There was a time when being 30 was a kind of line in the sand: A time to be “set” with a spouse, a house and maybe kids on the way.
Now, lots of young, educated Long Islanders see that line washed away by a rising tide of uncertainty. Careers, lives and futures are in an economic limbo.
Many are living with aging parents and without serious long-term prospects. The reasons are complicated and varied, but all seem to stem from a changing economy that has left the under-30 crowd with diminishing hopes for a future on Long Island.
Maureen Danielo's story is typical:
“I would love to live on Long Island and raise my family here, because I feel like there are great schools, and an overall great environment, said the 22-year-old from Farmingdale. “All of my family lives on Long Island, so I would love to be close to my family when I start one of my own.”
The recent college graduate has found part-time substitute teaching and coaching positions, but nothing that can pay all the bills.
“I have had severe difficulty finding a permanent physical education tenure track position,” she said. “The market for physical education is challenging right now to say the least. There are virtually no jobs listed for full time positions for the upcoming school year.
In a sense, Alexander Schwartzberg has put off his career dreams because of the same fiscal realities. The 21-year-old from Oyster Bay wanted a career as a chef, but then looked at the numbers. He is now a math major, taking a career path in aeronautic engineering at C.W. Post.
“It’s not that I really want that kind of job (his back-up plan is a career in finance) but no young people can afford it here,” said Schwarzberg, who lives at home and works year round at the popular Bonanza’s hot dog and Italian Ice stand in downtown Oyster Bay.
Economist Michael Crowell agrees. He crunches numbers for a living for the New York State Department of Labor. His conclusions:
“I feel it sort of anecdotally, that I saw my parents got married in their early 20s and were having kids and building their lives,” said Crowell, senior economist for the state’s Long Island region. “Now, I have a friend who just turned 50 and just now has a 3-year-old.
"Even before the latest recession, young people have been putting off having families,” Crowell said.
The recent recession was crippling to Long Island, which saw 18-straight months of private sector job losses, Crowell said. Now, jobs are returning steadily here, but not at the rate they were lost at the height of the recession.
And, the kinds of jobs that are coming back are not paying what they did before, Crowell said.
Crowell, who is a fan of economist Robert Reich, says even before the recession there were stories of Long Islanders having to work two and three jobs to make ends meet. Reich, Crowell says, “believes there is too much emphasis on more jobs and not what kind of jobs they will be.”
Derek Jones graduated as an English major from SUNY Stony Brook four years ago, headed to California and took a job as a law clerk. But Jones moved back home to Oyster Bay, realizing more education was the key for his future. Now he’s studying for the LSAT’s full time.
“It’s not ideal,” said the 26-year-old Long Islander who sees his future in environmental law. “I’ve loved Long Island, and being away from it, I realized I really missed it. People who live here are lucky.”