Long Island is a place blessed with prosperity, an extreme example of the post-World War II American dream. But now an overwhelming majority of residents think things are headed downhill. A Newsday/News 12/Siena College poll found 72 percent of registered voters said young adults have less opportunity to be successful on the Island than they did in 1991.
The numbers show things have gotten tougher. Per capita income is up 127 percent in each county in a quarter-century, but home prices have gone up 163 percent in Nassau County and 130 percent in Suffolk. Property taxes increased more than 250 percent. And thanks to skyrocketing college tuitions and student debt, many people who enter the workforce are paying off the equivalent of a mortgage before they even think about buying housing. Add to that the fear created by an economy in which the job skills the market needs seem to morph constantly and the idea of a career with one company and a long and golden retirement sounds like a fantasy to most young people.
If there is an upside, it’s that the region’s not cratering: 70 percent of respondents said they were better off or just as well off as they were in 2012. And young people aren’t as glum about the future as their parents. Although only 17 percent of 35- to 54-year-olds said there is as much or more economic opportunity on the Island as 25 years ago, the number was 36 percent among 18- to 34-year-olds.
Long Island won’t be doomed to less success in the future unless it continues to try to live in the past. To thrive, it needs to change, becoming more dense in some spots, more innovative in attracting industries, and better at taking care of the environment and creating communities young people want to live in and can afford. It might only get worse if we keep demanding it stays the same.— The editorial board