The following was written for nextLI, a project launched by Newsday that is funded by the Rauch Foundation. nextLI is managed by Newsday’s Opinion department with input from an advisory board made up of Long Islanders. It was first published on May 10th, 2019, and was quoted within the inaugural report.
By Richard Murdocco
Despite a perception that the value of living on Long Island is in steady decline, the quality of life offered by the region still has the power to lure future generations.
As young professionals flex their economic muscles and enter the region’s frenzied real estate market, many will have a tough time justifying staying on Long Island.
Thanks to housing prices that seem to be climbing year after year, a lack of residential inventory that is both affordable and diverse, and the ever-imposing cost of living, Long Island is fast becoming unapproachable for those who wish to call its suburbia home. And yet, young families from a wide spectrum of economic and demographic backgrounds continue to establish firm roots across Nassau and Suffolk counties. Why?
On paper, Long Island offers it all for the next generation — a best-in-class education for their children, safe community-oriented neighborhoods, access to plentiful natural spaces and beaches, and close proximity to high-salaried jobs. However, what used to be a simple decision has become more complex in recent years as disparate economic, social, and environmental pressures increasingly mount. When faced with the question whether to leave, both my wife and I chose to raise our daughter on Long Island. Paired with our local familial ties, these elements helped shape our decision to purchase a home – and have driven the decisions of many others like us.
Clearly, there is still strong demand for what this region offers young parents, as evidenced by our ever-rising real estate prices. As of this writing, the average price of a home on Long Island is $457,500, a figure that has climbed 35 percent since the metric’s lowest point of $339,000 during the deepest depths of the Great Recession. Now, average home prices have surpassed their previous pricing peak of $442,380 from the pre-recession period in 2007 by more than 3 percent.
Long Island is expensive – and residents know it. For decades, there has been an unwritten social contract for Long Islanders. They choose to tolerate the high taxes, traffic and bureaucratic quirks in exchange for a stellar quality of life, consistent municipal services, and education. So far, the agreement has worked, but the model hasn’t proven itself to be sustainable long term.
And as the sales tax revenues that fuel local government declines, infrastructure investment remains relatively stagnant in the face of growing demands and cracks in our fragile system are finally beginning to show. By all accounts, these cracks will continue to grow – a reality that is further exacerbated by the all-too normal occurrences of insider politicking, corrosive patronage, not-in-my-backyard syndrome, and partisan bickering. Together, this cocktail threatens to upend the very values Long Island’s success is built upon.
However, with a healthy mix of strong political leadership and smart, cohesive planning, this destructive pattern can stop perpetuating itself. We have to change course. I am confident we can. So much so, that I bet my family’s future on it by willingly choosing to build our lives here.
As someone who both teaches and writes on the region’s land-use issues, I am all too familiar with the challenges we Long Islanders face. But a simple solution is within our reach. To move forward, we must realistically discuss what our region needs and honestly look at our strengths and weaknesses.
By coming together and collectively shaping the future of Nassau and Suffolk counties, we can ensure that future generations of Long Islanders not only are able to embrace the qualities that make this area so special, but also that our political leadership has a tangible road map to enhance these attractive elements in future years.
Long Islanders have helped put men on the moon, protected unprecedented amounts of open space, and now conduct life-changing research at world-class institutions. We’ve tackled seemingly insurmountable hurdles before, and I truly believe we can do so again.
The Murdocco family chose to stay. Let’s plan ahead and work together so future generations do as well.
– Murdocco, 32, is an adjunct professor at Stony Brook University from Commack.