Nassau County Legis. John Ferretti lives with his wife and...

Nassau County Legis. John Ferretti lives with his wife and two children, in Levittown, two doors down from his parents. His sister's family lives in the middle home of the three. Credit: Newsday/Lane Filler

A couple of years ago John Ferretti, a Nassau County legislator and attorney, shared the tale of how his parents, his own family and his sister’s family came to live three abreast. 

Mom and dad live in the Levittown house where Ferretti grew up, and he was staying there in 2009, studying for the bar. When a for-sale sign sprouted two doors down, Ferretti, committed to the girlfriend who is now his wife, leapt.

“The market was down then,” Ferretti said Tuesday as we chatted in his dining room. “And my parents really encouraged me to buy.”

A decade later the couple sandwiched between those two homes relocated, and his sister and her husband swooped in for the tract-trifecta.

It’s a nice story about one of the best aspects of Long Island, multigenerational families sharing their day-to-day lives.

But not as often as they’d like. Sometimes, it’s too expensive for either the kids coming up or the parents holding on, because there is not enough of the “typical” Long Island to go around. Not enough cul-de-sacs and capes, not enough white picket fences for all who want them.

“Want” is the word that comes up so much. Plenty of Long Islanders want out, but many seniors want to stay near kids who stayed, or want the ones who lived their 20s elsewhere to come home. Politicians, including Ferretti, say they want to keep the Island affordable for them.

And the math would add up more often for families to keep living together in communities like Levittown, were it not for newcomers wanting their own suburban dream. The cycle of people in New York City coming to covet the lifestyle the Ferretti clan enjoys is uneven, but unending. 

Demand exceeds supply. Prices rise. We can’t always get what we want. 

A Newsday article Wednesday said the median home sales price in Suffolk County was $540,0000 last month, an increase of 79% in a decade. The median Nassau sale, at $666,500, represents a 67% jump.

On affordability, Ferretti said controlling taxes is crucial. It is, but that won't help prices.

He also touts more multifamily housing (in communities other than Levittown!), citing Mineola as one prime location. That development is needed, but not by families craving backyard barbecues. 

Asking Ferretti is particularly resonant because he’s the great-nephew of Joseph Mondello, who ran the county Republican Party for eons, and heir to a political vision that opposed new construction and newcomers.

But it’s becoming increasingly clear that there’s not enough room on Long Island to build enough single-family houses to keep prices “reasonable.” And where building could happen, particularly in Suffolk, it is often opposed by residents who “want” everyone to be able to stay, but don’t want the population increase that implies once newcomers are added to the mix.     

When Ferretti’s house was built around 1947, Levittown houses went for $7,000. Adjusted for inflation, that’s $94,000 today. But it’s worth seven or eight times that. 

That’s Long Island. It simply can’t be affordable, for many people, without a level of added density that would also make it undesirable to many of those people. 

“It is a privilege to live here,” Ferretti said, “because it’s got so much to offer.”

The numbers, and the wants, bear that out.

Columnist Lane Filler's opinions are his own.

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