Opinion

Many residents know about the Culper spies that operated along the North Shore of Long Island and gave invaluable intelligence about British troop movements and plans to Gen. George Washington during the Revolutionary War. But perhaps not so many know that two of Washington’s letters to his chief spymaster Major Benjamin Tallmadge, of Setauket, are on display locally and are available for viewing by the public. They are part of the Special Collections & University Archives of Stony Brook University Libraries, and how we got them is itself a story, as was told by Kristen Nyitray, SBU’s Special Collections director, at the Three Village Historical Society meeting Monday night.

The letters, written by Washington in 1779 and 1780, were part of the estate of Malcolm Forbes, the publishing magnate, and were put up for auction by Christie’s at two separate times. Forbes was proud of the fact that he had collected artifacts from each American president. Where those letters were for some 200 years before he got them is a deep mystery, but they are here now, thanks to the alacrity of local history-minded leaders, like state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), members of the historical society and philanthropist Henry Laufer.

On May 24, 2006, Frank Turano, then president of the historical society, Nyitray and Englebright took the train to New York City for the auction. Armed with a modest amount of money, given how much historical memorabilia sold for, they hoped to purchase the first letter and return it to the place where history happened. Nyitray was the paddle wielder, indicating a willing purchaser at the auctioneer’s bidding, and the three nervously awaited the sale of Lot 31, the first coveted letter. As parts of the estate sold ahead of the desired letter for much more than the resources of the triumvirate, they became increasingly nervous. Paddles were waving and telephones ringing with high bids all around them. Finally the letter, in Washington’s elegant hand, written from West Point on Sept. 24, 1779, and arriving in Setauket Sept. 26, was offered and miraculously the phones fell silent and the paddles went down. Only Nyitray’s was visible and, unchallenged, she won the bid.

The winning price was $80,000. Add in the commission for the auction house and other incidentals, and the final cost for the precious letter was almost $100,000. They had enough money.

The three were ecstatic. They were going to bring that letter back to Setauket where “The Father of our Country” had originally sent it. Within the month, after paperwork was completed, they were able to carry their treasure back to SBU in a brown shopping bag.

Once safely ensconced, the letter had to be cleaned and preserved by experts, and framed and mounted for suitable viewing. That proved to be an arduous and lengthy series of tasks. The group returned to Christie’s for the second letter written Sept. 16, 1780, on Feb. 12, 2009, which coincidentally is the same day as Lincoln’s birthdate. The quality of paper on which the letters were written was good rag paper, but the ink was made from oak gall, which was high in tannic acid, and was corrosive. The ink had to be treated to preserve the letters.

The initial viewing for the first letter was in October 2006, and the letters have done some traveling since, having been seen in Southampton and by people in Florida, California and Minnesota. They are accessible to all.

The 1779 letter deals with advice on how “Culper Junr.” — who was Robert Townsend — could go about his business as a freelance writer and merchant and also function as a spy. Washington gives specific instructions on how Townsend should write secret information among the leaves of a pamphlet or even between the lines of a newsy letter to a friend with special invisible ink. We know that ink was fabricated by Founding Father John Jay’s elder brother, James, who was a physician, and was referred to by the spies as “medicine.”

The letter is signed, “I am Sir Your most obedient and humble servt. Go. Washington.” What a thrill.

They aren’t unicorns, tooth fairies or fantastic creatures from the C.S. Lewis “Narnia” series. And yet, for a Long Islander who spent considerable time standing knee deep in the waters around West Meadow Beach, listening to the aggressive screech of territorial red-winged blackbirds, the sight of a green ruby-throated hummingbird moving forward and backward in North Carolina brought its own kind of magic.

By the time I got out my cellphone and clicked open the camera app, the bird had disappeared.

While there are hummingbirds that periodically appear on Long Island, the sight of one in Charlotte so soon after our move here seemed like a charming welcome from the nonhuman quarters of Southeastern life.

Behind a Chili’s and Qdoba — yes, they are side by side in a strip mall here — we discovered a spectacular lake with a small walking path over the water near the shore. Looking down, we saw numerous fish hovering below and, to our delight, a collection of turtles, who all clearly have an appetite for the leftovers from the nearby restaurant.

We have also seen, and felt, considerably more bugs and mosquitoes, while we’ve heard cicadas, which, unlike the 17-year kind on Long Island, emerge here every year.

So, what about the two-legged creatures?

After the initial shock from the level of consideration other drivers displayed, it’s become clear that:

(a) The Northeast hasn’t cornered the market on aggressive and anxious drivers.

(b) You can take the New Yorker out of New York, but you can’t take New York out of the New Yorker.

Until I get North Carolina license plates, I have been driving the speed limit on smaller, local roads. Other cars have tailgated me so closely that I can practically read their lips as they talk on the phone or sing songs.

I watched a woman in a Mustang convertible, with rap music shouting profanities, weave in and out of traffic as her long hair waved in the breeze behind her. From a distance, the music and expletives were one and the same.

We have also seen an extensive collection of tattoos. A young FedEx driver climbed out of her truck and rang the bell to deliver a package. Her arms were so covered in colors and designs that it was difficult to discern a theme or pattern.

I walked into a supermarket behind a young couple pushing a baby stroller. The father had tattoos along the back of his muscular calves, while body ink adorned the well-defined shoulders and arms of his wife. I wondered if and when their young child might get her first tattoo.

When they find out we’re from the Northeast, people in North Carolina frequently become self-deprecating about their inability to handle cold weather. They laugh that flurries, or even a forecast for snow, shuts down the entire city of Charlotte. They assure us that no matter how much we shoveled elsewhere, we won’t have to lift and dump snow by the side of the road.

They ask how we’re handling the heat, which is often in the mid-90s, and the humidity, which is fairly high as well. While the three H’s — hazy, hot and humid — are my least favorite combination, I have certainly experienced many warm summers on Long Island, where shade or a trip into the ocean or a pool provide small comfort in the face of oppressive warmth.

With birds and insects of all sizes flying around, and drivers weaving in and out of traffic, North Carolina has displayed an abundance of high-energy activity.

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Whew, that was close. We feared that a good ole game of Suffolk County partisan tug-of-war almost left us high and dry again.

Suffolk County legislators voted down 14 bond-seeking bills for various projects that have impact on the day-to-day life of residents June 5 and 19 on a party-line basis. The reasoning given was the 14 items were lumped together in three resolutions, which Republicans argued didn’t allow them to individually vote against projects that they didn’t agree with or may regret funding later.

For nearly a month, both Democrats led by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) and Republicans headed by Minority Leader and Legislator Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore) publicly bickered back and forth on how to approach county bonds. Each group held press conferences and made inflammatory statements as time kept ticking in the race against the clock to get federally matching funds for both the Wading River-to-Mount Sinai Rails to Trails project and repaving of Commack Road, among others.

It’s said all’s well that ends well, right? Luckily for North Shore residents, both the Rails to Trails and Commack Road bills received the bipartisan support — a supermajority 12 out of 18 votes — necessary to move forward at the July 17 legislative meeting. Most of the 14 bills were voted on individually this time around, the majority of which were approved.

Unfortunately, a few projects failed or were not voted on. Cries for funding repairs and upgrades to Suffolk County Police Department’s K-9 Unit facility in Yaphank failed despite the roof leaking, the floor having holes and the air conditioner and heating not working properly, according to Bellone. Republicans argued the planning should be done in-house rather than borrowing to pay for the project.

We couldn’t help but notice that a bill to fund $4.68 million for upgrades for the Suffolk County Police Department and county Medical Examiner’s office also failed. Another bill, one that would have given the Republican Suffolk County Board of Elections Commissioner Nick LaLota another term, as his time in office ends Dec. 31, also failed. The outcome of these votes seems to indicate that political partisanship is still afoot, alive and well, as all Long Islanders are aware that politics, too, affects our law enforcement offices.

A word of warning to our Suffolk County elected officials: While President Donald Trump (R) and our U.S. Congress play on sharp political divides to gain power and momentum, that’s not an acceptable way to act here. We beg, don’t take your political cues from Washington, D.C.

We — your residents, constituents and voters — expect you to rise above party politics and do what’s best for Suffolk. You must reach out across the aisle, discuss charged issues calmly and reach a compromise that best benefits all. It’s in the job description.

His life makes for a fascinating story even if the current spy movie is mediocre. “The Catcher Was a Spy,” tells of Morris “Moe” Berg, baseball player, and his remarkable intelligence and exploits, especially during World War II. Born in Harlem, not far from the Polo Grounds, home of the New York Giants, Berg began playing baseball at age 7. He was to be called “the brainiest guy in baseball,” and Casey Stengel, a baseball player and manager who was something of an eccentric himself, referred to him as “the strangest man ever to play baseball.”

Berg’s story, captured in Nicholas Dawidoff’s 1994 book of similar title, is also the story of the times in America in which he lived. Born in 1902, he begged to go to school at age 3 1/2. The third and youngest child of a pharmacist and a homemaker, Berg graduated from high school at 16, then Princeton magna cum laude in 1923, as an outstanding scholar-athlete playing baseball all along the way. He also grew up as an outsider, marginalized there because of modest finances and as a Jew at a time of deep bigotry. He majored in modern languages and spoke some half-a-dozen fluently, including eventually Japanese.

Upon graduation, Berg was signed to a contract by the Brooklyn Robins, soon to become the Brooklyn Dodgers and he seemed to be just so-so at bat but a good clutch hitter with a strong and accurate arm in the infield.

After that first season, Berg traveled to Paris, where he enrolled at the Sorbonne and read several newspapers each day. By January 1924, Berg was not thinking of going back to spring training to develop himself as a hitter but rather found the idea of travel irresistible and went on to tour Switzerland and Italy. When he finally did return to the United States, he was optioned off to the Minneapolis Millers of the American Association minor league. He was to play for four American League teams throughout his baseball career, primarily as a catcher, ending with the Boston Red Sox as player and then coach in 1941. “Good field, no hit,” was how Dodgers scout Mike González, characterized him. Berg distinguished himself for his putouts stealing percentage, double plays by a catcher and assists by a catcher.

However, throughout his baseball life, which he so clearly loved, he was a true Renaissance man. In between seasons, and sometimes missing the first couple of months of the new season, he studied law at Columbia University, passing the bar in 1929 and finally earning his Bachelor of Laws degree in 1930. Interestingly, he was sent with Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and a handful of other all-stars to play exhibition games with the Japanese in 1934 — Berg’s second trip there. Although certainly not of their star caliber, he spoke the language and was probably included on the squad for that reason.

While in Tokyo, he donned a kimono and pretended to bring flowers to the American ambassador’s daughter, who was a patient in the Tokyo hospital. He went up to the roof instead, and from the top of one of the tallest buildings he used his 16-mm Bell & Howell camera that he had concealed in the folds of his garb to film the city and harbor. He never did visit the daughter but he did provide American intelligence with rare and invaluable footage later on. He supposedly did this in anticipation of the war that he was sure, from his various readings and Far East travel, was coming. He went on to join the Office of Strategic Services, later the CIA; was parachuted into occupied Yugoslavia evaluating which resistance groups should get U.S. support — he chose Tito’s group; and became involved in the frenzied effort to determine if the German scientist Werner Heisenberg was close to developing the atomic bomb with orders to assassinate him if so — Berg decided not. Otherwise, he was of immense value to the U.S. as he moved throughout Europe in his dangerous and exciting life.

The former ballplayer turned down the Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor to the war effort, during his lifetime but the medal was awarded posthumously. In American history he is a mysterious footnote.

The president of the United States is taking full credit for the relief those crazy leftist environmental groups are feeling in response to the resignation of the latest misunderstood and much maligned member of his cabinet, Scott Pruitt.

You see, President Donald Trump knew that Pruitt would do his bidding, gutting unnecessary government regulations designed to protect the water, air and food that Americans and, indeed, others on the planet need on a daily basis.

He knew Pruitt would do everything he asked, and more. It’s like the old Stalin philosophy. You remember that ruthless Soviet Union dictator, right? He never wanted any of his tank commanders to be too powerful because he didn’t want their leader taking over.

So, he chose Pruitt knowing that he’d do what Trump wanted and then would become so enmeshed in the world he tried to help — lobbyists, coal interests, insecticide manufacturers — that he would eventually cause harm to himself and his political aspirations.

Trump is, rightfully, taking full credit for the resignation of a man he supported when it was expedient to do so and that he needed to cut loose when the combination of foibles and follies entered the public realm.

Sure, some nasty journalists may have quoted unnamed sources who shared questionable details about Pruitt’s spending habits, his requests for football tickets, his security detail and his desire to get his wife a job. Ultimately, it was Trump who made the call, putting the thorn in the side of the environmental groups and then pulling it out ever so quickly and gracefully.

Well, maybe it wasn’t all that quick. Pruitt lasted far longer in Washington than even members of the “Trump Party” — that’s the new name of the group formerly known as the Republican Party — might have wanted. But, hey, the more people who found Pruitt’s actions and decisions questionable, the greater the relief when he was finally removed from office.

OK, so technically the guy resigned, which means he walked out of the seat of power and into an enormous gas-guzzling sport utility vehicle. But, seriously, does anyone believe Pruitt thought he blew it on his own? No, no, people, wake up. News that the environmental groups all thought was good because they imagined that the EPA might return to its mandate of protecting the environment and the people, animals and trees living here came courtesy of His Truly: President Trump.

Yes, of course, you can thank him for taking nuclear weapons out of the hands of the North Koreans, and you can express your appreciation for the incredibly kind way he pulled back from a zero-tolerance policy he established because of laws the Democrats won’t fix, but don’t forget to give credit where credit is due.

You see, if the president had never tapped Pruitt, who built his career attacking the henhouse that was the EPA from his home in Oklahoma, the greenie groups would never be able to celebrate his removal. No, it’s a total credit to Trump that the reality TV show that was the Pruitt era at the EPA has been canceled.

So, take your time, think of the right words and make sure to thank the man in charge of the world for choosing the right man at the right time and then letting that man walk off into a sunset enhanced by all the pollution-generated particulates he helped put there.

By Susan Perretti

In the end, my visit to the campaign kickoff for Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) in Smithtown June 28 was more about the words I never got to say than the few I did utter before I was threatened with arrest if I didn’t leave the premises at once.

Zeldin was not yet on the stage when a man in a suit told me I had to go. “Why?” I asked. He leaned in and spoke into my ear: “If you don’t go now you will be arrested.” Why? I asked again. Trespassing. Trespassing? Zeldin, my congressman, invited me, and I had registered. After finding my name on a list, a man had waved me into the Elks Lodge. Three like-minded friends didn’t even get in.

Susan Perretti

I went because there were some things I wanted to say to Zeldin. Not in a mean, accusing way. I try not to enter conversations them versus us, Republicans versus Democrats, right versus left. It doesn’t solve anyone’s problems.

As a reporter for a Long Island weekly, I often covered election campaigns. I’ve heard folks on both sides of the aisle verbally abuse their opponents. But at the Zeldin soirée, there was more vitriol and hate rhetoric than I’d ever encountered, on the job or as a private citizen. It got to me. I felt sick over it.

A monsignor was asking God to bless Zeldin, and he mentioned justice and welcoming the stranger. For a moment, I didn’t feel quite so alone. Compassion, unity, working for peace. As a Christian, I’d grown up hearing those words, and I’m still a believer. But when Sebastian Gorka took to the stage, there were rousing, Trump rally-like chants of “Build the Wall! Build the Wall!” And this was less than 20 miles from my home. I looked around the room, but the monsignor had cut out. I was on my own.

Gorka had the crowd in a near frenzy when I found myself shouting: “But we are all Americans.” To my surprise, a few people nodded in agreement. It was during Sean Spicer’s speech that I lost it. “Enough of the hate.” I yelled. “Enough is enough.” I went on in that vein for maybe a minute. Nearby Zeldin supporters told me to shut up. For a moment, remembering the way Trump had handled protesters, I worried I would be toppled. Then the man in the suit tapped me and said I had to get out. Pleading for an end to the demonizing would not be tolerated.

I never got to see Zeldin and ask him the questions I had come with. Questions about crying children being snatched from the arms of asylum-seeking parents. Another case of gun violence that day at a Maryland newspaper and our nation’s grotesquely lenient gun laws. I wanted to ask what will become of the poor, elderly and disabled, like my 90-year-old, Medicaid-dependent mother, if more social services programs get axed — or our water and air if the Environmental Protection Agency continues to be dismantled. But mostly I wanted to urge him to follow his heart, even if that means casting votes that might anger the president, the NRA and his other big-money donors.

I was going to say, “Mr. Zeldin, it’s not too late to be your own man,” but I didn’t have the chance.

One of the five men who escorted me out asked why I didn’t just go to Zeldin’s office. I told him I had, but that I was met by two police officers and a gruff aide who directed me to write my concerns on a prepared form. And, I told my escort, Zeldin doesn’t hold town hall meetings like his predecessors did. Questions are accepted ahead of time only and are carefully screened. They’ve never picked mine. More words I meant to say.

Congressman Zeldin’s campaign has been invited to write a reply.

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Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died Feb. 13, 2016. With the presidential election 269 days away, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and his caucus set a new precedent, refusing to hold confirmation hearings or a vote on then-President Barack Obama’s (D) nominee Merrick Garland because they believed the American people were mere months away from truly having a chance to weigh in on the decision.

This week Justice Anthony Kennedy, viewed by many as the center-right fulcrum of an otherwise politically balanced bench, announced he would retire. As a result, President Donald Trump (R), with two- to six-and-a-half more years left in the White House, will get his second bite at the Supreme Court apple, having already appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch last year.

If we are to set aside the hypocrisy of Senate Republicans pledging to plow forward with the nomination and confirmation process before the midterms, jus—-t 124 days from now, we don’t think it’s too much to ask for them to consider a few things as they begin the process.

First, can our current political climate handle the nomination and appointment of a partisan justice bent on say, being the deciding vote in overturning Roe v. Wade? Yes, it would score political points with the president’s Republican base and enflame liberals even more than they already are, which seems to be one of the few pillars guiding the right. Do Republicans in Congress truly believe they don’t have a role to play in restoring some shred of compromise and unity in our politics? Would nominating a hard-line pro-life justice this close to what was already likely to be possibly as heated a campaign season our country has ever seen (outside of 2016, of course) really do anything to advance our country’s discourse to a better place than we’re in now?

Further, beyond Roe v. Wade, are Republicans comfortable with the current discourse regarding the free press and the First Amendment? Will Trump be vetting his nominee about their stance on critical issues pertaining to his own legal situation, which includes probes into his personal attorney’s alleged pay-for-play White House access business structure and a special counsel investigation into Trump’s alleged campaign ties to the Russian government and its meddling in our election? Everyone involved is innocent until proven guilty, but if the president intends to impose a litmus test on his nominee for a question like, “Can the president of the United States legally pardon himself?” that should be a red flag to anyone who claims to believe in the rule of law.

We don’t feel it’s too much to ask for Republicans to consider a nominee that could serve as a unifier in as desperate a time as any for a little compromise, even assuming they’ve made up their mind on tearing up the McConnell Rule before the proverbial ink from 2016 is even dry. Both sides like to stake claims to a mythical moral high ground. Republicans, as they cheerlead things like tearing up the Affordable Care Act and labeling the free press as the enemy of the American people, could do more to stake an actual claim to that high ground than they have since Trump burst onto the scene with a nominee in the form of an olive branch.

July is truly upon us, and that means half the year is gone. Those who deal with numbers are busily tallying up all sorts of statistics for the first two quarters. Business people with large and small companies alike are checking to see how the numbers compare with last year, and what they can do to improve the depressed
bottom line — or maintain the improved bottom line for the next six months. And for those of us in the stock market with pension plans or investments, there will be half-year statements coming to let us know how we stand.

As we are taking stock of our stocks, there is this interesting bit of news to consider. According to a recent article by Matt Phillips in The New York Times, we are getting an important signal from the bond market. Now there are all sorts of predictors about which way stocks will move, from who wins ballgames to the length of hemlines, and they are often as wrong as the Farmers’ Almanac about the coming winter weather. But there is one telltale that is surprisingly accurate: the bond-yield curve. And that yield curve is “flashing yellow.”

Here is what the yield curve means. The yield curve is the difference between interest rates on short-term government bonds like those maturing in two years compared with those maturing further out, like 10 years. Remember that a bond is a promissory note to repay a debt that the government has incurred, along with interest on the debt, for a set period of time.

So, if the government borrows $10,000 from you and pays it back in two years, you will also get interest on that sum in return for lending the government the money. Normally the longer you agree to lend the money, the higher the interest rate you get in return for taking additional risk concerning the health of the economy. A healthy economy usually encourages inflation, which is countered by higher interest rates — hence an increased long-term rate, including the built-in risk compensation.

Lately, long-term interest rates on government bonds have been slow to rise, predicting a less healthy economy on the horizon. The short-term interest rates on government notes, as these instruments are called, have been rising, however, because inflation seems to have started. So the difference between the interest rates, short-term and long-term — the yield curve — has been decreasing or “flattening.” The difference between the two-year and 10-year interest rates is now about 0.34 percentage points, and the last time it was so little was just before the 2008 recession.

Does that mean a recession is coming?

If the trend continues, and the long-term interest rate dips below the short-term rate, this is called an “inversion.” An inversion is, according to the way John Williams — the new president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York — told it earlier this year, “a powerful signal of recessions.” The Times article indicated that every recession in the last 60 years has been preceded by an inverted yield curve, when short-term interest is higher than that for the longer term. Only once was there a false positive, in the mid-1960s, when there was only a slowdown in the economy. That is why economists and those on Wall Street are watching the yield curve so closely these days.

This concern does seem to fly in the face of the present economic conditions. Unemployment is at a low, consumers seem to be happily spending and corporations are reinvesting in their companies. However accurate the yield-curve predictor may be, it cannot precisely tell us when a recession will occur. In the past, the falloff of the economy could happen in six months or two years after the inversion.

There is always another side to every story. Because central banks own massive amounts of government bonds, which they bought not so long ago to try and stimulate the economy by providing liquidity, that may be keeping long-term rates low. And the Federal Reserve has been tightening monetary policy lately to keep
inflation in check, hence higher short-term rates. So, who knows?

Want to know why biscuits in North Carolina are so much better than they are in the rest of the world?

I did, which was why I interrupted a woman who was loading her groceries at a Harris Teeter supermarket and chatting with the cashier.

One word: love.

“Well, it’s love and a lot of butter,” she said. “You can’t be afraid of the butter.”

She suggested that biscuits were invented in North Carolina and that everyone’s grandmother has a recipe for them. They all taste somewhat different, but they’re all so much better than everywhere else.

That was just one of the many stories we’ve overheard ever since we picked up our two high-school-aged kids, threw our unwitting and desperately frustrated cats into their carriers, and relocated to the Tar Heel State.

Putting the cats in the carriers is always challenging, but it was as if they recognized that the trip would
be especially difficult for them. The older one, who is cautious and only likes members of our family, stuck his paws out as we tried to lower him into the case.

It reminded me of all the times our children used to arch their backs as we tried to put them in the car seat. Reasoning with the cats didn’t work, but eventually we won the battle.

We arrived here during a heat wave in the Northeast. As it turns out, our first few days have been a few degrees cooler than what we left behind. Our son observed on the way to the airport that we used to make this drive when we were leaving home, but we were now taking the drive toward a plane that would take us to our new home.

Our interactions with people here have been remarkable. For starters, it really is challenging to find someone who is originally from Charlotte. We have met people from Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey.

The Northeasterners have universally described how much they enjoy living here. Some of their own complaints are the lack of bagels and authentic Chinese food.

People, wherever they are from when they’re here, have been noticeably courteous, even before they read our Yankees shirts, our Brooklyn Cyclones hats and the names of Northeastern schools on our attire. I was pulling out of a store with an enormous rental car. The drivers from two lanes in front of me stopped to let me go.

The North Carolinians are also more than ready to share their stories. Randal, the driver who delivered our cars, gave us advice about where to go for mechanical and auto-body needs. He also shared a few harrowing
anecdotes from his days driving a truck and responding to various emergency calls.

On my trip to the grocery store, where I met the woman who was so proud of her biscuits, I also noticed how people violate the typical New York peripheral vision rule. You know how when you’re in the city and you’re walking down the street, you’re supposed to notice people without staring at them or looking them directly in the eye? The opposite was true among the people I saw in the supermarket. They not only look you in the eye, but they greet you with a “hello” and “how are you doing?”

While I will never be able to test the North Carolina biscuit theory because of my lactose intolerance, I would have to say that, so far, our first impressions of our new state have been remarkably positive.

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Hundreds of Long Island students have accepted their high school diplomas this week. We’ve sent them off into the world armed with the best advice and pearls of wisdom we have to offer. In doing so, we can’t help but hope this isn’t goodbye.

The Class of 2018 students are each pursuing his or her own version of the American Dream. What defines that dream can vary greatly — whether it’s studying medicine at Stony Brook University, learning a trade or joining the military. The question we have to ask is this: When these students are envisioning their futures, how many picture himself or herself staying on Long Island?

While parents and teachers are taking pride — and deserved pats on the back — in getting this year’s seniors through their first 12 years of schooling, it doesn’t stop there. The older generation and its leadership must continue to take action to transform Long Island into an attractive and affordable place for young adults to live.

“We spend a lot of money educating our kids here,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) acknowledged in his 2018 State of the County address. “Too many of them have left for other parts of the country, where they are helping to power their regional economies. We have to stop that.”

For the first time in two decades, there is a glimmer of hope that the brain drain trend is starting to slow. The population of people between ages 20 and 34 living in Nassau and Suffolk counties has increased by 7.6 percent from 2010 to 2015 — for the first time since 1990 — according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 Population Estimates, as stated in a June 2017 report by the Long Island Association. LIA is a nonprofit organization that advocates for policies, programs and projects that benefit Long Island and support economic development and infrastructure investments.

However, there’s still 100,000 fewer residents in the 20 to 34 age group on Long Island than in 1990. So, there’s still a ways to go in attracting and keeping bright, young professionals on Long Island.

To this end, Suffolk County Legislature’s Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) proposed legislation June 22 that would instruct Suffolk’s Department of Economic Development and Planning to create a pilot program to address the issues causing millennials to leave for less expensive areas. While there are few specific details available on this proposal, Gregory has pointed to other municipalities creating programs that help young adults with student debt purchase homes while still paying down their loans.

This is but one step in the right direction. As the Class of 2018 disperses, their parents’ work shifts from helping with science projects and math homework to advocating for local change that will improve the quality of life young adults can expect on Long Island. Better entry-level job opportunities that offer competitive salaries without requiring travel into the city are needed, and more affordable housing and assistance to put the down payment on a house to help start a family are also important.

Take a few days to rejoice and celebrate with the graduating Class of 2018, but there is much work to be done creating a brighter, more youthful future for Long Island.

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