Final review: The Long Island Index strikes a balance

Circles of life: After 15 years of exploring Long Island economics and sociology, the Long Island Index saga has come to a hopeful end.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

Like any great adventure story, the Long Island Index saga has concluded with plenty of drama – specifically, with the Index’s final-ever regional report, a cautionary tale filled with conflict and even a stare-off-into-the-sunset ending.

Fifteen years after taking its first dive into Long Island’s socioeconomic clime, the project of the Garden City-based Rauch Foundation on Thursday released its final report of regional indicators – an amalgam of the latest data and trends on Long Island and in similar suburbs, prepared by the Regional Plan Association.

The Rauch Foundation is handing off the region’s primary data-gathering responsibilities to the Melville-based Newsday Media Group, which has introduced nextLI, a “digital community and toolbox” that will succeed the Long Island Index.

The Index was created 15 years ago by the Rauch Foundation in partnership with Long Island commercial, civic and government leaders, and ends its journey with Thursday’s report.

But before it fades out, some unfinished business: That final review suggests slower and more tentative growth on Long Island than the region needs, but strikes a hopeful parting tone by highlighting pathways to maximizing regional potential.

Among the report’s economic findings: The economies in both Nassau and Suffolk counties are expanding, but not fast enough to match the national pace – and not on the backs of industries that generally raise living standards.

Population-wise, in no surprise to the “brain drain” set, more residents have moved off Long Island than on (not including foreign immigration) every year since 2000. And while Islanders do well in categories like life expectancy, the health gap between affluent and lower-income LI residents is particularly wide.

Regarding education, on average, Long Island spends more per pupil than other regions – but that average is raised by the Island’s smaller, wealthier school districts, which counter lower per-pupil spending in larger, poorer districts.

Ann Golob: Time for aggressive socioeconomic action on Long Island.

Long Island also reports some of the region’s highest carbon-emission and water-consumption rates, according to the report, while lagging the rest of the state in affordable-housing options.

Despite some discouraging numbers and trends, the report remains optimistic by sharing the reflections of members of the Index’s Advisory Committee, who highlight the many socioeconomic opportunities inherent to Long Island.

The bottom line, according to the final Long Island Index report, is that “maintaining Long Island’s high quality of life, and extending its benefits to more of its residents, will require accelerated response and innovative approaches.”

Long Island Index director Ann Golob said the final report not only “illuminates Long Island’s challenges and opportunities,” but provides a direct call to action.

“It’s time to address them more aggressively, making progress on many more fronts simultaneously,” Golob said in a statement. “This report points the way.

“If we follow it, we can make Long Island the centerpiece of a vibrant economy that enhances the lives of all Long Islanders.”

The report, in its entirety, is available at www.longislandindex.org.

The Long Island Index’s website will continue to present the 15 years of data the Index has compiled, and with nextLI going live this week, the Rauch Foundation “will initially support the new research entity to ensure a smooth transition,” the foundation said Thursday.


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