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Friday, February 28, 2020

Opinions > Inside Out

This is my New York

Sep 9, 2019

By Jeanne Sager - columnist

I never expected to care about a license plate as much as this. Driving around town, they barely rate my attention.
And yet when the governor's office released five different versions of a new New York State license plate, four of which featured city-centric imagery, I was angrier than maybe I should have been about a license plate.
But I felt like many a New Yorker upon reveal of the proposals. I'd felt like I'd been erased.
I'm a New Yorker, but the images of New York City aren't mine, even as I'll admit that childhood me once yearned for them.

I've lived in this state for most of my life, and that includes a stint in the 302.6 square miles that make up New York City, a stint spent in college because growing up the city was always the goal, a way out of my small town.
I've left the state too, lived in the South, only to return not to Manhattan but to the 54253.4 square miles that make up the places beyond the city, beyond the glittery lights of Broadway, cobblestones of the Belgian Block and man buns of Park Slope.
I'm the kind of New Yorker who was raised on a dead end road with a 35-mile-per-hour speed limit.
I'm the kind of New Yorker who graduated from high school in a class of 34 and knew the names of every kindergartner in her district.
I'm the kind of New Yorker who ate sweet corn fresh from the road-side stand and fresh tomatoes off the backyard vine.
I'm the kind of New Yorker who went to the “big city” only to realize it wasn't what I was looking for, not really. I was a small town girl, a girl who could drive 55 miles per hour down a small country road without blinking an eye but shuddered at the thought of stopping for a red light every few hundred feet. I was a girl who wanted to walk out the door and feel dirt on her feet instead of pavement, a girl who could sleep straight through the peepers mating but launched straight out of bed at a siren.
I'm the kind of New Yorker who realized being a New Yorker isn't about living within a 302.6 square mile lot. Life in New York City has its advantages, and I love them enough when I visit. But I love my New York all the more when I leave.
It's why I'm relieved the state has recognized that a license plate that represents New York shouldn't just show the icons of a small city but the ethos of an entire state.
When the directive eventually shows up on my doorstep to change my plate, I'm relieved to say it will be one that represents me too.

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