Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Where Does Long Island Go From Here?

Revisiting The Issues That Shape And Shift Suburbia

Ask many a Long Islander, "Where do we go from here?," and the response is often, "the Carolinas, Florida, or anywhere I can afford a house."

Studies and commissions abound on quality of life issues -- from property taxes to education, affordable housing to zoning -- as we continually hold our vision of America's first suburb up to the light and under the microscope.

The latest query comes via Newsday,which asks, "Can we talk?"

Sure,we can talk. Seems that's all we do. Talk. Talk. Talk.

Even Newsday concedes that, a generation ago, it asked its readers the same or similar questions about Long Island's future, seeking to cull our thoughts on what it would take to keep Long Island the bastion of open space, quality education, and affordable single-family homes that lured us to the suburbs in the first place.

Of course, Newsday asks us to speak our piece in "150 words or less," as if the concerns of Long Islanders, and the problems that face, and sometimes seem to consume our island, can be encapsulated and regurgitated somewhere in between Joye Brown's column and a full page ad for P.C. Richards.

Long Islanders have much to say -- or at least they should -- about the good, the bad and the downright ugly on Long Island, whether its the illegal accessory apartment mess or local government run amuck.

We've been postulating, here at The Community Alliance blog, for more than two years now (seems like one hundred) on that which matters -- or at least that which should -- to our neighbors in pursuit of the suburban dream, and yet, are we any closer to finding -- let alone implementing -- the solutions which would bring back our parks, reclaim those brownfields, reign in the high cost of providing a first rate education, or ease congestion along the LIE? Not really.

We do welcome the discussion, though. For while talk may be the only thing that's cheap here on Long Island -- and they're looking for a way to assess and tax even that, as we speak -- it at least proposes to keep the burning issues of the day (the very stuff that keeps the hardy here on Long Island) in the forefront, and on the table.

True, the folks in Albany need to talk more -- and do more -- about what matters to Long Islanders (New Yorkers, one and all). So do our County Legislators and Town/Village boards.

Lest we begin to act in the best interest of our island, and the next generation -- many of whom have already fled for what they perceive as greener, less taxing, pastures -- in twenty-five years, Newsday, should it survive to write another Long Island story, will be asking the same or similar questions of a whole new crop of LIers.

Maybe it will be as if they're hearing those questions for the first time. Or, English being a second, third, or fourth language, if it is spoken at all, with few able to understand the questions, maybe it will be as if they had never been asked in the first place.

One thing is certain: If we don't start asking the tough questions, and demanding some straight answers, those of us who aren't holed up in illegal basement apartments in Elmont, mortgaging our great grandchildren's futures just to pay property taxes, or hoping against hope that life on Long Island can be saved, or at least salvaged, through some sort of drawn out, "tell us what you want", visioning process, will have long since dug up our Long Island roots, fleeing to more idyllic climes.

Some of us will head to points south or vistas north. Others may return to the land of their ancestors -- Brooklyn, Queens, or the Bronx -- the great city to the west, its neighborhoods and sense of community, enjoying a noble renaissance.

As for us, well, we hear that Osh Kosh is simply lovely this time of year!

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