What's Gone Wrong With The Suburban Dream?
By Patrick Nicolosi
There was a time not so long ago people made hard decisions to move their families from city life to a suburban life. I can remember the year my father and mother made their decision. The year was 1967, and after much protest from me (I even told them I was staying in Queens), we moved.
Now at first it was very hard, because back then moving to Long Island was like moving to the country, even here in Elmont there were remaining farms.
I still remember looking at the high schools and elementary schools and wondering if they were colleges or universities. All this land, all this grass, where is the asphalt? No more playing in the streets, no more running between cars, we now had parks and space to run and play.
The schools were clean and, for the most part, new. The streets were newly paved, and no one complained about taxes, the need for affordable housing, or crime.
What has gone wrong with that suburban dream of years ago? Why are some trying to change Long Island from the suburbs of New York to another borough of the city?
Most of us made our living in the city and came home to the peace and tranquility of our home in the suburbs. Some of our neighbors rented but they kept their homes clean and kept it to one apartment, unlike today where homes are now apartment buildings housing many families.
Recently I came across an old tax bill from 1980. The school tax bill for that year was under 700 dollars. Oil for my home was well under a dollar per gallon, and LILCO came to your home for no charge.
We had more police back then, in fact, almost double the force, and there was no talk about pedophiles living near our schools. Children delivered your newspaper and cut your lawns and we were happy to pay for those services. There were no men standing on corners making women and children feel unsafe. Why do we have to put up with this and why we are paying more, much more?
We are heading in the same direction as Queens and other parts of the city, the only difference is the tax and lack of transportation or infrastructure. Is this what we want for Long Island? Do we want to end a choice for many who seek a suburban life style?
We cannot be all things for everyone, land on Long Island does not grow or expand. We can't keep building without one day realizing the need to build toward the sky. We are now faced with many crises, most people are house rich and cash poor, and seniors can no longer afford this burden. The young can't afford a home unless it comes with rentable apartments or they are leaving for low cost states. The middle aged or baby boomers are also faced with leaving because there is no place to down size here on Long Island. The middle class has no representation and have more difficult decisions to make.
Some in Congress may believe this is "middle class," but here on Long Island anything under 100 thousand a year supporting a family is anything but middle, in fact, you are just getting by.
So now we need to give some serious thought to these subjects. Do we want another Queens? Do we want to fix our suburban dream?
The one thing that is almost certain, whichever direction we are heading, we will need to move from the regressive property tax to a more progressive tax based on one's ability to pay and not on one's land/house value. I would hope most want to retain a suburban lifestyle, or at the very least, to fix our towns so our women and children are safe.
I would also hope that when families make their decision to move to Long Island, it is based on the same decisions my family made many years ago -- a better life for their families and to keep their homes and community clean. We need to fix these problems, right now. Long Island is becoming a place you can't afford. Let's not make it a place you hate, and a place where you are paying more for less.
Patrick Nicolosi is a resident of Elmont and President of the Elmont East End Civic Club. This article originally appeared as a Letter to the Editor of the Elmont Herald, is republished with permission, and has been modified for this blog.
- - -
Hey Pat. Stop knocking Queens. Nassau County is not becoming Queens. It's becoming the Bronx. And Hempstead Turnpike is Tremont Avenue, without the elevated subway!
Okay, all you civic leaders. What say you about your community's future and that of our Long Island? Chime in any time. E-mail The Community Alliance with your thoughts, comments and Guest Blogs at firstname.lastname@example.org.