Focus groups: Long Islanders get candid about diversity

As a follow-up to nextLI’s 2019 survey of the next generation of Long Islanders, nextLI conducted two focus groups to look at the future of diversity and housing on Long Island. Discussions centered on the changing demographics of Long Island, perceptions of Long Island’s multicultural climate, the racial and ethnic diversity in our communities, the role of school districts in diversity and reactions to Newsday’s Long Island Divided series.

nextLI then followed up with several participants to gain a deeper insight. Six participants joined the nextLI team at Newsday’s headquarters to share their personal views and experiences about diversity on Long Island. While their experiences differed, each individual said they supported diversity and that it was a good thing for Long Island. They also spoke about different aspects of diversity and how the region benefits.

Juan, who serves as a school board member in Amityville where he lives, says it was disheartening to hear a realtor try to steer buyers away from Amityville by implying it was a bad school district. He says that kind of attitude fails to acknowledge the positive things members of the community are doing to make the schools better.

Michael, who moved to Long Island from the Bronx, says he wanted a better upbringing for his children and access to a good school district. He also emphasized that he wasn’t worried about the ethnic makeup of his neighborhood, his only concern was sending his children to a good school.

Queens native Tayeb, who’s of Pakistani ancestry, shares his experiences with steering and racism but says there’s a lot of room to grow here. Now a Levittown resident, Tayeb talks about the culture shock he experienced when he moved there because of the lack of diversity in the area.

Maria, who watched Newsday’s segregation series, thinks more legal steps should be taken to tackle systematic racism. While Maria says the region is moving in the right direction, she thinks more work needs to be done in the way people think.

William, who’s a lifelong resident of Long Island, says he “wasn’t aware of the type of efforts put into the segregation.” He encourages people to become more knowledgeable because “the more you know, the more accepting you are.”

Sharing her experiences growing up in diverse Brooklyn, Anne says Long Island is diverse, but this diversity is “pocketed in certain neighborhoods.” She expresses a lot of hope for the future and says “the younger people are the clue.”

Carl’s daughter went to Amityville High School and went on to graduate from Harvard, and like Juan, he wants people to focus on the positive work teachers and students are doing to uplift the schools there. He says that while it was important for his kids to get a solid education at home, it’s good teachers who contributed to his daughter’s successes.

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Tell us

Do you agree with these residents? What are some of your experiences with diversity while living on Long Island?