Last summer, Newsday’s NextLI produced an in-depth study of millennials on Long Island. The findings detailed a grim future, with millennials planning to leave Long Island because of a lack of affordability, economic opportunity, and other reasons. This could be devastating to our communities’ fiscal health as the current working population retires and our tax base erodes.
Having grown up in Roslyn and moving to Great Neck from New York City in my 20s, for me this issue is of acute concern. The situation, however, does not call for resignation. Instead, I believe Long Island now has its best opportunity to attract young residents in recent memory.
Prompted by the pandemic, I’m having more conversations with millennials growing tired of crowded city living. Whether it is a need for fresh air, more spacious apartments or more affordable living conditions, this desire is real and should be acted upon by local leaders. While the lasting effects of the pandemic remain unclear, I don’t expect this millennial situation to abate. For all of us who call Long Island home, it is a situation we need to seize upon for our communities to be sustained.
The question is: What does this really mean?
My wife and I recently had been house-hunting on Long Island, and when I told people where we were looking, they’d always ask, “But how are the schools?”
We, as a society need to be serious about why this question is being asked. I believe that people don’t want to know how good the teachers are, because I know plenty of amazing teachers in schools that people would question. When someone says, “But how are the schools?” I believe it really means “How white are the schools?”
While maybe not a conscious thing, to me, this phrase has become coded language. This is something that millennials, the next generation to raise our kids, need to push back on. We need to choose to live in communities with diverse schools and not self-segregate. We can’t make decisions solely on how the school ranks. Instead, we need to choose schools providing a diverse education because that is the best education. When kids grow up in classes and play on ethnically and socioeconomically diverse teams, they become more tolerant.
Millennials can change Long Island if we come out from behind our divided lines and stop hiding behind the shelter of “But how are the schools?”