Long Islanders share their feelings about the future

Portia IngramThe burden of student loan debt

Today I still owe over $40,000 for classes I took between 2009 and 2012. For years I felt the weight of having loans but not owning anything.

I come from a family in which my father instilled in me the American Dream. However, I only pursued the American ideal of security by working the traditional 9-to-5 job. I took the path of education and majored in Communication Sciences and Disorders in hopes of securing a career as a speech pathologist that would pay well and I would live comfortably.

Like many of my peers who have sought higher education, I walked through the door of obtaining a bachelor’s degree only to be told on the other side that I would need a master’s degree to truly compete in the job market. In the midst of trying to find the next door, I was thankful to figure out that the field I pursued for five years as an undergrad was not going to be a fulfilling long-term career.

But that realization didn’t erase the loans I still am required to pay back, plus thousands of dollars in interest. Today, I still owe more than $40,000 for classes I took between 2009 and 2012. For years, I felt the weight of having loans but not of owning anything. My peers without degrees received better job offers, while I was being passed up because of my specific degree and experience.

I am now 30, and I am no longer waiting to plan for a family despite my student loan debt. I am determined to build my brand as an author and social entrepreneur. I am thankful for having generous parents who did not kick me out of the nest too soon as I tried to make it on my terms.

I am thankful that FAFSA red-flagged my account and told me that I would have to pay for my master’s degree out of pocket because I had borrowed too much in federal loans. Because of that, I worked full time and went to school part time to get my master’s degree in disability studies, a paid-for diploma.

My hope is the next generation of Long Islanders can find their purposes early and live on their terms, free of debt.

– Ingram, 30, is a consultant from Bay Shore.

John SchneidawinWanted: A cheaper cost of living

Thanks to a high tax burden mixed in with student loan debt, vehicle expenses, and many other rising expenses that come along with home ownership, it is nearly impossible to maintain a lifestyle that we want for our children.

With the cost of living on Long Island increasing at a greater pace than that of wages, I’ve found it very challenging to raise my growing family here. Thanks to a high tax burden mixed in with student loan debt, vehicle expenses, and other rising expenses that come with home ownership, it is nearly impossible to maintain a lifestyle that we want for our children.

I’ve been an advocate for Long Island and the organizations that assisted me in obtaining a home more than 10 years ago, but it is becoming more and more difficult to convey the benefits of living here. It is no surprise that many of the young professionals who I speak with throughout the Island are on the fence about staying here.

Growing up on the South Shore, I spent my childhood enjoying the beach and fishing with family. I love this region — I’ve made lifelong friends and met my wife here. My wife and I both felt it was important to live near our parents to make sure our children grew up with them in their lives. In 2009, we were fortunate enough to learn about two great organizations that provided us with the opportunity to accomplish this goal. With the assistance of the Long Island Housing Partnership and the State of New York Mortgage Association, we were able to obtain a mortgage that allowed us to purchase our home. There are still many ways other that we can improve the opportunities for our generation and those that follow.

First, more millennials need to recognize our ability to alter our reality. We are the largest generation since the baby boomers, and can truly make a difference by selecting those who run our local government and municipalities. We must pay close attention to legislation being proposed, and we need to hold those accountable for passing legislation that could negatively impact our ability to live here. We need to focus on breaking down the many silos that make up our towns, villages and cities, and push for better, more frequent communication among the public, private and educational sectors in our region.

We need to look at one of the largest assets that make up our great region, single-family homes, and recognize that through policy and legislative changes, we could draft accessory apartment legislation that is more approachable and less restrictive. With the benefit of an accessory apartment, all generations on our island would be able to receive additional income that could help in many ways. For example, a young growing family could better manage the increasing cost of living while providing affordable housing options for young professionals just starting their careers. Both have a positive impact.

This is our Long Island, and to protect it, we must become more involved. As the active Long Islander Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficultly.”

– Schneidawin, 32, is a Business Development Officer from North Babylon.

Richard MurdoccoWhat we should do about the future

When faced with the question whether to leave or not, both my wife and I chose to raise our daughter on Long Island. However, what used to be a simple decision has become more complex in recent years as disparate economic, social, and environmental pressures increasingly mount.

Despite a perception that the value of living on Long Island is in steady decline, the quality of life offered by the region still has the power to lure future generations.

As young professionals flex their economic muscles and enter the region’s frenzied real estate market, many will have a tough time justifying staying on Long Island.

Thanks to housing prices that seem to be climbing year after year, a lack of residential inventory that is both affordable and diverse, and the ever-imposing cost of living, Long Island is fast becoming unapproachable for those who wish to call its suburbia home. And yet, young families from a wide spectrum of economic and demographic backgrounds continue to establish firm roots across Nassau and Suffolk counties. Why?

On paper, Long Island offers it all for the next generation — a best-in-class education for their children, safe community-oriented neighborhoods, access to plentiful natural spaces and beaches, and close proximity to high-salaried jobs. However, what used to be a simple decision has become more complex in recent years as disparate economic, social, and environmental pressures increasingly mount. When faced with the question whether to leave, both my wife and I chose to raise our daughter on Long Island. Paired with our local familial ties, these elements helped shape our decision to purchase a home – and have driven the decisions of many others like us.

Clearly, there is still strong demand for what this region offers young parents, as evidenced by our ever-rising real estate prices. As of this writing, the average price of a home on Long Island is $457,500, a figure that has climbed 35 percent since the metric’s lowest point of $339,000 during the deepest depths of the Great Recession. Now, average home prices have surpassed their previous pricing peak of $442,380 from the pre-recession period in 2007 by more than 3 percent.

Long Island is expensive – and residents know it. For decades, there has been an unwritten social contract for Long Islanders. They choose to tolerate the high taxes, traffic and bureaucratic quirks in exchange for a stellar quality of life, consistent municipal services, and education. So far, the agreement has worked, but the model hasn’t proven itself to be sustainable long term.

And as the sales tax revenues that fuel local government declines, infrastructure investment remains relatively stagnant in the face of growing demands and cracks in our fragile system are finally beginning to show. By all accounts, these cracks will continue to grow – a reality that is further exacerbated by the all-too normal occurrences of insider politicking, corrosive patronage, not-in-my-backyard syndrome, and partisan bickering. Together, this cocktail threatens to upend the very values Long Island’s success is built upon.

However, with a healthy mix of strong political leadership and smart, cohesive planning, this destructive pattern can stop perpetuating itself. We have to change course. I am confident we can. So much so, that I bet my family’s future on it by willingly choosing to build our lives here.

As someone who both teaches and writes on the region’s land-use issues, I am all too familiar with the challenges we Long Islanders face. But a simple solution is within our reach. To move forward, we must realistically discuss what our region needs and honestly look at our strengths and weaknesses.

By coming together and collectively shaping the future of Nassau and Suffolk counties, we can ensure that future generations of Long Islanders not only are able to embrace the qualities that make this area so special, but also that our political leadership has a tangible roadmap to enhance these attractive elements in future years.

Long Islanders have helped put men on the moon, protected unprecedented amounts of open space, and now conduct life-changing research at world-class institutions. We’ve tackled seemingly insurmountable hurdles before, and I truly believe we can do so again.

The Murdocco family chose to stay. Let’s plan ahead and work together so future generations do as well.

– Murdocco, 32, is an adjunct professor at Stony Brook University from Commack.