The kids who spent their summers climbing the sand dunes of Montauk and riding the Ferris wheel at Adventureland can’t afford to live here after college. Lack of affordable rentals and the promise of cheaper opportunities abroad have sent young workers in search of careers elsewhere.
In a 2007 study by the Rauch Foundation, 69 percent of residents aged 18 to 34 said they were very likely to leave Long Island in the next five years. More than six in 10 of those cited lower family housing costs as the major reason that they would leave. That’s bad news for Long Island business.
As the LIA reports, “[With] the large baby boomer cohort poised to retire, Long Island’s ongoing shortage of workers in several critical skill occupations is likely to intensify.”
While this brain drain is a well-known crisis, it comes with a silver lining. Employers looking to recruit the best and brightest of new college grads carry the burden of making Long Island livable for this demographic. A push for more affordable housing and new job opportunities must come in order to attract this group.
“There’s a certain vibe in the air on Long Island that comes from having the ocean and the city at your fingertips,” says Porcelli. “And you just can’t get that anywhere else.”
And she’s right. Places like the Hamptons—a city-meets-ocean Mecca for celebrities and vacationers—are uniquely Long Island. A Google search of the “the Hamptons” brings up 1,510,000 results, most portraying a Hollywood-esque paradise.
“You have to consider the Hamptons—that’s a destination for people,” says Agranoff. “So no matter what, the Hamptons will always be the Hamptons.” In fact, tourism is one of our biggest industries—Tourists bring in $20 million a year to the Long Island economy.
Yet while our beaches remain an essential part of our character, housing in such hot spots is both a blessing and a curse.
The Price of Fame
“Honey, someday when you’re a little older you will be introduced to something that is extremely seductive but fickle. A fair-weather friend who seems benign but packs a wallop like a donkey kick. And that is the Long Island Iced Tea.”
—Lorelai to Rory, in Gilmore Girls
Our reputation for excess can be defined by the drink that bears our name and reality shows like Platinum Weddings, Growing Up Gotti and My Super Sweet 16 that pop up all over the Internet. Did you miss an episode? No worries, you can catch them all, no expiration date, on YouTube.
Perhaps no one characterizes this stereotype better than Countess LuAnn de Lesseps of The Real Housewives of New York. De Lesseps, a Manhattanite who spends summers in her Hamptons mansion, is well-known for insisting that employees and peers alike refer to her as “The Countess” on the show.
But The Countess feels this is an edited version of herself, a conceit easily attributed to Long Islanders, who are often expected to have snooty attitudes.
“[The Housewives producers] edit, they grab every ‘countess’ moment they could and sometimes things were taken out of context,” says de Lesseps. “When I start the show, I say ‘I don’t feel guilty for being privileged.’” However, de Lesseps claims that quote is taken out of context: “I say, ‘I feel lucky,’ and they rack off the ‘lucky’ part so there is editing done to make it more spicy and racy, like the ‘countess’ moments.”
Because Long Island is in the limelight so much, it often feels like we are edited and our worst side is shown to the world on TV and the Internet: Lindsay Lohan and her dysfunctional family, for instance. Those “intelligent revolutionaries” featured on The Daily Show calling Staten Island a state will continue to live forever on TheDailyShow.com, where the video has 409,000 views and counting.
Whether we like it or not, they represent us. So do The Real Housewives of New York and Everybody Loves Raymond.
And if we appear to be a land of supermarkets, maybe it’s because the first one in the nation, King Kullen, was created here. If we look like an island of malls, perhaps it’s because one of the first and largest shopping centers of its kind, Roosevelt Field Mall, was built here. We are suburbia, farms and city all rolled into one. If we seem not to have one culture of our own, maybe it’s because we are the sum of thousands. Despite the stereotypes, real, perceived, and magnified by the Internet, people still want to be here. We have the traffic to prove it.
Google Long Island
Some real quotes from real people about Long Island, as found online…
“The best place on Earth.”
“A place that is misrepresented by girls from Nassau County.”
“The armpit of New York State.”
“Yes ‘BRO’ I live on Long Island. I curse…a lot. I say ‘yo,’ and I say it often. I know what real pizza tastes like and I know that a bagel is much more than a roll with a hole in the middle.”
“You won’t find a decent starter home for less than $500,000.”
“Small family-owned pizzerias are ubiquitous.”
“Everything centers around the mall and the consumerist attitude more so than in the rest of the country.”
“Kids in their 30s live at home until they inherit their parents’ house so they can shop for designer clothes and drive BMWs while living rent free.”
“It’s nice to pop over to the beach to just look at the boats or a sunset, or go into the city to see a world-class museum exhibit or eat great, innovative food. Otherwise why would you put up with the congestion and high cost of living?”
“The volume of traffic is bad enough. Add to that excessive speed and inexperience and it equals a lot of death.”
“The strangest thing about LI is that houses in ‘good’ neighborhoods can be identical to houses in less esteemed areas, and can carry 3x the price tag.”
“Multi-tasking in your car on the way to work means being stuck in traffic on the LIE, listening to a radio talk show, drinking your 7-Eleven 20 oz. honking and cursing at the other lanes going faster than you, and applying your makeup.”