Nassau County Comptroller Jack Schnirman said that modern needs are not being met for the next generation at a community event last Thursday.
Schnirman made the comments as one of four panelists at “The Changing Demographics of Nassau County: What They Mean For You,” a community forum presented by Shelter Rock Forum and Blank Slate Media and held at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock in Manhasset.
“We ask ourselves the question, ‘do our 20th century policies and ideas about development meet the needs of the 21st century,’ and I think the answer is no, and that’s what the numbers tell us,” Schnirman said.
While 44 percent of Long Island residents aged 25 to 34 still live at home, Schnirman said, their counterparts in the 35-to-44 age group are leaving altogether.
“When government doesn’t adapt, the population does instead, and one way to vote is with our feet,” Schnirman said.
Citing studies from his office, Schnirman said that the population of residents aged 35 to 44, which he called “the key to our economic future,” had decreased by nearly 27 percent since 2000.
“What that means is folks are saving up a little money, living at home, then taking that money and making an investment in leaving our region, and those are the folks that are not coming back,” Schnirman said.
His comments at the panel, which also featured Michael P. Nagler, superintendent of the Mineola school district, and Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds of the Family and Children’s Association of Long Island, were echoed by fellow panelist Kyle Strober, executive director of the Association for a Better Long Island, who said that the numbers “hit [him] at home.”
“I’m 36 years old, my wife is 35, we have an 18-month-old son, and according to [Schnirman’s] facts, there’s a 25 percent chance I’m not going to buy a house in Nassau County or on Long Island, that I’m moving elsewhere,” Strober said.
At a question and answer session at the end of the forum, real estate developer Donald Monti said that while attraction would be important in later years, the real issue should be retention of current residents and corporations.
“The first thing we have to do is really think about retention before you think about bringing people in,” Monti said.
Monti, also the president and CEO of Renaissance Downtowns, cited an independent study from Destination Long Island’s Site Selectors Guild, which found that no companies with more than 500 employees had moved to Long Island from out of state in the past 60 years.
“Businesses and corporations want the same thing that the stock market wants, they want certainty,” Monti said. “They don’t want to come here and think they’re going to go through three years of approvals and get Article 78. They say, ‘you know what, why am I here?’ Look at what Amazon did, they said ‘see you later’ as soon as the kitchen got hot.”
Additionally, Monti noted a lack of satisfaction in the “disappearing middle class,” and suggested implementing a unified tax exempt policy to put requirements on developers to build more affordable housing.
“I don’t want to have my hand out as a developer. I want to say, how do I contribute so we can mandate developer contribution?” Monti said. “We can show regionally that we’re out to actually keep our young people here and when we do that, then we’ll begin to attract.”