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Long Island, Circa 2009

Looking back at L.I. and the year that was

Memo to these school districts: A night of spirited conversation to “raise awareness” is not enough. You have not done your part. Tell the stories of your counselors and the work they do, tell the stories of your students who can transform from honor status to living on the street in a few months. Do more. Help the cops. Help the parents. Help the kids.

The entire Island needs better leadership. Our Albany delegation is in a re-election year, and chances are the events of this past November have sent a message. The people are done with mistakes and glossy politicians who are quick with an answer or a mantra. No more. Give them answers and solutions. No more shameful grabs at power or fruitless, empty court battles.

After years of fighting with the federal government, the Shinnecock have been officially recognized. (AP Photo/Ed Betz, File)

After years of fighting with the federal government, the Shinnecock have been officially recognized. (AP Photo/Ed Betz, File)


The federal government finally nodded to the early history of Long Island when it moved toward granting recognition to the Shinnecock Indian tribe. Of course, the first word that came from that news in the media and beyond was “casino.” But stop for a moment and think as a person. Most people who are born in America and come from a family line that has been breeding on U.S. soil for probably 100 years love to tout their Italian or Irish or German ancestry, with nobody pointing out that they are really just American.

Now consider being Native American and never being recognized as such. On Long Island, many members of the Poospatuck or Shinnecock are not known as such. So, even though the recognition can help the Shinnecock put up a casino somewhere, it does more than that. It gives credence to the people who were here first, period. The Shinnecock are an Indian tribe. So nice of the federal government to notice.

The end of 2009 also brings to an end the first decade of the 21st century. Time is marching on unabated and swaying wildly. So much has occurred since the turn of the millennium on our Island, and much of it has now gone back to the other side. Consider the fall of the mighty Republican Party in the early part of the decade, and the meteoric rise of the local Dems. As the ball drops on New Year’s Eve, though, many of the changes and names that became known during the Democratic surge will not be around anymore, falling victim to the process that is Democracy.

Time to ring the bell of irony.

And looking back to the beginning of this decade, to that fall day when so many of Long Island’s people were lost when the Towers fell, it felt like time would never move again, and the only images that would ever exist were of pain, ruin and despair. Terrorism came to our house, and we felt something generations of Americans have never felt before.

In the shadow of the great city, Long Island has grown to be a problem child that wants to be on its own but does not have the maturity or wisdom to make the right choices. To put it simply, this Island was never supposed to be this way. This was the country, filled with farms, beaches and cottages. When Mr. Levitt broke ground, he did so much more.

County Executive-Elect Ed Mangano will be sworn in on Jan. 1, 2010.

County Executive-Elect Ed Mangano will be sworn in on Jan. 1, 2010.

The great planner Robert Moses said, “Those who can, build.” But that quote did not mention building smart, or even tearing down. As great a planner as he might have been, Moses could not have predicted thousands of cars trying to move every day on the Northern State Parkway, which was designed as a fun, Sunday-drive kind of road. Could you imagine the acerbic Moses, an egomaniac who did what he wanted to do, weighing in on the clown show that is the Lighthouse Project?

The point is, you can’t plan for everything. It is simply not possible. What is, though, is the ability to recognize change, hear the voices who want it, and have the aptitude and fearlessness to act.

As parochial as this Island remains after all these years, it is time to admit we have some real-life, big-time problems. Maybe it’s time to admit once and for all that Long Island is all grown up and is looking for its own place. It’s time to cut the ties to the days of vast expanses of land and worry-free neighborhoods. No, we are not that place anymore. But we are great. We are Long Island.

The sun casts shadows both ways. Soon, Manhattan could feel ours, as the sun rises on the shores of Montauk.

We just have to be tall enough to get it done.

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