Growing Concern

Ask ten individuals to describe the state of the residential real estate market you’ll likely get ten different answers. Further, if you were to ask those same individuals to describe Long Island, you’ll get even more varied replies. Are we still the “first suburb,” that idyllic locale ideal for raising a family and pursuing a career? Or have we become something else? Something less idyllic and more cynical as home ownership eludes the reach of many who were born here. Does the dream remain or does it whither as the region attempts to reinvent itself by creating a new suburban ideal?
This new world is filled with euphemisms for the development type that all but a few agree is necessary to maintain the region’s economic health. Mixed use, smart growth, green, affordable, workforce and next generation housing—wait long enough and another synonym will be spun to satisfy demand. The bottom line is the region, in an attempt to redefine itself, appears to be getting lost in the minutiae of change. Unfortunately, the result has been that little attention has been paid to finding synonyms for simple progress.
Long Island is in transition, a progression towards development that will result in greater urbanization of the region. Dense, multi-family proposals that would be have been shunned by village and town boards, and civic groups are now being reviewed with cautious—or even outright—optimism. In the past, they would have been damned as bringing the boroughs to Long Island. “We moved out here to get away from the city!” they would have cried at public hearings. But now, the single family home is seen as dated and inefficient.
Why? Could it be that the stress of modern life has made the single family home a relic of a time gone by? Time constraints for all are putting a greater emphasis on convenience and much less on the isolation delivered by the suburban home. In the original suburban model, the home and yard was the cornerstone. Its purchase a rite of passage. Its maintenance a source of pride. Now, no one wants to be bothered with cutting the lawn or cleaning out the gutters, or even the house. Many who have homes now pay others to maintain and clean them. We are being told by planners that the residents of Long Island—especially young adults—are clamoring for affordable, easy abodes that allow them to socialize, have fun, and offer places to lay their heads when the day is done.
This is still a theory since little of this housing has been built on anything but the smallest scale.
There are much larger proposals on the drawing board—the Lighthouse project in Mitchell Field and the Heartland project in Brentwood come to mind. If and when these projects are developed, they will change Long Island’s housing landscape forever. The suburban model established more than fifty years ago will be done. In its place, a new standard.
As this change in perspective takes place, it will be prudent to maintain healthy dose of skepticism as Long Island housing market evolves. As Obi Wan once said, “Your eyes can deceive you; don’t trust them.” Good advice.

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.