So where's the first lady, that soon-to-be New Yorker, to live?

It's a tough one. Because let's be real: She's already got a deal New Yorkers would die for. Big place, lots of square feet, closets, parquet floors, and very rent-controlled. With cooks, butlers, interns . . . scratch that last. But she's not waking up to a garbage truck clanking outside the White House, either.

She's not getting that kind of deal in Ozone Park, Queens, okay?

So Clyde Rabideau suggests Plattsburgh.

As in, a working-class lakeside city about 18 minutes from the Canadian border. Rabideau, who is Plattsburgh's mayor, has her orientation tour set. He's starting the first lady early, in rubber waders, him and her angling for lake trout.

"Then we'll bag a 46er, and I'll explain to her what a 46er is." (FYI: One of 46 black-fly-infested Adirondack Mountains that stand 4,000 feet or higher.)

"After that we'll eat a few Michigans." (A hot dog slathered in Italian meat sauce, named for the Michigan couple who "invented" this "delicacy.")

And then? Slip on the dancing shoes, honey, and stroll to the Naked Turtle.

"We'll suck Genesee beer and dance to Jimmy T and the Cobras. And because I'm a party mayor we're going 'til the sun rises over the Green Mountains. If that's all too much for her, if that doesn't beat the hell out of Arkansas, she always can go . . . "

Here our mayor pauses rather dramatically.

" . . . back to someplace really tame like SoHo or southern Manhattan."

So much advice, so little time to choose. Navigating the geopolitics of New York real estate isn't easy when your choice of home could affect your chances of getting elected to the Senate. Upstate tends not to like downstate, and vice versa. And the vote is split evenly between the two.

Right now, Hillary Rodham Clinton's exploratory committee has rented office space in Manhattan's Garment District. And rumor has her house-hunting in Westchester, a northern suburb of New York City. Manhattanites understand, sort of.

"The really super place where she'd loooooove to live is Manhattan, of course," says Cindy Adams, the New York Post gossip columnist. "No one rushes to get a place in . . . in [Oh, God, how bad would this be] . . . Staten Island . . . ."

But, alas, Adams knows how those unfortunates who live between 96th Street and the Canadian border tend to look at Manhattan. Too liberal, too gay, too ritzy . . . and besides: "Most Manhattan co-ops won't let the Secret Service agent eat takeout Chinese in the hallway."

So, Adams decides, Hillary will live in Westchester. "She's 45 minutes from the hairdresser in Manhattan, and he's 45 minutes from the airport that takes him to Arkansas and his library and his whatever."

Former mayor Ed Koch has lived this headache before: He runs for governor in 1982, and he's the favorite until he yaks to Playboy magazine about gingham dresses and milking cows and the incredible boredom of farms and life upstate. Next thing he knows, Mario Cuomo, the 4-H guy from Queens, is governor.

"I suggest she get an apartment in the middle of the state near some cows and some hay, and a pied-a-terre in Greenwich Village so she can have dinner," Koch says, "with me."

Then there's always the outer boroughs. Queens council member John Sabini has just the place.

Elmhurst, Queens. Zip Code 11373: the most demographically diverse Zip Code in the world, as determined by a conclave of demographers. Heaven for a Wellesley-educated wonk, as there's not a world issue she will not be expected to have an opinion on.

"We have pro- and against-KGB factions of an Armenian church rumbling in the street, we have Pakistanis and Indian insurrections, and when the world cup of cricket pops up, she needs to know exactly where she stands," Sabini says. "Everyone runs around screaming in 14 different languages. It's a perfect New York neighborhood."

And that brings the first lady to language, accent and 'tude, which are first cousins to real estate in New York. Settle in Plattsburgh, and she'd better know what those Montreal families are saying when they sidle up and ask: "Ou est la plage?" (Where is the beach?)

"Just say, 'Ahhh, mais oui. La, a droit (Oh yeah. Over there, on the right),' " advises Mayor Rabideau. "Don't worry, I'll teach her."

Down south in New York City, bada-bing, que pasa, and a Yiddish insult or two can't hurt. As in: "Yo, Giuliani, why don't youse stop acting like a Grade A putz?"

And in Elmhurst, land of 1,000 languages? "You learn to do it with your hands," says Sabini.

But enough of life in that island archipelago at the state's southern tip. The first lady already has laid a sentimental claim to Elmira. (She says she stayed there as a child. She later amended that to having passed through town in a car, but such, one supposes, is the state of roots in America.)

"Presumably, as she has looooong roots in Elmira, she knows that we're in the Finger Lakes and it's very hilly and picturesque," says Jane Kelleher, sales manager for Century 21 in Elmira. "Traffic is lighter than Manhattan and I could get her a nice Victorian for not more than $200,000.

"Tell her to give a call."

Then there's Albany, a wonky capital city by a river with pretty homes surrounding a lot of really boring official architecture. Sound familiar? Another problem: The city's ancestral and powerful Democratic Party machine is religious in its observance of the political pecking order.

"Her ward heeler will recognize her talent," says Dan Lynch, chief columnist for the Albany Times-Union. "But he's going to want to try her out on the city council first."

So who needs Albany? Or Manhattan and its alternate-side-of-the-street parking? Westchester's got those snooty mansions filled with Wall Street geeks. And, truth be told, the "Michigans" in Plattsburgh start repeating on you after a while.

Why not settle in Allegany? It's in western New York, and it's real small. One traffic light, one moose-crossing sign and a bar called the Hickey run by a guy named Lou. He makes shakers of kamikaze shots for $10.

And once Lou gets to know the first lady, after she's limped in from a hard day of campaigning and put a few quarters in the jukebox and gets that whiskey growl . . . y'know, he just might let her have the extra-special, 11-shot shaker.

Now is that New York living, or what?

CAPTION: The queen of Queens? Unlikely. Westchester seems a surer bet.

CAPTION: Hillary Clinton reportedly viewed this rustic Westchester estate--complete with pool and caretaker's cottage--in the very recent past.