Bob Greco, a writer for a civic newsletter here in Nassau County, likes to talk about how his home community, Carle Place, is "in the eye of the hurricane."
We think that is an accurate description of Levittown. Taxes are relatively high and keep increasing. Mom and pop stores continue to be challenged by large retailers. State mandates that are pouring from Albany like water are forcing their children to work even harder (and their school districts to spend more). And changes in our culture bring them into contact with more people from vastly different social and ethnic backgrounds.
Then came last week's DEC hearing in Island Trees on the American Drive-In Cleaners site, which has been declared an inactive hazardous waste disposal site after elements of a dry-cleaning chemical were found in the ground. We wondered if Levittown residents, already putting up with these challenges of their own, would be especially emotional over having a Superfund site in their midst, and having the remediation process take so long.
Instead, what emerged was an informative two-hour session, with brisk give and take between the citizens and authorities. The residents seemed to balance their fear of the unknown with their desire to learn more about the situation before jumping to any conclusions. They peppered the state and county employees on the dais with questions, and the respondents tried their best to provide them with honest answers without heightening their fears.
At the end of the evening, Epstein polled the 15 to 20 people left in audience whether a second public session was necessary. To a man, the audience said yes, with some residents saying people from outside the Island Trees community should be invited to attend.
Last week's public meeting should serve as a lesson to public officials who want to know how to retain their constituents' respect. Levittowners value straight talk and respect. As Legislator Dennis Dunne pointed out, if there's a potential problem on the horizon, the people expect their representatives to come out and say so, and to work with their constituents to help find a solution.
Or, as resident Vincent Militano said, "We may be small, but we're tough here."
The Levittown Tribune edition of Dec. 19, the newspaper's 50th anniversary, will be a special one for us...and, we hope, for you too.
Something that impressed many people about the Levittown 50th Anniversary parade on Oct. 19 was the number of schools and youth organizations, with their armies of young participants, marching down Hempstead Turnpike. After watching that, one says to himself/herself, "If Levittown is so welcoming to young people, then they'll want to come back after college and raise their families here."
So next week, the Trib will devote much of its news section to a status report on different Levittown groups that serve young people. It'll be the start of our regular effort to spotlight the people who help grow the minds and bodies of young people throughout Levittown and Island Trees. Appropriately, students are helping us out -- writers Joe Rienti at Island Trees High School and Victoria Yen at MacArthur High School.
In focusing on Levittown's future, we are actually paying tribute to the greatest success of Levittown's past and present: its ability to develop organizations that provide much for their children.