Despite living in a big house that feels empty, Denise...

Despite living in a big house that feels empty, Denise Burton says she has no intention of moving from the Sound Beach home she and her husband bought more than 20 years ago. Credit: Randee Daddona

When Violet Palermo Mandracchia’s family brings up the idea of moving from her three-bedroom Stony Brook house, she thinks about her view.

“I can see the water from some of my windows,” Mandracchia, 93, said. “I walk two blocks and I’m at the water.”

Her Long Island Sound-adjacent home for the past 40 years is “idyllic,” she said.

“I love it," said Mandracchia, a psychotherapist who works with clients over the phone. "I would never move.”

She is one of a group of people who are committed to staying in their house for the long haul while others around them peel off and relocate, lured by lower taxes or warmer climes or a change in careers.

After 40 years in her Stony Brook home, Violet Palermo...

After 40 years in her Stony Brook home, Violet Palermo Mandracchia says she would never move. Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

In 2021, New York was No. 3 in the nation for people moving out of the state. It was beaten only by New Jersey and Illinois, according to a study by United Van Lines.

When the world was a different place pre-COVID-19, the average American moved more than 11 times in their lifetime, according to The Atlantic. Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies reports that 13% of Americans moved each year.

But for some Long Islanders, the idea of leaving their longtime homes isn’t appealing at all. They stay for the community they've built, proximity to family and simple love of the abode they've grown accustomed to over the decades.

'It's own little country here'

While Denise Burton's Sound Beach home is near the water,...

While Denise Burton's Sound Beach home is near the water, she said what she most appreciates is the small-town feel of her neighborhood. Credit: Randee Daddona

Denise A. Burton is in that group. Her Sound Beach home of more than 20 years is also close to the water, but what she appreciates most is the small-town feel of her neighborhood.

“When I got to Sound Beach, it was quaint, it’s its own little country here,” she said. “It’s comforting to know the people on the block. You watch the kids in the neighborhood grow up and you look out for them.”

Burton, 69, who offers mediation and counseling services for a living, bought the house with her late husband. Her daughter also lived there with her husband and family, so Burton’s grandkids grew up in the house.

They have since moved out, and while her son still lives with her, “I’m left with this big house and empty-nest syndrome,” she said. “But I don’t plan on moving.”

A big part of the appeal is being a small community, Burton said.

“I know where everything is,” she said. Visiting the pharmacy and other small businesses where they know her name is comforting.

“It’s refreshing to walk in some place where people know you,” Burton said. “If I forgot my wallet, for example, they say, ‘Don’t worry, get me next time.’ That courtesy that they’re able to extend to you, I don’t think I can get that if I go to CVS.”

Another perk of her longtime home is her next-door neighbors, she said. "You couldn’t ask for a better friend, a better neighbor," Burton said.

She said she has noticed some changes in the neighborhood, including that some drivers don’t stop at stop signs, which is dangerous for her 91-year-old mother, Mildred Wertz of Rocky Point, who visits and takes walks in the area.

Burton has also taken note of how her property taxes have risen over the years, from about $2,000 to $9,500 today.

“It’s a hardship," she said. "But I still wouldn’t move."

Feeling conflicted

Amy Bello, 52, is attached to her home in Bellmore in part because she and her husband, Sam, raised their kids there and they “kept putting work into it to make it what we wanted,” including adding a dormer six years ago.

The attachment has deepened with the home's proximity to the venues where her husband plays in his band, “The Mystic.”

Sam, who bought the house 28 years ago, is retired from both the NYPD and FDNY. Amy is working as a third-grade teacher for another four years, and even after she retires, the band’s year-round wedding gigs and summer outdoor concerts will most likely keep them nearby, she said.

“I figured my house would be the house where my kids came with their children,” she said. But the high cost of living and increasing property taxes are among the reasons why she’s feeling conflicted.

Her daughter attends college at SUNY Cortland and her son, a high school senior, will most likely attend college in Pennsylvania, so staying in her home makes sense to be close to her kids, she said.

They have been approached by real estate agents asking if they want to sell. “We don’t,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to be too far from my kids.”

Besides proximity to her children, the lifestyle of being involved in the band makes it all the more appealing to stay.

“I love summers here,” Bello said. “We have a cabana at Malibu [in Lido Beach] and the band plays six nights a week in the summer. It’s so much fun. If it were up to me, if things were different, I’d stay here forever. I don’t want to leave, but the taxes have gone through the roof with nothing to show for it.”

A great vibe

Like Bello, Jay Grossman adores his neighborhood. “I fell in love with the area,” said Grossman, of Huntington village, which he has called home for 13 years. “It’s almost like a mini version of New York City here on Long Island. Restaurants, people walking the streets — it has a great vibe to it.”

He co-owns The Refuge restaurant in Melville and K. Pacho in New Hyde Park as well as one in Saint Martin in the Caribbean, and while Grossman, 50, travels regularly, he chooses to live in Long Island's colder climate even after his business partner tried to persuade him to move.

“I know it's cliché but there’s no place like home, and Long Island is my home,” he said. “I have flown out of Saint Martin knowing that a blizzard was hitting Long Island, and I came home to be home.”

His brother moved off Long Island in part because of the high cost of living, he said.

“To stay and be on Long Island is becoming challenging by the day it seems, but it’s my home, and you deal with the property tax and you deal with the snow,” he said. “It’s got a vibe and a style that’s all its own. It’s what keeps me here.”

Carmetta Freeman raised her 18-year-old son, Darius, in the Gordon...

Carmetta Freeman raised her 18-year-old son, Darius, in the Gordon Heights house that her parents had built in 1966. Credit: Morgan Campbell

For Carmetta Freeman, home was her three-bedroom childhood house in Gordon Heights. The Suffolk County employee lived in Moriches and Patchogue for a few years, but returned to her parents’ home and has lived there for the last 30 years, after buying it from her sisters.

“I couldn’t see putting it up for sale,” she said. “It’s part of you, you grew up here; you know the neighborhood.”

She raised her 18-year-old son, Darius, in the house that her parents had built in 1966.

“It feels pretty good to own something, to still have a piece of your parents even though they’re not here,” she said. “You can see the struggles and sacrifices they made that you didn’t understand when you were younger.”

Carmetta Freeman at home in Gordon Heights with photos of,...

Carmetta Freeman at home in Gordon Heights with photos of, from top, her mother, Virginia Freeman, top left with her aunt Victoria Bush; her father's singing group, and her father, John Freeman. Credit: Morgan Campbell

Mandracchia, the 93-year-old psychotherapist, can relate to still being happy in her house since the early 1980s.

Since she has lived there, she has made a few changes, turning one of the bedrooms into a painting studio, renovating the basement and converting the garage, first into an art studio for a friend and then to living space.

“I love this house; it’s beautiful,” she said. “For me it’s ideal.”

Eventually her adult daughter will move out and she’ll be there by herself with her visiting aide.

But that won’t change her mind about staying, Mandracchia said.

“I don’t intend to go anywhere until I croak."

Violet Palermo Mandracchia, 93, at home in Stony Brook.

Violet Palermo Mandracchia, 93, at home in Stony Brook. Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

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