With the midterm season here, many students are looking forward to getting away from the papers, exams and projects, and leaving Poughkeepsie for spring break. While this desire to leave the city is due to stress and the simple need for a vacation, perhaps there is more to it. With a recent ranking by Forbes naming Poughkeepsie the 18th most miserable place to live in the United States, one has to wonder whether students are hoping for a change of pace or a change in scenery.
In ranking cities on what makes them miserable, Forbes took into account many different factors: net migration, numbers of house foreclosures, traffic, unemployment, weather, taxes, impoverishment rates, average commute length, crime rates, and strength of economy.
According to Forbes, “Poughkeepsie residents must endure crummy weather and long commutes to work. Their average commute of 31.9 minutes is the sixth highest in the U.S. Property tax rates are also onerous.”
This rating adds to Poughkeepsie’s bad reputation after also being named the 82nd most dangerous city to live in the country. Neighborhood Scout, a website that provides public-accessible data on the quality of neighborhoods and cities in the country, states, “The chance of becoming a victim of either violent or property crime in Poughkeepsie is 1 in 23.” In relation to New York State, the company also states that Poughkeepsie has a higher crime rate than 95% of the cities in NY.
Despite these statistics, the Forbes description is a contrast to the pride many of Vassar students have for their community. Teddy Stanescu ‘16, a Poughkeepsie resident for over a decade, disagrees with this statement about his city.
“I think some parts of Poughkeepsie can be bad enough to be considered ‘miserable,’ but [it] is too diverse for that to really say anything about it,” he said. As for the violence, he stated that he was exposed to it, but his school combated as best as they could. “Violence never came to such an extreme where it was beyond their power to react or be resilient” said Stanecu. “I do think Poughkeepsie is a safe place to live, violence is usually not out in the open, on the streets, and I think you have to look for it.”
He said that unless given a reason, he will probably continue to live in the Poughkeepsie area after graduation.
Although from a completely different part of the world, Timothy Boycott’16 of Swaziland, a country in Southern Africa commented, “Poughkeepsie is a city in a 1st world country. I am from the countryside in Africa. They are very different. Worlds apart you could say. I feel that Poughkeepsie is unsafe in certain areas, but that is the case with any city in the world. I do know, however, that according to the statistics Poughkeepsie is particularly unsafe. That does have an impact on me. It is not something I knew before I arrived at Vassar, and to be honest it is something that I wish I had known. I still feel, however, that Poughkeepsie and surrounds is not all doom and gloom.”
While many students argued against the “most miserable” title, Assistant Professor of Education Colette Cann’s first reaction to the article was one of disgust. She believes that Forbes failed to acknowledge the entire picture, In an emailed statement, she said, “When anything about loss of jobs is mentioned, white people are pictured; but for crime or poverty, we see Black people”.
She went on to say, “The not-so-subtle message sent is that we should have sympathy for White folks because they are really wanting to work hard …Black folks, though, are somehow to blame because they are framed as poor, basketball playing criminals who clearly are causing the mass exodus.”
While she feels that people of color are often blamed for the problems in the city, Cann feels this is not the case for all of Poughkeepsie’s residents and even with a younger child, she doesn’t feel any particular danger in the city.
Likewise, Director of Residential Life Luis Inoa stated, “It is hard for me to think of Poughkeepsie as miserable since I am a part of so many wonderful things here. Vassar is an incredible place to work. The Arlington school district has been a very nurturing place for our four kids. My wife and I have lived in several cities (Boston, Miami, NYC) and we are just as happy if not happier here. On the plus side at least we are considered a city.”
Though we may be considered “miserable” many members of the Vassar community feel Poughkeepsie is improving.
Inoa said, “Downtown is improved. Arlington is improved. Hopefully the waterfront continues to develop because I think it will bring the community together and will be a source of pride.”
On a similar note, Stanecu said he enjoys going to the Galleria, the local parks, the Chance, and the Loft. Boycott pointed out that while there are some nice restaurants and cafes around Arlington, there are many opportunities in the surrounding Hudson Valley, such as hiking and camping. To some, Poughkeepsie may be a miserable place to live. However, for many Vassar students and staff, Poughkeepsie offers a great place to live with many opportunities. For these optimists, they will not let the bad press from Forbes and Neighborhood Scout cloud their experience living here.