Several hundred movers, shakers and Long Island leaders turned out Thursday morning for the unveiling of the 2018 Long Island Index, a critical source of data and policy prescriptions for the region. The crowd at the Tilles Center on the LIU Post campus in Brookville also witnessed the handoff of the Index from the Rauch Foundation, which produced it for 15 years, to Newsday’s editorial board as part of the board’s new nextLI initiative.
Rauch Foundation president Nancy Rauch Douzinas began her remarks with introductions of both county executives seated in the first row — Nassau’s Laura Curran and Suffolk’s “Steve Levy.” Douzinas, referring to a former Suffolk executive, who attended many Index unveilings, quickly corrected herself amid a wave of laughter as Steve Bellone stood, smiling and waving to the audience. Douzinas remarked good-naturedly about not having her glasses on, and slid them down her nose.
After the proceedings, Bellone was greeted repeatedly with variations of “Mr. Levy, good to see you.”
The attendees covered all Long Island bases, and included MTA President Pat Foye; Long Island Association president Kevin Law; Long Island’s Board of Regents representative, Roger Tilles; former congressman and current chairman of LIU’s Global Institute Steve Israel; Mitch Pally of the Long Island Builders Institute; and Carrie Meek Gallagher, state Department of Environmental Conservation regional director for Long Island.
Right Track for Long Island Coalition executive director Dave Kapell spoke about the possible: the transformation of Greenport when he was mayor and the approval of the LIRR’s third track. At one point, “the third track was the political third rail,” he said.
Also on the scene were Elaine Gross from ERASE Racism; Retha Fernandez of the Urban League of Long Island; county legislators, including Suffolk’s Kevin McCaffrey and Rob Trotta; state lawmakers, including Assemb. Michael Fitzpatrick of St. James; educators, including Nassau Community College president Hubert Keen; environmentalists, including Dick Amper of the Pine Barrens Society and Kevin McDonald of The Nature Conservancy; builders, including Bob Coughlan of Tritec Real Estate; representatives of labor, including Ryan Stanton of the Long Island Federation of Labor; and former Newsday editorial board member Bob Keeler.
As usual, the data, presented by Long Island Index director Ann Golob, were illuminating and sobering for their policy implications.
Economic growth on Long Island continues to lag the nation, and median household income was lower in 2015 than in 2005. The region continues to become more diverse in its population, but sharp differences persist between racial groups on whether more needs to be done to integrate our public schools.
Housing is still too expensive, with 71 percent of Long Islanders fearing that costs will force family members to leave the region. And the number of young adults living with their parents keeps rising, from 35 percent of 18-to-34-year-olds in 2015 to 41 percent in 2017.
As Douzinas said in her signoff, “Big challenges remain before us. We need a big response.”