Vice chairman, Wyandanch Community Development Corp.; former member of the Wyandanch School District Board of Education; raised three children in the community.
When did you move to Wyandanch?
In 1964, when I was just out of high school. I was 17.
What brought you here?
I was looking for bright lights and a bigger city.
Where did you come from, and how did you find Wyandanch?
I’m from Alabama, a little town called Andalusia. I had brothers and a sister that lived in Huntington and Wyandanch, so it was an easy sell.
What was life like here then?
I came here, and I loved it here. At the time, it reminded me of where I came from. I liked the surroundings here, I liked outdoor activities, and I liked to hunt. So this brought me the amenities I loved in Alabama, and any weekend I wanted I could go into the city for a change.
How have you seen the community change?
I have seen the community revolve 180 degrees almost. When I came here, you had more Italians and Polish people here; now the population is 90 percent black, and recently there is also an influx of Hispanics. I think this community has always had a lot of potential, because it is a small town.
A lot of things you initially loved about the community have changed. What do you like about it now?
The same sort of things. It’s just that we are stereotyped so much that a lot of people don’t have a sense of worth in the community, but we have a lot of good things that come out of here. Our students are graduating and becoming doctors, and they are doing well. And this community is still a good place to invest. Also, it’s a transportation hub, with the train station and one of the bus stops.
What are some of your hopes for the community?
Wyandanch Rising. I hope it continues to flourish. We need more businesses investing in the neighborhood to help offset the property taxes. For a poor district, our taxes are way beyond our means, and that’s why some people are losing their homes. I would love to see a 180-turnaround in the school system. But there’s another system at work and that’s the parents. The parents need to keep track of their child’s education or they are not going to succeed. Another thing that bothers me is the flight of the kids. As soon as they get old enough, they leave. We don’t have anything to offer them in terms of jobs. We need to get people here that want to stay here. A transient population comes with transient problems.