By Ernest D’Ambrose, a member of Suffolk County’s Next Generation Council where he serves on the Quality of Life and Health Committee.
My eyes open just a few moments before my alarm goes off. Leaning over, I kiss mi ‘Amor on the cheek trying not wake her. I walk into the kitchen to start the coffee maker, cuban style, freshly ground. In my used 18-year-old Mercedes, I start my trans-Island journey to the New York City line at 5:45 a.m. Before I leave Centereach to drive to Lake Success, I stop over at the local bagel store for a classic breakfast. As the cashier gives me my change, I wonder how far she had to travel to come serve people the most important meal of the day?
Not to their own fault, the reality of the market has changed. Entry level wages have not kept up with the cost of living. People have found alternatives to the “American Dream” by splitting houses into their late 20’s and 30’s and dwelling in basement apartments. How does one move up the social economic ladder when they can’t save for a deposit on a proper apartment or a down payment on a starter home? How do young people stay in the community if they can’t find a place to live?
Leaving work, I start prioritizing the rest of the evening: fuel the car, pick up dry cleaning, get the grocery list, and pick my girlfriend up for date night. At the pump, my mind wanders, does the guy pumping my gas drive to work or is his rent too high that he takes the bus? At the grocery store, my mind wanders, how can these young kids afford rent and a ride to work?
Finally, I pick her up and we head over to a new spot in town. Yelp’s description enticed me: trendy with a young crowd. As we are seated by the young staff, we notice the average customer looks like retired civil service members. Looking at the pricing, it seems reasonable for young urban professional’s salary, but I guess the person who serves breakfast, pumps gas, works at the dry cleaner or the grocery store has to stick to cooking at home or take-out.
These are the overlooked members of the community. What about their American dream? The next generation is here. We need communities that provide services vital to daily life and job opportunities with growth potential. Companies and communities need to invest in our future, not continue to push us out with rising costs and stagnant wages. We need choices in housing styles to best accommodate different needs. We need to make housing attainable and affordable. We need to shape the laws and policies that govern our communities at the local and county levels.
This is what Next Generation, an advisory group to the community, the local legislature, and Long Island, seeks to do. This a chance to listen to our requests and requirements. Our time is running out to make a home here. If we want our families to stay here, there needs to be a space for them that is affordable. If we hope to keep young Long Islanders on the Island we need provide them with a thriving space to work, live, and play.