Editorial: Plug Long Island’s ‘brain drain’

Editorial: Plug Long Island’s ‘brain drain’

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Without intervention, the current youth exodus from Long Island will have crippling effects generations from now. 

Here on Long Island, we excel at educating children. New and aspiring parents enter our communities for top-notch schools. This public education system offers a necessary springboard for prosperous lives.

Getting our youth to stay put and prosper on this Island is a puzzle. The cost of living is higher than in many other places around the U.S. Long Islanders have some of the country’s highest taxes, rents and utility costs. For too many young people, the costs outweigh the benefits, and they flee.

Consequently, we are losing generations of educated, homegrown Long Islanders. The investments we make into public schools are going unrewarded. 

Without a new generation of workers powering our local economy, municipalities will miss out on a sizable tax base. With fewer customers patronizing local businesses, our downtowns will suffer. With fewer new families, our first-rate school districts will shutter. And the loss of youth will deprive our communities of continual cultural enrichment.

For all these reasons, our leaders must take a close look at why young people are leaving, then do something about it. Given the multitude of factors and variables, a multiyear study on the conditions of youth flight may be in order.

Some measures can be taken now. Investments in new, affordable housing options are beneficial, creating competition in our often-inflated rental market that squeezes those just entering the workforce. Offering below-market rents can encourage young people to stay and live here.

We also ask our public officials to respect their taxpayers, taking a close forensic accounting of their budgets. Amid this inflationary period and uncertain economic times, they should practice greater fiscal responsibility, exploring ways to limit needless spending.

While acknowledging this need, we do not endorse excessive cuts to school, library and fire district budgets. These vital public institutions remain major draws to our Island.

With common-sense reforms and proper budgetary management, Long Island can retain and build upon our current population of young people. Through our efforts today, generations of Long Islanders could soon spring forth.