What’s L.I. without its next generation?

07/08/2010 12:00 AM |

My best friend just got a call for a job interview in Georgia, the state she’s talked about moving to for as long as I can remember. Though I am truly happy for her, I can’t help but sigh and feel saddened that Long Island’s lost another promising and locally educated young adult.

I’ve seen far too many friends and family members leave this rock in the hope of a better and more affordable life south of the Mason-Dixon line. And I can’t say I blame them, at least when it comes to finances.

Let’s say a recent graduate earns an entry-level salary of $32,000 per year, which is what I earned when I first entered the work force after grad school two and half years ago. Take-home pay amounts to about $475 per week. That’s $1,900 a month. Subtract $900 per month for rent and utilities, $100 for car insurance, $50 for a cell phone, $150 for a student loan payment, $150 for gas and about $350 for groceries. That leaves about $200 — $50 a week– just enough to go out to dinner with friends.

Oh, wait; the car needs an oil change and the registration is up, and that co-pay at the doctor’s office now costs $30. That leaves about $8 a week this month. And nothing for savings. That’s not even counting credit card or car payments.

This can’t be a good situation for the long-term health of our housing market. How could any homeowner here expect the next generation of young people to have on hand the minimum $35,000 it will take to buy his or her $350,000 home in Calverton when it comes time for the seller to trade up?

Another friend of mine moved from New York City to Colorado Springs last year and, despite having accepted a $7,000 per year pay cut at her new job, she takes home more money after taxes than she did in New York.

The low tax rate, reasonable cost of living and beautiful backdrop of the Rocky Mountains should make Colorado Springs seem like an ideal place to live. But she describes the city as having a beautiful face masking an ugly personality.

In addition to having the second-highest suicide rate in the country, Colorado Springs, like almost all municipalities across the nation, is broke. Not broke as in no government salary increases this year, but broke as in we can’t afford to power streetlights or have garbage cans in our public parks.

I asked her why the local government doesn’t just raise taxes for necessities such as, oh, I don’t know, making sure the streets are passable after a major snowstorm? She said making that suggestion would get you branded as a communist.

At least we’re smarter than that here. Point, Long Island.

I was also less than impressed by my visit to North Carolina earlier this month. Although the town I visited, Cary, was jokingly referred to as a “Containment Area for Relocated Yankees,” the New Yorkers seemed to have left the culture back home. Unless you consider a visit to the local Super Walmart a fun Friday night or find Arby’s and Chick-fil-A delectable cuisine, I suggest skipping it.

What’s the point of having more disposable income when there’s nothing to spend it on?

As for Florida, it only takes a glance at the national news to realize that’s where all the nation’s freaks end up. Case in point: The latest scandal to come from the Sunshine State is a photo circulating the Internet of an infant with his mouth held next to a seemingly smoke-filled bong, taken by his 19-year-old mother.

Yes, prices on Long Island are high, but in return we have great schools, adequate social services, a lower unemployment rate than the rest of the country and access to the center of the universe only 70 miles west. Plus, I don’t need to point out how beautiful it is to live among acres of open space surrounded by an ocean. Why would we want to live anywhere else?

I just placed an application for an apartment at Summerwind Square, a 52-unit affordable rental housing and retail complex being built on Peconic Avenue in downtown Riverhead, where apartments are expected to start around $900 per month. Though one could find an apartment for that price in Riverhead, it certainly wouldn’t be brand new and as nice as these units will be — at least according to a look at the artist’s renderings.

The project was recently presented with the Smart Growth award from Vision Long Island, and rightfully so. What could be better for a downtown than having young professionals living nearby to increase foot traffic and patronize local shops and restaurants?

There needs to be more initiatives like Summerwind to prevent the “brain drain” and keep the local economy sustainable.

Young people want to stay on Long Island. We just need a leg up.

Vera Chinese is a staff writer. She can be reached at 298-3200.