Opinion

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

friend mentioned an article he had seen that asked the question, “What’s the best restaurant if you’re over 50?” and proceeded to ask me the same question.

Now he well knows that I am over 50, and he also knows I eat in restaurants, sometimes for business and occasionally as a social event. In fact, as we have gotten older, my friends and I seem to do less cooking each year and more splurging on dinners out when we get together. So it was a relevant question in more ways than one. I don’t know what the article he was referring to concluded, but I can tell you what is important to me when I dine in a restaurant.

First and most critical is the food. It is certainly not the ambience or even the picturesque location. Those last are pleasant enough, but the quality and taste of the meal are most vital. I like food that I would describe as, for lack of a better term, clean. That means the ingredients should be allowed to speak for themselves and should not be buried under cheese or slathered on top with butter. Both of those can make food taste good, but unless the dish particularly calls for those ingredients, they should not drown the main offering.

I also like seasoning but again not with a heavy hand. To my mind, a heavily spiced meal knocks out my taste buds. But I know lots of people, even a couple of my sons, like their food “hot.” For me, it is fun to try and analyze what spice or combination of spices make the food so tasty. Sometimes I can tell; sometimes I have to beg the answer from the chef, and surprisingly the answer is usually forthcoming. And sometimes I bring along a dear friend, who is herself a celebrated chef, to sleuth out the mystery.

I don’t have a large capacity for food at one sitting, so I frequently bring home half the meal to eat the next day. That not only makes me feel economical but also not wasteful, and I especially like a meal that will still be tasty when it is reheated. Not all dishes are up to that challenge, but occasionally one, like chicken, will be even better after it has lolled around in its spices in my fridge for 24 hours.

When I go out to a restaurant with other people, I need to hear them when they speak. I also do not care to shout while I am chewing. That means it has to be reasonably quiet wherever we are eating. And unless the experience is deliberately family style, which can be fun, I don’t care to be stuffed into a crowd of diners. A moderate distance between tables is nice. So is a comfortable chair. I try not to be interested in the conversation at the next table — although there have been a few exceptions to which I will admit — and a little privacy is welcome. That also helps to keep the ambience low key. Ditto for the background music, if there is such. I am not looking to have my large intestine jitterbug during a meal.

Finally, it is pleasant to have a waiter or waitress who is not conspicuously weighed down by the problems of the world. Although I well understand that being a server in a restaurant is one of the hardest jobs, because pleasing so many different people with so many individual tastes has to be challenging, I prefer not having to deal with someone cranky or impatient. It is helpful when servers introduce themselves by name because it facilitates getting their attention and nicely personalizes the service in both directions. And I feel the tip ought not be an automatic percentage. That’s just a minimum. Exceptional service should be acknowledged in the one way that is most meaningful. That person after all is earning his or her bread, even as we are eating ours.

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It’s spring, and at this time of the year, as the ground thaws and the trees and flowers begin to bud, grass finally grows again. Grass — notorious grass.

Long Island’s suburbia is covered with manicured lawns, acres of it. According to a 2015 study conducted by NASA and several Colorado and Montana state universities, lawns take up over 63,000 square miles of land in the United States. It is the largest single crop in the country.

The tranquility of our suburban landscape will soon be filled with the screams and revving of lawn mowers and weed whackers as thousands groom their grass to a perfect 3 inches in height.

What are we doing? Why have we all agreed that 3-inch, cut grass should be the norm for American lawns? Why has this become the norm?

One could assume it’s a status symbol, as it was historically for English and French aristocracy, who were looking to emulate the green rolling hills found in Renaissance art.

But actually, when Europeans brought their grass to America, the proliferation of the product became popular only in the last century, when grass became a utilitarian way to create uniformity.

Here’s the rub: Grass, used as American lawns, creates acres of useless plants. An American homeowner will, on average, spend 70 hours a year cutting grass. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has estimated U.S. homeowners use 7 billion gallons of water each year irrigating their lawns. While we on Long Island have less of an issue with the prospect of running out of water, so much of our water bills ends up being pumped onto pointless grass.

That grass is cut short before it begins to seed, so we fertilize and water the lawn to make sure it doesn’t die. Normally, small creatures or insects could feed on the seed. Instead, these landscapes have become arid land or a dew collection system.

The larger problem, more than merely being a waste of time, keeping a suburban lawn provides practically no assistance to the larger ecosystem. In a 2018 TBR News Media article, beekeepers called these landscapes “green deserts” because pollinating insects have no interaction with them. Lawns take up valuable space that could be used for plants that bear fruit or flower. Just think, a pound of honey takes about 2 million flower visits, and with bee colonies declining at a record rate, we need more pollinating plants, not less.

Well, what can one do?

Most neighborhoods certainly expect a green lawn. So, instead of spending time mowing and caring for lawns, try planting some relatively low maintenance, beautifying shrubs or ornamental grasses or beds of clover and moss.

If Long Island is the prototypical suburbia, perhaps it can also be the place that starts a small revolution and upends the green grass tyranny that has held American homeowners for too long. Maybe it will also stop the annoying buzz of lawn mowers reverberating throughout the North Shore.

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Theodore Geisel, or Dr. Seuss as he was better known, was born 115 years ago earlier this month. He brought us so many wonderful characters, from Horton — my favorite — to Thing One and Thing Two to the Grinch to Sam-I-Am.

A wonderful part about having children is revisiting these friends from our own childhood. Certainly, babies born today have more options, but Seuss characters continue to inhabit their world almost as much as they did ours.

Before our daughter was born, we used to read “Oh, Baby, the Places You’ll Go!” to her. Tish Rabe adapted the book from the works of Seuss.

Almost 18 years later, I’m not sure how much, or if, the words we read to her and to our son a few years later, had any impact. It was fun, however, to picture them listening to our voices as we imagined the things they’d do and, of course, the places they’d go.

Written for, and about, children, this book doesn’t address the journeys we, the parents, the readers of this and so many other books, will take with and for our children. We travel in cars with them, where, initially, every journey is a voyage of discovery.

On those trips when parents can travel with their child together, one adult might drive while the other can sit with the rear-facing seat of our infant or toddler. We point out the world around us, enabling us to see the red-tailed hawks, oak trees and changing foliage through their eyes.

Even before we focus on the world outside the car, we travel through familiar songs, stories and nursery rhymes, creating patterns that we and our children can look forward to even if we are stuck in traffic somewhere.

As our children grow up, they travel with teams, bands or Model United Nations trips outside of the usual patterns of our lives.

Our daughter ventured to towns half a mile, half an hour, half a state and almost half a world away with softball and volleyball teams, bringing her uniform, enthusiasm and a readiness to join other girls who were, seemingly yesterday, also in the early stages of life.

With her band, she ventured out of the country, traveling to Italy, where she was delighted to play for an audience that didn’t understand much English, but shared reactions to the music that needed no translation.

As our children grow up, they travel more and more often without us, going on religious retreats, visiting national monuments and taking school trips to Washington, D.C., to see the capital of our democracy and many museums.

When they are on these trips, we are delighted that they are experiencing life, making new friends and discovering the world and their role in it on their own. When they travel far enough and for long enough, we sometimes pack a bag and visit them, eager to see them in a new setting and perhaps to explore the same part of Australia that always tickled our fancy.

As they prepare to graduate from high school and move into the great unknown of college classes, friends and parties — hopefully in that order — we share their excitement and anxiety.

At some point, we hope to see them come home again, so we can hear about their lives. We also plan to visit and see their college world as it unfolds. The wonderful part of the places our children go to is that they take us, literally or figuratively, with them. The title of this chapter of their lives could be, “Oh, the places you’ll take us.”

By Leah Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

For those of us who daily or occasionally drive into Manhattan, it looks like congestion pricing is going to happen. New York would be the first such city in the nation to impose this, but other countries have embraced charging vehicles entering the downtowns of their major cities as a solution to overcrowding, accidents and especially air pollution and revenue shortfalls. London, Stockholm and Singapore have congestion pricing, although critics insist that it is an unfair tax that particularly targets the poor who do not otherwise have easy access to public transportation.

Debate on this subject has continued ever since former mayor, Michael Bloomberg (R, I), introduced the idea in 2008. But the state, which has to approve such a move, wasn’t interested then. Now, however, with shortfalls in income tax revenue coupled with the immediate need to upgrade the city’s deteriorating subway system pressing upon them, the legislators seem to be agreeing to approve the move. The Democratic Assembly had been the holdout but at this point is willing to charge for city driving. The Senate has indicated support, as has Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and Mayor Bill de Blasio (D). Suburban legislators are willing to go along with the plan if some of the added revenue will be
designated for commuter railroads.

Once having reached this remarkable consensus, work still remains for most to agree on what exemptions to allow. So far these might include drivers who are poor, have disabilities or are going to medical appointments, according to this week’s articles in The New York Times. The more exemptions, the less revenue, as the legislators well recognize. One pricing plan is projected to raise about $1 billion annually.

So how would we be affected?

Electronic tolls might be imposed on vehicles heading south from 60th Street to the Battery. “That money would, in turn, be used to secure bonds totaling $15 billion for MTA capital projects through 2024,” according to The Times. Some consideration would include a credit for drivers entering the congestion zone through tolled tunnels or the Henry Hudson Parkway on Manhattan’s West Side, as well as for drivers coming over the Brooklyn Bridge to travel north on the East River, or FDR Drive beyond the zone.

One Queens assemblyman, David Weprin (D), insists that all city residents should be exempted, pointing out that many in Queens do not have public transportation. This is the type of detail still being discussed.

In Central London, where congestion pricing has been in effect since 2003, drivers pay about $15 per day to enter the roughly 15-square-mile zone between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. Those with disabilities are exempt, while residents living in the zone pay 10 percent of the fee to enter during those hours. The plan has been a success in many ways, earning £122 million (about $160 million) a year net benefit in 2005-06, although some aspects are being updated this year. The number of vehicles in the zone has decreased by some 25 percent in the last decade. However, the private hire vehicles, like Uber, which have not been taxed, have increased by more than 75 percent from 2013-17. City officials are looking to change that
exemption this year.

Further, the number of private cars in Central London has fallen by 39 percent between 2002-14, while cycling has increased by 210 percent from 2000-16. Congestion in London, though, is still a severe problem, the blame now being placed on those same private hire vehicles and more deliveries. The congestion zone there is less than 1.5 percent of the city.

In Stockholm, there is a variable charge in the congestion zone, depending on the time of day, distance and location, with a maximum of about $11.30. Technological advances make such determination possible. The zone covers two-thirds of the city, as opposed to London, but then London is eight times the size of Stockholm. Londoners may soon be subject to all of London falling into the zone, as well as fees applying on weekends and for all road users. London’s changes, after 16 years, may predict where New York’s plan may morph.

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Journalists make a living often by shining a light on the behind-the-scenes actions of government officials and other people in power. The role of the press is critical to a healthy society. To promote open government, both the federal and state governments have strong laws that preserve a person’s rights to access government records and meetings. Journalists regularly rely on these laws to do their job, but these rights belong to all people. Anyone can request records and attend the meetings of elected officials.

In last week’s issue, TBR News Media participated in Sunshine Week, sponsored by the American Society of News Editors and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. The initiative’s goal is to better inform the public of their open government rights to access records and meetings of government entities of all sizes. We focused on New York State’s Freedom of Information Law and found that some local government offices were following antiquated practices.

Since 1978, governments in New York have been required to adopt a record access code consistent with that of New York State. Not every government is up to date. We found that most government offer preprinted FOIL request forms on their website but lacked record access clause in their online code book.

Fortunately, the state’s Department of State Committee on Open Government makes it easy for officials to update their code. Its website provides model regulations that can be easily adopted.

We’re proud to say that in response to our reporting, Port Jefferson Village quickly agreed to review and revise their code as needed. Another village, Head of the Harbor, was more resistant.

It’s important for people to know that since 2006 New York State requires that government entities accept and respond to FOIL requests via email, if they have email. If they use emails internally, executive director of the Committee on Open Government, Robert Freeman, said that it’s hard to imagine why it can’t be used for record access. New York was the first state in the nation to address this problem. In today’s electronic age, there’s little need to physically go to town or village hall to request or receive records.

Transparency in government is imperative, and we encourage all town and village halls, as well as schools, to review their practices to ensure the easiest means for the public to access records. The more resistant a government entity is to follow open government rules, the more critical it is for people to challenge it.

For more information on New York’s Freedom of Information Law, the Open Meetings Law and the Personal Privacy Protection Law, visit www.dos.ny.gov/coog/.

Daniel Dunaief

reader wrote in to request a column about the search for missing items. The following is my attempt to oblige that request.

Right now, someone, somewhere is looking for something. Whatever it is, a birthday card bought three months ago for that special day tomorrow, a scarf that matches an outfit perfectly or a piece of paper from an art store for a critical presentation, will cost less in time and money to purchase anew than the time it takes to search through the house.

And yet most people don’t want to give up the search because they figure they’ll find it, save themselves the trip and prove to their spouses that they aren’t completely hopeless.

The search for stuff can go from the manic “Where’s my hat, where’s my hat, where’s my hat,” to the humorous “Oh, haaat, where are you? Come to me, hat. Wouldn’t you like to share a spring day outside?” to the gritted-teeth angry “I know I put the hat here and it’s not here, which means it either walked away on its own or someone picked it up and put it somewhere else.”

When stuff disappears, we return to the same location over and over, searching the closet, flipping the cushions off the couch repeatedly, only to put them back and throw them off again, hoping that, somehow, the magic that caused the item to disappear will bring it back through our frantic search.

Most of us aren’t like Seinfeld or my super-organized sister-in-law, whose garage is probably better coordinated and arranged than most Home Depots. I recognize, of course, that my wife and I are on the other end of that spectrum. I’m not sure how the people with the organizational gene do it. I look at a pile of stuff and separate out everything into broad categories. There’s junk I might need outside, junk I might need inside, junk I can’t readily identify — and then I stare at it.

At some point, my frustration at my inability to sort through it becomes sufficiently high that I put the pile back together and, lo and behold, the junk makes it almost impossible to find one specific item, even if what I seek is in that pile. My life is filled with figurative haystacks and my ability and my patience to search for the needles is minimal.

When I’m hunting for something, I close my eyes and try to retrieve from my memory the last time I saw it. Aha! I think. It was in the living room. No, maybe the dining room. No, no, I’m sure it was the kitchen.

Sometimes, I break down and buy the stupid item again, knowing that I need a specific type of tape, a matching pair of socks or something that I can’t fake having because something like it —- a Hawaiian shirt versus a button-down Oxford shirt — just won’t do.

When I return with the desired item, I take a moment to try to figure out where best to put it so I can find it again the next day or in a week, if I’m that organized. I walk slowly around the house, examining the piles of stuff that I just searched through, knowing that the piles are seeking recruits to join them. I come across an unusual and little used location, which I’m sure I’ll remember. As I find the perfect place for the redundant item, far from the all-consuming clutter, I sometimes discover that the joke’s on me: The original birthday card or missing sock await in exactly the same location.

By Leah Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Probably the worst part of the fraud committed by parents to get their children into top colleges is the message it sends to their children. The parents are saying plainly that the children are not capable of succeeding on their own. Regardless of what they may have told their children, actions speak louder than words, and these parents have demonstrated that in order to succeed, one has to lie, cheat, bribe and otherwise con one’s way to the goal. 

And what is the goal here? Just getting into college, not making a million-dollar deal or getting on Easy Street for life. Yes, a college degree usually helps a person to get a better job. It also supposedly helps that person to become a more developed human. But a college graduate is merely on the threshold of the rest of his or her life, with no guarantees of any sort except the number of years one has spent in schools.

There are colleges considered top tier, but they promise nothing more than a sheepskin if one passes all the requisite courses. Are the professors better in a top-tier college? One might think that. Or one might suspect that some of the big name faculty use postgraduate teaching assistants to do the daily teaching with little student contact while they do research, travel to give lectures and win grants, contributing to the university’s standing more than to that of the students’ education. A top college degree might be a good name to drop in social circles, but in a long life performance is ultimately what counts.

Who gets the benefit of that name? Is it the child? Or is it the parents when relating the successes of their offspring? I remember a cartoon in one of the magazines about the time my children were going through that nerve-racking period of receiving acceptances — and rejections. In the center of the cartoon was the back of a car, with a close-up of the rearview window. And at the bottom left corner of the window, proudly displayed, was the sticker of the desired college, followed by the words, “also accepted in” with the other top-tier college stickers paraded across the width of the glass. Exactly whose victory was that touting? Why, that of the parents, of course. Many of the kids probably didn’t have a car or couldn’t even drive yet.

Now let’s be honest here. Some parents have always tried to help their kids succeed, whether by throwing in a hand with the eighth-grade science project or polishing French pronunciation. And those parents who could afford it have sometimes made lavish donations to colleges in the hopes of aiding the admissions process. But those donations, if they build a new room for the library or contribute to the purchase of equipment in the lab, ultimately help many students. Most important, they are visible and not dishonest. And whether we like it or not, people with more money sometimes use their money to their own advantage. Even the ability to pay for tutoring for the SATs divides the students into the haves and the have-nots. But that’s not illegal.

The other truism is this. Whether in college or in life or just inputting on a computer, garbage in means garbage out. If a student is committed and diligent about studying in college, and there are many good colleges in this country, that student will benefit from the college experience. The opposite is also true. It doesn’t so much matter where one goes to college, but rather what one gets from the college in addition to the piece of paper documenting one’s attendance and tuition payments.

My granddaughter is a high school senior this year and waiting to hear where she will go for the next four years. We all are waiting to hear with her. She has already received acceptances so she knows she will be a college student by fall. Wherever she goes, she will get there honestly and because of the exceptional person that she is. We are so proud of her.

 

 

Daniel Dunaief

What better day than today, March 14, to celebrate numbers? In case you haven’t heard, math teachers around the country have been getting in on the calendar action for 31 years, designating the day before Caesar’s dreaded Ides of March as pi day, because the first three numbers of this month and day — 3, 1, 4 — are the same as pi, the Greek letter that is a mathematical constant and makes calculations like the area and circumference of a circle possible.

We can become numb to numbers, but they are everywhere and help define and shape even the non-perfectly circular parts of our lives.

We have a social security number, a birth date, a birth order, height and weight, and a street address, with a latitude and longitude, if we’re especially numerically inclined.

Numbers save us, as computer codes using numbers keep planes from flying at the same altitude. Numbers tell us what to wear, as the temperature, especially around this time of year, dictates whether we take a sweatshirt, jacket or heavy coat.

We use them when we’re ordering food, paying for a meal in a restaurant and counting calories. They are a part of music as they dictate rhythms and tempos, and of history, allowing us to keep the order of events straight.

We use numbers to keep track of landmarks, like the year of our graduation from high school or college, the year we met or married our partners, or the years our children were born.

Numbers help us track the time of year. Even a warm day in February doesn’t make it July, just as a cold day in June doesn’t turn the calendar to November.

People complain regularly that they aren’t good at math or science, and yet they can calculate the time it takes to get to school to pick up their kids, get them home to do their homework, cook dinner and manage a budget, all of which requires an awareness of the numbers that populate our lives.

We know when to get up because of the numbers flashing on the phone or alarm clock near the side of our bed, which are unfortunately an hour, 60 minutes or 3,600 seconds ahead thanks to daylight savings time. Many of our numbers are in base 10, but not all, as our 24-hour clocks, 24-hour days, 12-month years and seven-day weeks celebrate other calculations.

Numbers start early in our lives, as parents share their children’s height and weight and, if they’re preparing themselves for a lifetime of monitoring their children’s achievements, their Apgar scores.

Children read Dr. Seuss’ “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.” We use numbers to connect the dots in a game, drawing lines that form an image of Dumbo or a giraffe.

Numbers progress through our elementary education — “I’m 10 and I’m in fifth grade” — and they follow us in all of our activities: “I got a 94 on my social studies test.”

Imagine life without numbers, just for 60 seconds or so. Would everything be relative? How would we track winners and losers in anything, from the biggest house to the best basketball team? Would we understand how warm or cold the day had become by developing a sliding scale system? Would we have enough ways to capture the difference between 58 degrees Fahrenheit and 71 degrees?

Objects that appear uncountable cause confusion or awe. Look in the sky and try to count the stars, or study a jar of M&Ms and try to calculate the number of candies.

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a number tells its own tale — it was a six-alarm fire, I had 37 friends at my birthday party or I walked a mile in a circle, which means the diameter of that circle was about 1,680 feet — thanks to pi.

Leah Dunaief

So, how are those New Year’s resolutions going? Do you even remember what they were? If you are sticking to them, heartfelt congratulations. You are one of few with the discipline and tenacity to hang on. But if you are in the majority for having slipped or temporarily abandoned your resolves, here is some help. It’s called habits.

Habits can be a valuable tool to change your life, both for the better and not. By that I mean, we can slip into some unwelcome behaviors and they become habits almost before we realize it. Or we can consciously take control and set out to break or redefine or make new ones, and as they become part of a routine, they become easier to follow.

This is all far simpler than it sounds, of course. There is a whole branch of science dealing with habits, the unconscious behavioral patterns formed to deal with actions. “We do not so much direct our own actions as become shaped by them,” wrote Jeffrey Kluger in his introductory chapter for a special edition from Time Inc. called “The Power of Habits.”

He points out, by quoting Léon Dumont — the 19th century French psychologist and philosopher — that “a garment, after having been worn a certain amount of time, clings to the shape of the body better than when it was new. There has been a change in the tissue, and this change is a new habit of cohesion.” That is certainly true of the old, comfy pair of slippers that, despite their age, you hate to replace them, and the old pair of pants that have come to fit you like a glove.

Accordingly, the manner of our actions “fashion for themselves in the nervous system more and more appropriate paths.” Kluger here is again quoting Dumont, who studied the science of laughter, of gratitude, of empathy and, for our purposes here, the science of habits.

William James, the American philosopher greatly influenced by Dumont, suggested that people were little more than “bundles of habits.” The point of all this is to build on the idea that if we can shape our brains and the rest of our nervous systems the way we shape a pair of pants, we can control and redirect our lives to follow the actions we wish to take, namely our resolutions to be better.

Think about how many of our daily moves are just programmed in. We get up in the morning and automatically brush our teeth, take a shower, dress, put up the coffee, get our keys, slide behind the wheel of the car, place the coffee cup in the holder, drive to work, all probably while thinking of something else. Occasionally we are surprised to find we have arrived at our destination without consciously paying attention to the route. Almost all of that execution was the result of habit.

Well, suppose you built another step in there, like running 20 minutes on that treadmill or stationary bike collecting dust in your basement before you got into the shower. You like to watch the morning TV shows? Jog along with them as you watch. If you repeat that action for awhile, it could become a habit and presto! You are doing the recommended minutes of exercise a week without the ironclad discipline seemingly required each day.

It just becomes as much a habit as brushing your teeth. If you are forever locked into dipping into the candy jar in the evenings, and you find you are gaining weight, substitute chilled blueberries or red grapes from a cut-glass bowl within reach of your fingers. Of course you have to remember to buy the blueberries or grapes beforehand, wash them and keep them in the refrigerator at the ready.

Complex habits, like procrastination or chronic lateness or smoking are harder to unlearn — but not impossible. We can rewire ourselves, using substitutions or rewards, splinting a bad habit onto a good one for support or hanging out with those whose actions we would like to emulate.

Here’s the bottom line: We can do it. It will just take time for a new behavior to feel part of our routine, an average of two weeks or so. To become a habit will average 66 days.

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The phrase has become oxymoronic. It’s like a bad riddle: What is something everyone needs, but fewer people on Long Island can have?

They call it affordable housing. The real question is, affordable to whom?

Smithtown just recently hosted its second housing lotto in a year for affordable housing developments March 11. Another lotto is coming up to bat March 26 for three one-bedroom units with a total monthly gross rent of $2,300; and one two-bedroom unit with a total monthly gross rent of $3,200.

The Suffolk County Legislature’s Welfare to Work Commission, which advises the Legislature on issues related to poverty in the county, released a report in 2018 that detailed the holes in affordable housing and government programs.

Country Pointe Woods in Smithtown

The report describes that if a family wants to rent, only 18 percent of available housing is rental, compared to the national average of 37 percent. Market rate for monthly apartment rentals in Suffolk was $1,589 in 2017, according to census data, meaning families in that market would have to earn $57,204 — 52 percent of the area median income — a year if they spent 30 percent of their income on the apartment costs. In Smithtown, average rental costs are upward of $2,500 for a one-bedroom apartment, according to online rent tracker RENTCafé.

It’s hard to call such options such as the lottos in Smithtown truly “cheap,” mostly because each is only cheap by comparison.

The Town of Huntington hosted a lotto for Harborfields Estates March 5 with 608 first-time home-buyer applicants entered in that drawing. It’s a staggering number of people all bidding on the hope of owning a four-bedroom home valued $350,125. Real estate taxes on the unit are estimated to be $9,700 annually and estimated HOA fees will be approximately $460 annually.

The county report noted the 2017 Suffolk yearly median income was $110,800, while the median price of a home in 2017 was $376,000, according to census data. If an individual or family spent 30 percent of income on housing costs, the national and suggested average, they would have to earn $125,000 a year to afford the median home price.

These lotteries are an opportunity for the average person looking for a home on Long Island to have the chance to start a life here, but there’s also something dystopian about the entire idea of gambling a chance to be able to afford something as basic as a residence, whether that means renting or owning. Not to mention, anybody who is making less than the area median income knows just how tough it is to find truly affordable living anywhere along the North Shore.

It’s not to say these lotteries aren’t helping those whose names are drawn, but one wonders at the state of some of the hundreds of people who apply for these lottos who then walk away empty handed. While certainly a few of those applying may already own homes or rent apartments and are just looking for a cheaper option, the very nature of a lottery draws upon the desperate.

Municipalities at every end of the Island are complaining about brain drain, of Long Islanders fleeing to seek cheaper housing options elsewhere. Their governments need to look at the issue holistically and take an approach that affects communities as a whole, rather than give it to select individuals.

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