News & Opinion

Suburban Long Island Loses Its Young

The number of adults in the 25- to 34-year range who live on Long Island has fallen 15 percent since 2000, The New York Times reports. That figure, cited by Leonie Huddy, director of the Center for Survey Research at Stony Brook University, points to a considerable “angst about young people leaving the Island,” she said.

Dr. Bruce Stillman, president of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, says most of the 1,130 postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, medical doctors, and others at his institution don’t live on the Island. “They commute from Brooklyn or Manhattan.”

“‘They don’t want to live on the two acres or the quarter acre’ that typifies suburban plots, Dr. Stillman said. The 24- to 32-year-olds entering the workforce after a decade in higher education aren’t ready to ‘spend their weekends mowing the lawn.'”

The Times article, available here, says:

“Instead, this global cache of high-tech workers’ want to live in other communities with people like them,’ cities or villages with ‘cool downtowns.’ On the Island, such places are scarce.”

“‘If we can’t provide the housing the scientists need and the types of vibrant communities that young researchers want,’ Dr. Stillman said, ‘we will face barriers to success that should not exist.’ Unsuitable housing, he said, might keep spin-off companies out of the area or hinder the research center’s plan to team with Stony Brook University and Brookhaven National Laboratory on an innovation center.”

There is no shortage of ideas about where vibrant locales for people with more urban tastes might be created: Nancy Rauch Douzinas, president of the Rauch Foundation, which sponsors the Long Island Index, dealing with the Island’s economy and quality of life, “said that previously it had studied how reconfiguring downtown areas could ease the Island’s housing, job, and tax woes with minor impact on single-family neighborhoods or open space,” The Times reported. “Last year, it identified 8,300 acres of potential land in more than 150 downtowns and rail station areas, mostly in parking lots.”

“‘We need 21st-century solutions to replace the 1950s ones,’ Ms. Douzinas said, ‘and we need to revise, redesign and adapt our habitat for living.'”

Part of the problem is that an “affordable home,” defined as costing no more than $254,500, or 2.5 times the 2009 median income for the region, “has become a rare commodity,” the newspaper noted. And there are obstacles to getting development projects approved.

“Rental units are not allowed without a special permit; 45 percent of villages aren’t allowed. Accessory housing is prohibited in 70 percent of villages. ‘Our codes make building them hard or downright impossible,’ [Index Director Ann] Golob said.”