Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak tonight. My name is Nick, and I was born and raised in North Bellmore. I write an independent blog called Let There Be Light(house) that seeks to educate the public and rally support for this pivotal project.
I first rejoiced when this project was unveiled because, as a die-hard Islanders fan, I did not want to lose a team that is a part of me, both figuratively and literally. I became a fan during the miracle run of 1992-93, and I still have a long scar above my left knee from celebrating David Volek's overtime goal to eliminate the Penguins. Since then, I have grown up watching this team, bearing the scars of an Islanders fan in many ways.
You can see my Islanders bona fides are in good order, but I became an advocate for this project because the Lighthouse is about so much more than hockey. It is a roadmap to the future. Long Island gave birth to the concept of an ideal American life; a single-family home with a white picket fence on a quiet cul-de-sac. People fled decaying cities for the warm embrace of the suburbs, putting down roots, and raising families. However, the suburban dream of our parents is in danger of becoming a nightmare for us, as traffic, choking tax burdens, and the flight of younger people threaten our very way of life.
This last issue is close to my heart, because for me, it is not a talking point, it's my life. I am 24 years old, two years out of college, and I see it every day. Most of my friends have moved away, and many who went to school off of Long Island simply decided not to come back. My best friend was engaged at Christmas, and in asking me to be in the wedding party he asked me to help him house-hunt in Hoboken. I do not join the chorus of people patting themselves on the back for all those finalists from Long Island in the Intel Science fair; I wonder how many of them will take the great education funded by your tax dollars and leave to start families, create jobs, and pay taxes somewhere else. I have ridden Metro-North to Connecticut during the morning rush hour and seen the train packed with people my age who live in the city and reverse commute to jobs in Westchester, Greenwich, Westport, Stamford, and other communities.
I look at these problems, and I see opportunity. I reject the belief that traffic will get better if we do nothing, companies will locate on Long Island because it's the right thing to do, our young people will stop fleeing if we ask them nicely, and, as a budding technology entrepreneur, the only way for me to realize my dream is to throw my possessions in the back of my car, hop on I-80, and keep driving until I hit Silicon Valley. I, and thousands of others like me, want to be part of the solution here. I believe I will have to leave Long Island very shortly, but, regardless of my personal feelings about this place, I believe this decision was made for me years, if not decades, ago, with policies that aim to preserve a "suburban way of life" that is slowly drowning in a sea of strip malls, fast food restaurants, and illegally divided houses.
It may be too late for me, but the Lighthouse is the kind of visionary project Long Island needs, and it can provide hope for many that will come after me. I do not believe it is a panacea; one development cannot undo decades of neglect and misguided policy. However, it can start a new way of thinking on Long Island. The Lighthouse could lead to 5 or 6 more good decisions, and those in conjunction could help to stabilize the population losses and set the stage for future economic growth.
I realize times are tough right now, and that should not be glossed over. However, let us remember the words from Herb Brooks' character in the movie "Miracle" - "Great moments are born from great opportunity." At this time, at this defining moment, we have a chance to boldly stand up for our Island. This is the time for visionary action, not watered-down compromise. Nassau Coliseum itself was a compromise from the original vision of a 20,000 seat arena with Long Island Rail Road access, and another compromise will not adequately address the issues we face as an Island.
While things should be done quickly, we cannot forget that they must also be done right. This is the time for all of us to pull together, not to demonize certain politicians or try to place blame on a certain group. We must work together to ensure the project's success and keep politics out of it as best we can. There is one last point I'd like to make: please get informed on this project. I started my blog because I was tired of the rumor and innuendo that surrounded the project and wanted to take positive action. This is too important a project to be decided on fear and misinformation.
My favorite business writer, marketing guru Seth Godin, says that in this day and age there are only two types of companies: brave and dead. I believe the same is true for communities. Which should we be? This is the time to be brave; in the same way that Levittown launched a million suburban dreams, Grumman left a piece of us on the moon, and Charles Lindbergh took our dreams to the sky, let the Lighthouse shine as a beacon of hope and opportunity for the future of this special Island.
Please share your thoughts in comments. Petition. Email Me.