We may move to Ithaca, New York


October 18, 2007 by multiracialsky

We moved to this town for a job, when we had looked all over the country and there were none. We had two toddlers when we arrived; we have four young multiracial children now.

In the winter of 2006, I began to look for a place for our family to settle. We had been here several years but it had never begun to feel like home. We looked all over upstate New York: Albany, Syracuse, towns right outside New York City. My husband was born upstate and he spent his early childhood there; we also lived together in two upstate towns after we were married.

Albany was too expensive and too city. Syracuse was too city, and struggling economically; as soon as we looked at the surrounding towns/communities, we were back in the same boat we’re in here–it’s virtually all White.

My husband and I were scouting around on the internet one night, talking about the Syracuse-suburbs issue. I sat with the laptop; he held the atlas–open to New York–in his lap. “How about Ithaca?” he said.

Ithaca, New York is home to both Ithaca College (originally a music conservatory) and Cornell University. Cornell reports that their student body is 29% minority, which is a “combined percentage of self-declared African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans in the U.S. citizen/legal resident portion of the student population.”

I went first to fact finder, then wikipedia. The preliminary stats looked good, so I entered Ithaca plus our keywords into google. We found . . .

We visited for a long weekend last fall, stayed in a downtown hotel and walked everywhere. Our kids loved the Commons (a bricked-in outdoor mall) and its playground, as well as a hike with Dad along one of Ithaca’s famed gorges.

We drove up and out into the farm country, scouted out downtown neighborhoods, and found everything as we had hoped. On paper (and the computer), it all looked right.

In person, there was one significant piece that was even better than we had imagined. There were multiracial families everywhere. No one asked nosy questions about our kids or our family the entire weekend. We saw more families than we could count with interracially-coupled parents and multiracial kids, and many parents whose absent partner was clearly of different ancestry.

At home I found Cornell’s new American Indian program, which is drawing scholars from all over the country. (We have been hard-pressed to find a town with indigenous–not student/transient–populations that are Black, White, and Native American.)

Now the downsides: In-town housing is affordable, but the property taxes are outrageously high: 3-4% of home value (Strike 1). I also worry sometimes that everybody thinking more along the same lines (read: more like us) will become stifling instead of freeing (potential Strike 2). Oh, and everyone mentions the cloudy and snowy weather–but the weather is almost exactly the same as our current town, so I’m not counting clouds. Those three are the only big cons so far.

The reality of packing up and actually moving–four children, two adults, and one carsick dog–now that’s another story.


7 thoughts on “We may move to Ithaca, New York

  1. Susan says:

    OMG I guessed it! and I am soooooooooooooooo jealous of you. I (heart) Ithaca.

  2. Psychobabbler says:

    Delurking to put in a plug for Ithaca, a place I adore and a WONDERFUL choice for a multiracial family.

    I am someone who sucks up outrageous property taxes to live in a somewhat similar town (and who is very grateful to have the financial means to be able to do so) because it is a very comfortable place for my multiracial family. My child gets to go to school with and play with a LOT of kids whose families don’t all ‘match” and I can count on one hand (without even using all the fingers) the number of times we’ve been asked intrusive questions or gotten funny looks here. But to address your concern about being stifled by people all thinking the same, from my experience in my generally progressive and ism-conscious town, it’s not all a bed of roses and “kumbaya.” Thre’s still racism, classism, homophobia and segregation. It does feel good to have a decent sized network of like-minded others who want to discuss it and work on changing that, though.

    As for the weather, well…yeah, it’s snowy. A full complement of outerwear with Thermolite is definitely in order. But my expereince with living in places prone to blizzards is that the storms tend to bring out the best in the community – there’s an atmosphere of shared survival and cooperation during the winter that is something to be valued.

    Good luck with your decision!

  3. It sounds cold but glorious! My best friend went to law school at Cornell and loved all 3 years there. Now that she’s back in Manhattan, she misses it.

  4. Ansley says:

    Ugh! I was hoping for Portland!

  5. Kohana says:

    Isn’t the fact that you don’t know people who think like you do one of the reasons you want to leave where you are now? How could more like-minded people be stifling if that is what you are looking for? Maybe I’m overlooking some nuances?

    I admire families who make big life choices to benefit their children and I wish you all the best in finding your perfect place.

  6. egypt4 says:

    I’ll be interested to hear more about this. We left a seemingly idyllic college town to move overseas and I’ve been thinking a lot about where we’d like to end up when we move back to the US. We are a multiracial family as well.

    You said you saw lots of people of color and multiracial families in Ithaca. Did you see many black people? I ask because I used to live elsewhere in upstate NY and spent a good amount of time in the Finger Lakes region and recall very few black people, though it’s been some time. This was several years ago, but it does have me wondering about how important the outlying areas are, especially in a place like Ithaca where you do have to drive aways to get to a major metropolitan area. And I’m wondering if the diversity is limited to educated classes, more likely to include Asians but not black people.

    I do agree, though, that Ithaca is lovely and seems like a great place to live and have a family.

  7. m says:

    I’m in the Bronx county. If they need dentists (me) up in Ithaca, maybe it would be a good place for our family!

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