By Don Engel, a former resident of Wantagh who currently lives in Knoxville, TN.
My parents relocated to Wantagh’s Holiday Park development in 1958 from Brooklyn for a better life for both my sister, Laura, and I and our dog, Velvet. My father worked in the city for Arrow Paper Company, while my mother was active in our community and helped with the City of Hope Wantagh (North Bellmore chapter). It was a new beginning for many World War 2 veterans and our parents saw a bright future for themselves and their family. I always wanted the same goals and values that my family provided me so that I could raise my own on Long Island someday.
My life on the Island was very simple, I went to work in New York City’s garment center in sales from 1979 until the mid-1990’s. In 1995, I decided to return to school to pursue a new career in Urban Planning and graduated with a B.S. in geography. I worked temporarily in the United States Department of Agriculture in both Syracuse and Niagara Falls.
It was in 2004 that I decided to return home from Buffalo. I found a two-bedroom apartment in a wonderful small complex known as The Villas’ of Medford, on route 112. To my surprise, the rent costs between upstate New York and Long Island was more than I had hoped for, and I had to get a roommate to share the expenses. I found that private landlords were asking for a lot of upfront cash, and apartment complexes and realtors were charging high rates even for basement apartments.
So I decided to leave. The decision was difficult at best, but due to my finances at the time, it was the right decision. As the years go by, affordable homes and apartment rentals have become out of reach for the very families who want that same dream as my father, creating an exodus off of the Island.
Although Knoxville, Tennessee is where I live now, it will never take the place of my home on Long Island. Throughout the years I have met many people who have transplanted from the region and they all have the same complaint: Long Island is just not affordable anymore. Builders in our area continue to provide luxury housing while leaving others out of the picture.
I hope that one day soon that I can return and live out my life. We have the best of everything here – ocean views, entertainment and access the world’s greatest city. I believe in Long Island. We have to do something to reverse the exodus of our present, and future, generations if we are going to have a “next LI.” We need a future where we can live together with housing options for all and not for a select few.