We've heard all the reasons -- many of them spot on -- for the so-called "brain drain" on Long Island.
High property taxes. Lack of affordable housing. No jobs. Poor public transit. Traffic.
Now what about the reasons to stay?
Well, recently, Nassau County Exec Tom Suozzi hosted a pow wow for Generation Next, asking those in their 20s and 30s what it would take to get them to stay -- or relocate to -- Long Island.
Suozzi touched on the old stand-bys -- "Cool Downtowns," the Nassau County Master Plan, the parks and beaches, and the fact that Nassau is but a stone's throw from NYC.
The attendees offered their views, conjuring up not a vision of a new suburbia, a recurring theme of the County Exec's administration, but rather, of an old Nassau, badly in need, as Suozzi himself put it, of re-imagining.
"Re-imagining" -- something that takes Disnyesque re-imagineers, we suppose -- isn't all that easy here on Long Island, where the vision of suburbia is all too often stuck in the 1950s "ideal", and NIMBY is the standard bearer of the naysayers, who look to thwart even the mere discussion of change, let alone progress.
No surprises as to the stumbling blocks that send our kids west, and keep them off the island. Still, they're worth rehashing, this in the hope that we could not only re-imagine, but redirect both mindset and resources toward alleviating the problems, lest Nassau County become a wasteland where only us oldtime suburbanites -- relics of the 50s, 60s, and 70s -- are left to grow poor and fade away behind those white picket fences.
Living in the basement isn't all its cracked up to be. Unless college grads and young, upwardly mobile professionals want to live in their old rooms in their parents' houses, or worse yet, in an illegal basement apartment, where do they go?
Housing prices are, for the most part, unaffordable, even in a down market, and assuming, for argument sake, one could afford a house, the property taxes are still out of sight.
Affordable rental units, notably in "downtown" areas, accessible to both "Main Street" and public transportation? Not so much here on Long Island, if at all.
Dude, where's my job? In this economy, if there are jobs -- jobs paying a living wage -- they are predominantly in the City. For young professionals trying to establish a foothold in their respective fields, the City offers opportunity, while, here on Long Island, prospects for employment -- in a job where there is growth potential -- are much more limited.
You can't get there from here -- or there. Public transportation (essentially, Long Island Bus), is a horror. Unreliable. Doesn't go where you need to be. Stuck in traffic, just like the automobile you would have taken -- and would have to take -- to get from here to there.
In the City, you can walk where you have to go, or take the subway, and be just blocks away. On Long Island, its the car, and congested roadways, to everywhere and anywhere.
As one young Long Islander told Suozzi, "Even if I want to take the railroad (LIRR), I have to ask my parents for a ride to the station."
Do we need light rail and other alternate modes of transportation in Nassau County? You betcha!
Can you walk to shopping, entertainment, or, for that matter, your friend's apartment? As they say in Brooklyn, fuggetaboutit!
The City, with all that has long been considered antithetical to suburban living -- including that dreaded high density in close quarters -- is a walkable, sustainable community, in every sense. Nassau County? Not so much.
You call this "downtown"? Most of what we characterize as "downtown" -- cool or otherwise -- here in suburbia is often a block or two of shops, half of them shuttered, en route to the mall.
Sorry. Manhattan is "cool." Downtown Brooklyn is "cool." Main Street in suburbia? Downright crummy, save a few locales, cited by Suozzi, as being Nassau's in-spots.
There's nothing to do on Long Island! Actually, there's plenty to do. Just check out one of the many LI-based websites, such as kioli.org (Keep It On Long Island), exploreli.com, or lifeonlongisland.com, and you'll see that there's rarely a dull moment, with a "to do" list sufficient to keep even the most energized twenty or thirty-something hopping.
Unfortunately, as with most places and things on Long Island, "what to do" is, typically, not just down the block or right around the corner, and, more often then not, you'll need a car to get there.
Yes, Long Island, in general, and Nassau County, in particular, have much to offer. Yet, to compete with the lure -- and, in certain instances, relative affordability of NYC, it will take a whole lot more than a "Tom Suozzi Wants YOU To Come Home To Nassau County" Facebook page to keep our kids in Nassau, and to bring back those who have left the suburban nest for the big, and not all that bad, City.
Of course, talking about it, putting all the issues on the table, open for debate, is a good start. Moving beyond the talk toward decisive action, actually making Nassau affordable, walkable, navigable, workable, liveable, and, yes, cool, is the next logical step.
Let's take that step together!
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From the Manhasset Press:
Suozzi Wants Younger Generation to Stay in Nassau County
Deterrents Are Affordable Housing, High Property Taxes, Traffic Congestion
Nassau County Executive Thomas R. Suozzi held a forum with Nassau’s “Next Generation” of current and former residents between the ages of 20-35 to discuss the county’s future. Suozzi listened to the concerns of nearly 200 young professionals who enjoy living in Nassau County but are finding it difficult to stay or move here. Many grew up in Nassau County and either moved away or still live with their parents.
Nassau County Executive Thomas R. Suozzi held a forum with Nassau’s “Next Generation” of current and former residents between the ages of 20-35 who enjoy living in Nassau County but are finding it difficult to stay or move here. Many live with their parents.
“Young people are leaving Nassau County in droves, and we want to find out why. We want to know what it would take for these young professionals to stay in Nassau County, because it is a great place to live. We have great schools, great healthcare, low crime, low unemployment, open spaces and parks, north shore waterfronts and south shore ocean beaches, and we are a stone’s throw from New York City,” said County Executive Suozzi. “But we grew so much in the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s and that population has aged out and we need to make the county more attractive to young people.”
Those attending the forum participated in roundtable discussions about what they would like to see in Nassau County, and shared their concerns and ideas with the county executive. The main concern among the participants was finding affordable housing in Nassau County, as many of them said they still live at home with their parents. Suozzi explained that the “Cool Downtowns” initiative would address the problem of affordable housing. A Cool Downtown is located near a train station and other public transportation and has multistoried buildings with people living and working in rental apartments, restaurants, and shops. Examples of downtowns that are already “cool” are located near a train station. Great Neck, Long Beach, Rockville Centre, and Garden City were cited as examples of places that currently have these downtowns.
“A Cool Downtown would be the ideal place for a young professional to live. They could walk to local stores, and eat in local restaurants and wouldn’t have to use a car to get around. They would also be close to the train, with easy access to New York City and other places on Long Island. Right now, if you’re 20 to 30 years old, you’re not moving to Nassau County. You can’t find an apartment to rent, and you’re not going to buy a house in a community like Levittown, because the neighborhoods are full of families. It’s not going to be any fun. Cool Downtowns would change that.”
Suozzi also discussed Nassau County’s Master Plan, which addresses Nassau’s challenges of traffic congestion, high property taxes, and pockets of poverty. It provides guidance on how Nassau can become a national model for smart, environmentally responsible new suburban development as we move forward for the next 25 years.
“For Nassau County to be sustainable into the next generation and beyond, we must attract young college graduates and businesses to locate here. We need to create ‘cool downtowns’ in Nassau where commercial areas are located near transportation centers and where housing, mixed-use structures and local amenities can be sited to support walkable communities.”
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