I was struck, recently, standing outside the People’s Pantry in the hamlet of Oyster Bay on a cold, gray day. The Pantry provides food and other services to locals in need of support, and the line for food parcels stretched around the block.
It was a sobering reminder that, despite Gov. Kathy Hochul’s and New York City’s attitude toward the suburbs, not everyone who lives in Nassau or Suffolk county is rich, or a homeowner, or, for that matter, a car owner. Oyster Bay contains expansive Gold Coast mansions, middle class blocks, and a struggling working class that depends on public housing, public transportation and a healthy dose of local giving.
The Democrats have the helm of this state, and they have allegedly made the needs of the poor, the health of the environment, and the rest of their normal slate their top priorities. If that’s so, then why are millions of dollars in funding being cut from Oyster Bay/East Norwich schools despite the struggling working-class immigrant population? Why do we have to suffer through loud, polluting trains when the technology to electrify them is more than 100 years old? Why do the working class — often the working poor — of Oyster Bay have to continue to subsidize the ivory towers of New York City?
By American standards, the hamlet of Oyster Bay is old. Americans were settling and fishing the rich waters here more than a century before Oyster Bay became an important nexus for Revolutionary War activity, which itself happened more than a century before President Teddy Roosevelt turned nearby Sagamore Hill into the Mar-A-Lago of the turn of the 20th century. Since then, another century has come and gone.
In that time, left-wing urban animosity toward the suburbs has become a well-documented phenomenon. Whether it’s our (racist) single-family homes, our (boring) clean and safe streets or our (car) culture, the suburbs represent the sour grapes that the modern urbanite hates and/or wants. The New York metropolitan area is no exception to this rule: Part of what it is to live in one of the five boroughs is to disdain the eastern counties of Long Island. The irony and hypocrisy of this attitude is best summed up in one question: “Why don’t they just take the train?”
After all, if you live in any of the five counties that compose New York City, you have subsidized, almost unbelievably cheap public transportation that reaches even the most remote corners of the city. If you live on that system, you can take buses, express buses, subways, ferries — there’s no time of the day or night that you can’t get on government-subsidized transportation and ride across the vastness of the city for under $3.
If you live in Oyster Bay, however, there are no buses. Once you get to the hamlet on the single train line that comes here, the only option is to take that same local train back the way you came, or walk for miles along an unsafe road, which we all see workers doing regularly. What’s worse? That slow, local train that requires connections costs nearly $20 now. Additionally, the state recently reduced service on the Oyster Bay line, making the least-served extension of the LIRR even less served.
The revenue for the congestion pricing that will be forced on suburbanites for entering New York City will not be returned to them, as it has been in London and other cities in which congestion pricing schemes have been enacted. Instead, it will be used to make the already cheap buses free for city dwellers, while the working poor of Long Island fund their gratis transportation.
The Oyster Bay line, running through countless neighborhoods and in close proximity to homes, is still diesel. Not only does that mean that working-class people — whose homes are traditionally clustered around train tracks — have to suffer the fumes and noise of the trains that do come through. Diesel engines have to run 24/7, so the poor souls who live behind the Oyster Bay storage yard are treated to the roar and fumes of diesel engines all night, every night.
Jake Blumencranz represents the 15th Assembly District.