association with their unusual name, why couldn't "Central New York"? I mean, Adirondack means "bark eaters"! But to most, it means the largest national park in the world. Why isn't the Adirondack Region getting a name change? Answer: because they successfully created an association with their name. Same with the Hudson Valley. Central New York failed to do so, it's not that the "identity didn't work." It's just sad.

2 remarks
NYCO said...

This is insane. Syracuse is and has always been in Central New York. We're not even included in this designation. WTF?

7:54 PM  
Carole said...

I agree it was dumb to not ever work on getting people to understand what was meant by "Leatherstocking Region", and I admit that I didn't know what the name meant either and furthermore, thought it was a weird and stupid name for a region. However, "Adirondacks" is potentially just as weird and stupid sounding, yet as you point out, somehow that region was able to associate positive and recognized aspects of their region with that name. I guess on the one hand, it's a good move to abandon a name no one knew the significance of anyway (Leatherstocking Region), on the other hand, "Central New York" is kinda boring and does nothing to make the area sound "visit worthy". Too bad they couldn't have thought of a new name that was more interesting and committed themselves to "branding" it.

1:42 PM  

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