Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Re II: Has Long Island lost it’s Charm?

Wow! No apologies necessary, Mia. The answer to this question is a resounding “YES.”

Pick up a piece of garbage twelve houses down from your own house and throw it out? Yeah Right. We would each need to lug around 30 gallon garbage bags now.

Houses so close together you can shake hands with your neighbor through the Kitchen window? Commonplace.

Bumper to bumper traffic from the Queens border to Riverhead? Gee, didn’t use to have that did we?

Stop signs at every other corner? We may not quit until there are Stop signs in front of every other driveway!

Condo’s where green pasture used to be? Strip malls where deer used to roam? Don’t think we’re going to see that again.

Years ago it used to be disrespectful to your neighbors, to park your car overnight on a residential street – much less across from a neighbor’s driveway. In some communities it used to be illegal. (Is it still?) Today we’re two steps away from “alternate side of the street” parking regulations in many areas.

The attitudes and concepts that used to provide Long Island with so much of its former “charm” are gone. They are not victims of uncaring residents, but rather the rapid overpopulation and density that was inevitable given our close proximity to the city. Such rapid population growth came with precious little planning, ill-conceived short term solutions and not just a little greed. In its path, many of the values that we once held as a community fell by the wayside.

Can we now change our heavy suburban – urban environment back to the light suburban – rural one that we once knew? I think not. Can we however, strive to revive some of our former quality of life? Perhaps – if we’re willing and if we really care.

We need to focus on the issues that are important to us. Not the state. Not the Federal Government, but us, here on Long Island, if we wish to revive some of our former quality of life. Our politicians need to focus on these issues. We need to support those that do, and oust those who don’t, whether through our actions or our votes.

As an example, I sit in miles of traffic on the LIE. I’m forced to wonder who invented the HOV. A fortunate few who’s schedules allow them to car pool, zip by while the rest of us together with the commercial traffic so important to our economy, burn countless gallons of fuel as we sit waiting in the miles of backups caused by the HOV merging back into our lanes. An early morning rush hour cruise on Sunrise Highway in Suffolk will quickly suggest how silly the HOV concept is. Does anybody care? The HOV is not a concept that works on Long Island. It was forced on us. Put it to a Long Island vote and see how quickly it disappears.

We and our political leadership are going to have to think outside of the box if we are going to save ourselves from a completely Urban fate.

Perhaps we really need to revisit the concept of a “State of Long Island”. Our two counties could merge into a new state government, leaving our towns as counties. We would then eliminate our expensive three-tier system of government and the excessive waste that comes with it. We could also retain the tax revenues that currently fall into the greedy hands of Albany. Do we really need Albany to manage our money anymore? Doesn’t seem like they do a really great job of it, no matter which party in favor. Our political leadership would be more focused on, and more accountable to - our needs.

The money saved could well be spent improving our transportation and our infrastructure. Perhaps we could then even start reducing our land taxes. This might improve the chances for our younger people to own, and our retired residents to retain, their own homes.

I’ve been a resident of Long Island for almost sixty years and probably will be until I die. I understand that we can never go back to the “rustic charm” of our earlier years, but I sure haven’t given up on the idea that we can still make Long Island a very charming place to live. We just all have to work together to make it happen. And we have to care again!

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