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Study cites 'a tale of two suburbs,' where some struggle

A recent study out of Adelphi University has

A recent study out of Adelphi University has found that Long Island homeowners are spending more and more of their income on rent and housing. (file photo, May 28, 2009) Credit: AP

A new report by Adelphi University looks at the "social health" of Long Islanders and offers "a tale of two suburbs."

In one, people are living out the American dream.

In the other, people "largely hidden from view" are struggling.

"Commonly considered among the most affluent regions in the nation, Long Island has increasingly become home to concentrated pockets of poverty, food insecurity, homelessness and other concerns," says the 106-page report, "Vital Signs 2009: Measuring Long Island's Social Health."

It's the fourth such report by Adelphi researchers since 2006. It takes the measure of Long Island based on "social health indicators." Among these are foreclosures and child abuse.

"Seniors, people and communities of color, the poor and middle income - are experiencing even more pain and are at greater risk for social health concerns," Sarah Eichberg, director of community research at Adelphi, and co-author of the report with Deborah Petry, Vital Signs project associate, said in an interview.

Some highlights:

The report says that, overall, Long Island is considered an affluent suburb that "frequently exceeds state and national levels on social health indicators" for much of its population. Even so, the region's high costs are burdening an increasing number of Long Islanders, among them the middle class.

Housing Costs

More Long Islanders are paying 30 percent or more of their income on housing: 56.1 percent of renters in Nassau and 54.1 percent of renters in Suffolk in 2007. In 2003, the numbers were 45.9 percent in Nassau and 44.9 percent in Suffolk.

Among homeowners Islandwide, 44.6 percent paid 30 percent or more of their gross income on housing costs in 2007, compared to 40.3 percent in 2004. Statewide, the figure is 34.6 percent.

Reacting to the report, Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy said county officials are "particularly concerned" about high housing costs. That's why, he said, he was championing building affordable housing, such as the Yaphank development proposal.


Mortgage foreclosures and delinquency

The report said foreclosure filings rose 48.7 percent in Nassau and 71 percent in Suffolk from the second quarter of 2007 to the second quarter of 2009.

"Lower income communities and communities of color have been among those hardest hit by foreclosures and delinquencies [behind on payments] on Long Island," Petry said.


Child abuse

"We found a disturbing growth" in child abuse reports from 2007 to 2008, Eichberg said. Abuse reports rose 3.2 percent in Nassau in 2008, numbering 6,132, and 8.6 percent in Suffolk, which had 9,468.

Eichberg said some of the increase was due to new state mandatory reporting requirements for medical and school personnel. She added the increase corresponds to national trends. She also noted research that suggested financial and emotional stress, which increases during an economic downturn, may lead to more child abuse.

The report's authors urged collaboration among public and private groups to turn things around. Edward Mangano, Nassau County executive-elect, said his administration "is committed to reversing these trends."


Drug abuse and suicide

Eichberg said three-year drug-related discharge rates from hospitals have risen 2 percent in Nassau and almost 20 percent in Suffolk. And after declines earlier in the decade, the report notes a rise in suicides: 26 percent in Nassau from 2005 to 2007 and 37 percent in Suffolk from 2004 to 2007.

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