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Useful Notes / Rochester

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Downtown Rochester at night, looking north along the Genesee.
Rochester, NY is a medium-sized city located in northwest New York State between the better-known Buffalo and Syracuse, where the Genesee River meets Lake Ontario. The city is notable for its high poverty and murder rates, as well as being the Upstate haven of the arts; Rochester has its own Philharmonic Orchestra, music college (Eastman), and musical academy (Hochstein). Much of Rochester's arts background is due to philanthropy from bygone industrialists such as George Eastman, who reinvested in the city even after his death, leaving the Eastman House among the many local museums and art galleries. The Strong Museum is noted for the National Museum of Play, as well as its butterfly conservatory. Rochester is among the more wired cities, as the local heritage of high industry has created a local lean towards acceptance and use of the high-tech.

Rochester has strong historical ties with the women's rights and abolitionist movements, as well as involvement with the Erie canal. The area is rife with national heritage and historic sites pertaining to the canal, underground railroad, etc.

When using maps of the area, don't assume the Inner Loop highway will be of any use; it was closed around 2014 and is basically being filled in/covered over to reconnect Downtown with the rest of the city.

The city and its surrounding suburbs took a big hit financially in the last twenty years, as Kodak (among other major employers) has downsized significantly. Kodak shed almost eighty thousand employees there, in only fifteen years. Bausch and Lomb, Xerox, and other manufacturing companies followed suit. This has, however, led to a local glut of unemployed, highly trained specialists, which is leading to a surge in high-tech startups. Rochester is still one of the two national centers for specialized optics, and has no fewer than eight significant local colleges (U of R, RIT, Nazareth, St. John Fisher, MCC, Bryant and Stratton, Roberts Wesleyan University, SUNY Brockport) who also snatched up many expatriated Kodak employees.

Rochester is said to have an accent associated with it; pronunciations of certain vowel sounds and how you read "the Town of Chili" are shibboleths for natives.

Rochester is home to one of the highest per capita populations of the Deaf and the deaf due to the location of the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at RIT, as well as the excellent local medical system and a populace who is more compatible with the deaf due to their relative prevalence.

Rochester is also home to a relatively high per capita population of people suffering from AIDS or similar diseases, also because of the local research hospitals.

Rochester has several professional/semi-pro sports teams:

  • The Rattlers, field lacrosse
  • The Knighthawks, indoor lacrosse
  • The Americans/Amerks, a farm hockey team for the Buffalo Sabres
  • The Red Wings, baseball; top minor-league team of the Minnesota Twins
  • The Raptors, basketball (?)

In addition to the above, the city also supported the Western New York Flash in several top-level women's football/soccer leagues during the current century.note  However, the organization sold the rights to its franchise in the National Women's Soccer League to interests in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina, which relaunched the team as the North Carolina Courage. This came immediately after the Flash won the 2016 NWSL championship. The organization played in the second-level United Women's Soccer for a couple of years in Buffalo, but has since reverted to a youth-only operation. Also, the Sacramento Kings began life as the Rochester Royals, who played in the National Basketball Association from 1948-57, winning the league title in 1951. The NBA's color barrier was broken on Halloween night 1950 when the Royals hosted the Washington Capitols at Edgerton Park Arena and Capitols forward Earl Lloyd became the first Black player in league history. Finally, the city had a fairly successful minor-league men's soccer team in the form of the Rochester Rhinos (originally Raging Rhinos), which played in the second-level league now known as the USL Championship, and most notably were the only minor-league team to defeat an MLS team in the final of the U.S. Open Cup, the country's equivalent to the FA Cup. However, the team went on hiatus after the 2017 season, and didn't return to play until 2022—by which time it had adopted the new name of Rochester New York FC and joined the newly founded MLS Next Pro, a third-tier league operated by MLS, where it was the only team that wasn't the reserve side of an MLS team. Unfortunately, RNYFC would fold completely after the 2022 season.

The suburbs of Rochester have been associated with stereotypes:

  • Brighton is wealthy and Jewish/Happyologist, more so than Pittsford
  • Fairport is also wealthy but declining
  • Victor is rapidly gentrifying
  • Webster/Irondequoit is a sprawl of '50s suburbia
  • Gates/Chili is empty
  • Greece is declined and home to more used car dealerships than gas stations; but the Supreme Court said they could pray in their council meetings
  • The 19th Ward is where you go to get randomly shot
  • Avenue D is where you go for drugs, hookers, and to get randomly shot
  • Up for a drink on a Friday night? Park Avenue is where you go if you're a more trendy/preppy type who spends too much time in the gym or the tanning bed, East & Alexander is where you go if you're into the club scene, South Wedge is more for hipster types, and Monroe Avenue is where you'll find your favorite seedy, skanky dive bar.
  • And never, ever cross the Ford Street bridge at night. There's nothing there worth seeing anyway.

Local businesses which have become ingrained to the area's identity via MemeticMutation include:

  • Wegmans. Full stop. If you've never been to one, picture a grocery store the size of a flagship car dealer, complete with pharmacy, deli, sub shop, etc. Pretty much all of a household's consumables can be found here. It's pretty much the Northern equivalent to Florida's Publix; Wegmans stores can be found as far south as Virginia- and both Wegmans and Publix have been recently opening stores in the southern half of VA, so expect a swordfight between the two chains any day now. Rochester is fierce regarding Wegmans, as well; Consumer Reports awards grocery stores for outstanding traits annually and Wegmans consistently sweeps them. Wegmans has a following of loyal, dedicated fans- there's even a Tumblr dedicated to them.
  • Nick Tahou's garbage plate. Nick's is the original; YMMV whether it's the best. This is a local dish consisting of a couple burger patties (or hot dogs) on mac salad and fries, optionally with toast or buns, covered in meaty hot sauce. Gross-looking but amazing.
  • Genesee beer. The local brewery puts out a superior replacement to big-brand light beers. The area is also home to a good number (per capita) of established and upstart microbreweries, which are not to be missed if you're into that sort of thing.
  • Ferdinand Jay Smith, the master composer and head of Jay Advertising, behind HBO's famous "Starship" intro music, as well as the music for their World Championship Boxing coverage, two iconic broadcast movie intros (the CBS "projector" of the 1970s/early 80s and again in 2020, and ABC's "star tunnel" of the same time), and a boatload of commercials and other projects (including, most recently a music package for the station he started at thanks his dad working there when he was a kid, WROC channel 8); you might even hear his voice in commercials for Wegmans or Raymour and Flanigan. He's the narrator in the "Sebben & Sebben Employee Orientation" episode of Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, and came back (along with pretty much everyone else) for the 2016 ''Attorney General" reunion special.

Rochester is home to terrible roads because of the repeated freeze/thaw induced by the Great Lakes' thermal moderation in the winter, which also make it common for there to be several foot+ snowstorms in a given year (one of our sports teams should be called the Lake Effect). Bitching about such is a Rochesterian pastime. When someone from the south moves here, they learn how to drive in low-traction situations.

Tropes Commonly Associated With Rochester:

  • Boom Town: The city was one of the first boomtowns in the United States, initially due to the fertile Genesee River valley which gave rise to numerous flour mills, and then as a manufacturing center, which spurred further rapid population growth.
  • Dying Town: Rochester was dealt a particularly massive blow around the Turn of the Millennium because its economy was heavily dependent on Kodak, which was lethally slow to adjust to the digital photography revolution. Thankfully, it bounced back due to the tech industry and its thriving arts scene, and just in time, as Kodak filed for bankruptcy shortly after the renaissance.
  • It Will Never Catch On: Not the city's fault, but the Eastman Kodak Company's senior managers outright refused to believe that digital cameras would ever overtake Kodak's admittedly world's-greatest film and cameras in terms of cost and practical use note . Then cell phone cameras became a thing, and suddenly the market for film dropped by ninety percent in only a few years. The bones of Kodak Park, their centralized and gargantuan industrial center, are larger than some of the city's suburbs, and have dozens of buildings that are nearly or completely empty.

People from Rochester (and the Genesee Valley more generally)

  • John Lithgow was born in Rochester, though he mostly grew up in Ohio.
  • Andrew "Babish" Rea was born in nearby Mendon and was raised in Rochester.
  • Kristen Wiig was born in nearby Canandaigua and mostly grew up in Rochester itself (with an interlude in Lancaster, Pennsylvania).
  • Musicians Chuck Mangione and Lou Gramm of Foreigner.