Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Tumbleweeds Loom Larger On Long Island's Horizon

"Exit" Poll Finds LI's "Under 40s" Primed To Flee

Maybe it's the lack of affordable housing, or the dearth of jobs that provide a living wage. Perhaps the over-the-top property taxes are the cue, or the diminishing return on one's investment. Could be the general decline in Long Island's quality of life that's driving Generation Next away from here, or the spector of "downtowns" that are perennially depressed, "Main Streets" that are little more than open sewers, and those lofty visions of the suburban dream that have faded into memory, leaving only a nightmarish presence as defined by the ugliness of the Turnpike and the aloofness of local government.

Whatever the reasons -- and they are, to be sure, many and varied -- the young are poised to leave Long Island, in droves, further eroding the tax base, devastating the local economy, and leaving behind those who, by dint of their stubbornness or foolishness, must stay behind to foot the bills.

We watch the tides roll in and roll out on our Long Island. Day after day. Year after year. What washes ashore, aside from the occasional body or discarded tampon, is a mass of toxic seaweed that threatens, in its wake, to overrun the beach head.

Further inland, at places like the Nassau Hub, the tumbleweed gather outside the Coliseum like so many Tribbles, unruly masses ready to roll down the Turnpike, smothering everything in their path.

Maybe it's not simply the taxes, the housing shortage, the egregious cost of living, the jobs, the sheer magnitude of the down and out in our towns and hamlets. Maybe it's that local government, rarely proactive, and, of recent vintage, barely able to react with even so much as a knee jerk, has all but abandoned efforts to renew, revitalize, re-energize, or so much as read the writing on the crumbling walls of blighted brownfields.

And when reports and studies issue declaring, with admonishment, "Long Island's young people are leaving," populace and politicos alike, as if amused by Henny Penny's cry of "the sky is falling," do little more than shrug.

Guess what? The sky is falling!

Where opportunity knocks, local officials hide under the bed, never answering the door. Where big ideas are proposed, our local politicos think small. In lieu of future design, there is the default of resignation. Actions supplanted by words delivered on colorful leaflets in residents' mailboxes. Master Plans shelved. Citizens' visioning dismissed.

Projects ill-conceived. Plans left to turn to dust on the drafting board. Proposals rejected. Promises and artists' renderings regurgitated, rehashed, and recycled, but nary a shovel taken to the street.

"A better burb is coming." Yes, and so is the Messiah.

Even where there is progress, it is, at best, nominal, coming too late and costing too much. The "one step forward, two steps back" approach to everything from reclaiming downtrodden downtowns to reducing property taxes that are out of control.

Sad, we think, where the only quantifiable measure of progress is a township's disingenuous claim of having advanced the cause of transit-oriented development, when, truth be told (though who will be left to tell it?), town government did absolutely everything within its power to derail redevelopment.

The folks at Long Island Index aren't telling us anything new, really. We've heard it all before. Last year. The year before that. A decade ago.

And maybe that's the problem. Nothing changes. Not for the better, anyway. Mired in the past. Clueless about the future. We refuse to adapt. We choose not to evolve. We have truly become the town where time stood still.
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From Newsday:

Report says rentals are key to keeping LI's young


Adapt or watch a generation of young professionals flee.

That's the message to municipalities from this year's Long Island Index report, which is to be released Thursday. It again focuses on underutilized downtowns. With few exceptions, the 13 towns, two cities and 22 villages that participated have been slow to embrace smart growth, the report concludes.

Outdated master plans and zoning codes hurt, but the report lays most blame on restrictions for developing high-density rental housing that typically anchors downtown redevelopment and attracts young adults.

Of the Long Island residents age 18 to 34 who participated in an Index survey, 64 percent said they plan to leave in the next five years. Three-quarters of the total 807 Long Island residents polled said the loss of younger residents is a serious problem, compared with 40 percent of those in suburban New Jersey who also participated in the 8th annual report, "Getting It Done: Aligning Long Island's Development Processes with Sustainable Economic Growth."

"All my nieces and nephews are moving away. And all my old friends, they're gone," said Mira Garland, 33, a Mastic stay-at-home mom and survey respondent. "They complain they can't afford to live here."

Nancy Rauch Douzinas, president of the Rauch foundation, a Garden City charity that funds various family and environment programs as well as the Long Island Index, said, "it's obvious we have not kept pace." Last year, the index identified 8,300 acres with development potential in 150 Long Island downtowns.

Hicksville was one such area. The Town of Oyster Bay, which includes the large hamlet, didn't participate in the index's land use planning survey, but town officials have opposed increased density.

"This bigger-is-better, or denser-is-better, approach, where one size fits all, we don't believe in that," Hal Mayer, Oyster Bay's environmental consultant to the supervisor, said Wednesday. "Each community knows what's best for itself."

The index acknowledged some progress. It cited Patchogue, Amityville and Mineola villages and Babylon, Islip, Brookhaven, Riverhead and Hempstead towns as trying to reshape their downtowns.

But only Hempstead, Long Island's most-populated town, has undertaken a transit-oriented development. The district around West Hempstead's LIRR station is to include a 150-unit apartment complex within walking distance of the station, a town spokesman said.

The index concluded other towns mostly ignore potential around the Long Island Rail Road, creating "isolated station(s) in a sea of parking."

The Huntington Town Board in September rejected the transit-oriented Avalon Bay housing development in Huntington Station. Critics claimed the project would have overburdened the community while supporters called it key to revitalization.


  1. Perversely, local government actually trumpets the fact that it would rather "preserve our suburban way of life" to quote Kate Murray, than to recognize that Long Island really needs to change in a way that reflects the evolving needs of those who actually live here. Those who are leaving are doing so because their needs and aspirations can't possibly be satisifed in a place that is so hopelessly outdated. As a consequence, at some point in the future, it will become painfully obvious that contrary to Ms. Murray's wishes, we haven't preserved our way of life, we've embalmed it.

  2. How could this report give credit to Hempstead Town? They only approved 1 project, and had to be dragged kicking and screaming every step of the way. That's not progress, that's pitiful!

    When Hempstead Town has a dozen of these projects under their belt, then we can give out a little praise. The same goes for the other Long Island towns and villages.

  3. I never comment anywhere but I really loved this article. As someone who graduated in the last few years, is holding down a full time job, and going to law school I can't even begin to fathom how to buy a home of my own anytime soon.

    Each year I watch more and more of my friends and loved ones leave and its truly heartbreaking. I love Long Island but something needs to be done. I think the above article perfectly characterizes my generations frustration and irritation at the current state of things and the desire to see it righted.

    Fantastic job