There’s No Place Like Home
“Either you date a rich girl from the North Shore, or a cool girl from the South Shore.”
Type in “relocating to Long Island” in the Google search bar and some of the first people you’ll meet are Larry and Sheila Agranoff, founders of SuffolkExperts. For them, to know this Island is to love it. They live here, raised their kids here. And they sell it for a living. The couple are licensed realtors with the Plainview-based Charles Rutenberg Realty and are self-proclaimed “Suffolk experts.” They also serve as certified relocation specialists, a position in high demand in the past year or so, due to the influx of people looking to relocate their family to the area, or those that moved away and are planning to return.
“We almost think of ourselves as matchmakers,” says Larry. “We match the right houses with the people that are looking for them.”
He notes that Long Island often leaves an impression that can’t be easily shaken, as letters and e-mails pour into his office from former clients, some as far away as Florida and even Hawaii, yearning to return to their homeland nestled in the Atlantic.
Many Long Islanders agree with their relocated brethren. According to the survey, 56 percent of Long Islanders say they identify very strongly with Long Island. Forty-three percent say it would be difficult to feel at home somewhere other than Long Island.
“I think it’s very hard once you’re on Long Island to live somewhere else,” says Agranoff. “Once you leave the area, you don’t feel like you belong anywhere else but here.”
That said, this love affair can be a volatile one.
The high cost of living alone can be daunting when planning to build a life in a new place. A Google search for “Long Island taxes” yields 98,200 results, and words and phrases like “worried” “2.5 times the national average,” and “taxes which can scare off corporations,” jump of the page in blue text.
“It’s very hard for someone who has never lived here,” says Agranoff. “It’s funny, my wife and I actually had someone who moved here from Massachusetts, and the price of cream cheese was so much here as compared to the price that they paid for it back home. My wife and I always laugh about that, thinking, wow, who would have thought that someone would be concerned about something like that?”
While some may shake their heads at this complicated culture, many others believe it comes with the territory. Agranoff says, “Regardless of the taxes, and regardless of the prices, people are coming back to Long Island.”
Agranoff believes that the future of this Island hinges on those with roots here. He adds that in many cases, middle-aged couples who have children wish to keep their parents close, rather than having them retire to places like Florida, where they might see each other only once or twice a year.
“A lot of buyers are the kids, who are purchasing homes for the parents to give them a great place to stay in the later years of their life,” says Agranoff. “Unequivocally, I see LI becoming more and more infiltrated with 55-and-over residents.”
But that mentality also comes at a cost.
The Brain Drain
“The Hampton Jitney is just like the bus to summer camp. Only instead of singing songs, everyone ignores each other and talks on their cell phones.”
—Carrie Bradshaw, Sex and the City
For all its quirks, the fabric of Long Island is not designed to retain younger generations.
Janet Porcelli, 39, was one of the ones who left. Ten years ago, she and her husband Frank relocated from Setauket to California after both took higher-paying jobs with a lower cost of living.
“I couldn’t wait to get out of here; I thought it would be easier and cheaper to live somewhere else and it was,” says Porcelli. “But, even still, I can’t wait to get back.”
The “cost of living on Long Island,” according to Google, is “one of the highest” and “a lack of affordable housing for recent college graduates”—such as Porcelli at the time she left—“continues to cause them to leave the area.” A search for “median salaries on Long Island” brings up a real estate website where someone asks, “On a salary of $40-$45K where can I live comfortably in Long Island, New York?” The answer: “There is no such place, hun.”
According to Long Island Association’s Annual Business Fact Book for 2008-2009, “Long Island is continuing to lose young workers between 25 and 44 years of age.”