Rochester, New York

Home of the Garbage Plate

The BUZZ

What's it like to live in Rochester

What is it like to live in Rochester, NY?

Winter is brutal and lasts 6+ months of the year. Autumn is a stunning, yet short transition. Spring is usually buried under winter leftovers, but summer is the best I've seen. It's sticky, hot, and lasts daily until about 10 pm. It's the kind of summer that you recognize from childhood movies and cliches of summer camp.

There are pristine suburbs, artsy downtown neighborhoods, and truly rotten, crime-ridden corners of the city that rival the worst of the nation.

There are incredible schools--Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester, Rochester Institute of Technology, to name a few.

They have the best grocery store, Wegmans. It cannot be argued. (Okay, I'll hear a case for Whole Foods and Trader Joe's)

I grew up in the suburbs around people who looked the same and thought the same. My public education was nearly ideal, but I wasn't exposed to innovation and motivation until I moved to a different city (with, of course, a few exceptions). People settle here. It cannot easily be defined as a place where people think big and accomplish big.

Also, people talk funny there. You can't miss it. I will always talk funny because of it :)

What is it like to live in Rochester, NY?

We moved here in 1993 and we've stayed and we'll stay. But the area is better for some people than for others.

Most of Rochester's population lives in its suburbs. As with many American cities, suburban life and city life are pretty different. Yes, about the same amount of snow falls everywhere. But suburban streets and shopping center parking lots are kept pretty clear. Many (most?) suburban home owners contract someone to plow their driveways. Downtown streets are not plowed so well. Merchants are supposed to shovel their sidewalks. Some do, sometimes. There are areas that are very nice to walk in the summer -Little Theater, East Avenue, Alexander, Park Avenue- but not in winter. The festivals are downtown, in the spring, summer, and fall. (I especially like the Lilac Festival and Jazz Festival, but there are also multiple arts and crafts festivals.) We live in the suburbs; I like having four seasons; I can manage the winters. And global warming may be making our winters milder. We played quite a bit of golf in February this year.

Similarly, public schools are very different in the suburbs than in the City of Rochester. Pittsford, Brighton, and Penfield suburban schools graduate 90%+ of their 9th grade students in 4 years. Rochester city schools are under 50%, with only 1/3 of graduates estimated to really be ready for jobs or college. And the last three RCSD superintendents have all said that someone has to solve poverty before those results can be improved much.

Employment is a problem here. The big employers in 1993 -Kodak, Xerox, Bausch & Lomb- have all shrunk, gone through bankruptcy, and/or been sold. Now the big employers are universities, hospitals, and the Wegmans supermarket chain. There are lots of efforts to encourage startups in life sciences and photonics - but the startups are still small and don't employ lots of people.

What is it like to live in Rochester, NY?

Rochester has a very long winter that wears on its residents. Lack of sunshine and continued cold, usually well into Spring, can make it difficult to have a positive attitude year around.

Things really come alive during the Summer and Fall. Just so much to do, and so much natural beauty in the area. Because of this, people of means tend to have very packed calendars on a given weekend during peak season.

There is a huge gap of have and have-nots that is impossible to escape within the city of Rochester. It really has the effect of tempering any sense of progress, that there are kids going hungry within a mile or so, regardless of where you live in the city.

Because of this extreme poverty at the financial core, change comes very slow, and much less pronounced than in other small-mid sized cities.

Part of this slow change helps to maintain a vibrant community of music and art- since so many comparable communities have essentially priced out the creative community.

Does anyone actually like living in Rochester?

I grew up in Brooklyn and lived and worked in NYC for the first 20, or so, years of my life. I bounced around and have found myself living in Rochester the past 20, or so. I LOVE it here. Will probably spend the majority of the rest of my life living here.

Things I love:

Low cost of living for the North East.

Great technical employment opportunities

Great wine, food, beer, whiskey and craft cocktail scenes

Less than an hour from a World Class wine growing region

Good arts and entertainment scenes

Great dive bars

No traffic

Easy plane/train ride to NYC

Easy drive to Toronto

Incredibly LGBTQ friendly

Rochester is a wonderful town…you just have to know where to look.

First Impressions of Rochester, NY (with a Local) Hint: It's Not What You Think