“Are We Stupid for Living on Long Island?” By: Michael Watt, Liincs Founder

By: Michael Watt

Liincs Founder and Executive Director, michael@liincs.org

Spoiler alert: The answer is no. If anything, when you consider everything Long Island has to offer as a region, our biggest challenge should be what to do with all the people who want to live here.

Yet anyone who lives on Long Island has heard “You’re crazy for paying all those taxes;” “the traffic is insane;” or “it’s too crowded/expensive,” especially when having a conversation with a former fellow Long Islander who has moved away. We read and hear copious references to Long Island’s “Brain Drain” as if it’s a phenomenon exclusive to the region. And, to be honest, we’ve all entertained or perhaps even are still entertaining thoughts about relocating.

Yet home prices in Nassau and Suffolk counties still set records. This seeming contradiction brings to mind the Yogi Berra response to a question about a restaurant: “Nobody goes there anymore,” Yogi said. “It’s too crowded.”

In other words, if indeed Long Island suffers from all these maladies, if “everyone’s leaving” because it’s too crowded/expensive/inconvenient, why are home prices so high? In Economics 101 we learn that when demand for a product or service goes down, the price you can charge for said product or service should also go down.

The demand is high because for all its faults, Long Island is still a special place to live, work and raise a family. And the demand could even intensify as more people re-evaluate the high-density lifestyle, they embraced in the pre-pandemic New York City. An exodus from Manhattan, Brooklyn and/or Queens could create an even greater demand for housing on Long Island.

It boils down to this: smart, hard-working people can live wherever they want, and they want to live in a region that offers a good quality of life even if it means having to pay a little extra. When you want to celebrate a special occasion or family milestone, for instance, you pick a nice restaurant with fine service and great food. And so, it is when raising a family and establishing roots: You don’t cut corners when it comes to your progeny and your profession.

You don’t want to accept inferior product or service when paying top dollar, either. Our government officials and elected representatives have to show a greater appreciation for the reality that Long Islanders expect to receive at least equal value for what they contribute in taxes and fees. Residents, on the other hand, have to understand their demands for localized attention and control that led to the creation of 124 school districts, 96 incorporated villages, 13 towns, two cities and two counties, also lead to expensive inefficiencies.

Yes, it costs more to live here than other parts of the country. You’re also a lot closer to the ocean, the most exciting city in the world, the North Fork, the South Fork, 14 four-year colleges and universities and a health care system operated by the nation’s top doctors and nurses. Where else in the United States can you end a work week trying to decide whether to spend your weekend at the beach or basking in the bucolic beauty of a winery and without having to take a significant road trip?

Long Island has an annual GDP of $170 billion. Its hospitality industry alone generates more than $6 billion a year in economic activity. It’s where the hand-held barcode scanner, the MRI and water skis were invented, and where DNA mapping was discovered. Long Island is by no means perfect, however, and the 2020 pandemic has exacerbated many of its long-festering challenges, not the least of which is the high cost of operating the aforementioned myriad levels of government. None of these obstacles is insurmountable, however, especially if more problem-solving Long Islanders get involved in the decision-making processes that determine our collective cost of living.

No matter where you live, you have to commit the time and expend the effort required to maintain a certain quality of life. Doesn’t it make sense to do so in a place where you can enjoy what we get to enjoy as Long Islanders, even if it means working a little harder and smarter? I think so and I don’t think I’m stupid for doing so. Neither should anyone else.

Get involved. Make a difference. Reap the rewards that follow when you work a little harder and little smarter than everyone else. In other words, discover what it means to be a Long Islander.

Michael Watt is better known as “Mr. Long Island”. LiiNCS Founder and Executive Director Michael Watt is the president of Long Island Inc., a consulting firm that advocates on behalf of small businesses, most notably the 500-plus members of the Long Island Gasoline Retailers Association. From 2003 to 2007 Mr. Watt served as president of the Long Island Partnership, an umbrella group representing the many economic development organizations across Nassau and Suffolk counties. Mr. Watt has also worked as the Chief Information Officer for LongIsland.com, a regional search engine serving the Long Island community, and for the Long Island Business News. While with the Business News Mr. Watt helped create the LIBN twice daily business news alert sent via email.