Over the past few months, I have traveled Nassau County getting to know the communities that comprise the 13th Assembly District. As I've gotten to know our residents and listen to their concerns, the same themes come up over and over again: Why are my taxes so astronomically high? How can I afford to remain on Long Island? What does the future hold for our children, who can't find jobs or an affordable place to live?
These concerns are tangible and real. We pay some of the highest local taxes in the country so that we can provide our children a top quality education. We make enormous sacrifices to send them to college. But once they're grown, they take these skills elsewhere when they move off of Long Island due to a lack of jobs and an inability to afford the enormous cost of housing and property taxes. Instead of a better future when they graduate, they are faced with an impossible choice: leave their families and their homes behind and move somewhere else or accept a lower standard of living in order to remain on Long Island.
These problems don't just affect young people. Our seniors, the ones who built Long Island, spent their lives here, and who made it one of the greatest places to live in the country, find that they can't afford to spend their retirement here. Middle-class families, once the backbone of Long Island, can't afford to stay in their own homes. Even those I've met who can afford the high cost are finding fewer and fewer reasons to stay: “We can live anywhere,” they've told me, “why pay so much to stay here?”
Have we turned our back on these people? Have we forgotten what made Long Island great?
There was a time when Long Island had a place for everyone. Soldiers returning from the war, fishermen going out for their daily catch, and city dwellers seeking extra space could make their homes next to the estates of aristocrats and wealthy industrialists. On Long Island lay the promise of a better life for all.
Year by year, that ideal becomes less attainable due to rising taxes, a statewide atmosphere hostile to business, the rising cost of education, and a general lack of jobs and affordable housing. It's time that we reflect on where these policies have left us and what we must do to make Long Island thrive once again.
In the Long Island of our past, we've seen what greatness looks like. It's time for us to be great again.