Don’t Panic

Quick fixes don’t cure the ailment, they only treat the pain

Desperation can be a bad thing and usually results in decisions made in haste that quickly become the source of much regret. I make such a statement because Long Island appears to be suffering the effects of desperation amid these trying times.

The most glaring example of the current state of the region can be seen in the multiple levels of government, all of which are scrambling to find new revenue streams to plug the budget holes left by the demise of the housing boom. New fees and surcharges are being proposed regularly for items such as plastic bags at the supermarket, salt water fishing licenses, traffic cameras at intersections and all sorts of additional surcharges; all introduced under the auspices of protecting the environment or increasing public safety, but it is hard to ignore the fact that raising revenue is the cornerstone of these proposals.

Funny how backwards our thought processes can be when the economy sours. We raise taxes and fees during the bad times and slash them during the good times. Seems we should be doing the opposite, funneling increased fees during the boom times to a rainy day fund that would be able to provide relief when times take a turn for the worse.
Earlier this summer, CNN/Money Magazine listed the top 100 best places to live in America. Do you know how many were on Long Island? None. Hell, there wasn’t even one town in the entire state of New York that made the list.

Forbes.com had a story that noted even the wealthiest of neighborhoods are suffering at the hands of the economy in a listing of what it called “America’s most troubled luxury neighborhoods” based on the number of homes for sale versus the number of homes that are selling. Among them were the likes of Amagansett, Bridgehampton, Old Westbury, Sagaponack, and Southampton…Southampton? If that is not an indicator of the state of the real estate market on Long Island I don’t know what is.

And the New York Times recently noted the foreclosure rate in low-income areas—North Bellport was featured— was threatening to thwart the efforts of government and neighborhood improvement organizations that have invested significant monetary and sweat equity into rebuilding their neighborhoods.

The problem with this current real estate crisis is not so much that there’s a crisis, we all know that, it is that no one has any idea when or how we are going to emerge from it. There is hope that the pending economic recovery will serve to assuage fears and result in a return to a healthy housing market. But what is a healthy market? Was the not-so-recent boom time healthy? I think we could all agree that was not the case, like a crystal meth addict running low on money and supplies, a crash was inevitable. But to avoid such a catastrophe in the future a happy medium for the industry should be determined and to some degree (gasp!) regulated. Otherwise you get the desperation we are experiencing now.

It is in these times that solutions seen as simple are proposed for what are complex problems. On Long Island there are any number of large-scale residential and/or mixed-use development projects that are being shopped as cure alls to the issues we currently face. But in our haste to erase the pain that has been generated as a result of following Gordon Gecko’s “greed is good” mantra, let’s make sure that the solutions that are being pursued do not represent that same mantra under a cloak of deceit.

conor bly

Conor Bly has been writing about Long Island for the past 14 years covering, well, pretty much everything, from automobiles to zoning regulations. When not writing, much of his time is occupied by looking for that elusive perfect house.