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Letter: Past, Present And Future Of Housing In Levittown

Levittown’s history can be periodized into five approximate eras; a Jerusalem Period (1664-1837) in which Quaker and Puritan settlers and their descendants established an agricultural community south of Hempstead Turnpike and thence into present-day Wantagh; an Island Trees Period (1837-1900) in which the arrival of the LIRR on the Hempstead Plains facilitated the establishment of farmsteads from Hicksville southwards to the Turnpike; a Period of Modernization (1900-1936) whereupon automotive technology and aviation and electricity made their appearance; and a Suburban Period (1936-1980) in which explosive population growth, commercial expansion, and residential development remade the face of the land. 

 

Since 1980, we have been in an Ex-Urban Period which might well be nicknamed the “age of agonizing reappraisal”. The fact is, solutions to late 1940’s problems will not help us in 2014. We can either accept that  the one-family suburban home is no longer an economically viable model for our residential needs, and well become less so as we approach the Levittown Centennial in 2047, or we can sustain obsolete zoning codes like the LPRD (at least in its current configuration) and see more boarded-up homes followed up by more boarded-up homes until Levittown looks like the slum its naysayers in the 1950’s predicted it’d become. To wit: the tommyrot and ballyhoo anent low-income rental housing and the accompanying historical amnesia. 

 

Many have forgotten that Levittown in 1947 was low-income rental housing for homecoming GI’s who were just starting out in the job market, had no college degree (oftentimes not even a high school diploma), had no money, and had nowhere to go and nothing they could afford. Some, quite frankly, eighteen years after the stock market crash of 1929 were flat broke. And what’s more, being a Levittown resident in the 1950’s arrived with a social stigma from the residents of more affluent and/or established surrounding communities; people vocal in their opposition to William Levitt and his low-income rental housing. Many have forgotten that the unique LPRD, the brainchild of Mr. Levitt, was also the creation of a visionary who, on May 7, 1947, led a “March on Hempstead” demanding Section 809 Article 8 of the Town Building Code be abolished and replaced with Article XV known as the LPRD because he saw it as an obsolete impediment to future community growth. And many people, especially Baby Boomers and Generation X-er’s who grew up in the 1950-1980 era when suburbia and middle class prosperity was “a given”, have forgotten how Levittown’s “pioneers” in the 1950’s were the same families that, two decades earlier, stood in soup kitchens and on bread lines during the Great Depression. Today’s low-income person—“the forgotten man of 2014”—is not a lazy, shiftless freeloader or a bum. He’s somebody with a college education whose career has been outsourced overseas, downsized, or given to cheap foreign labor; the person who can’t even land a job at a local supermarket because he’s deemed “overqualified” for its welfare wages. He’s somebody toiling in a department store for minimum wage selling items made by twelve year-old girls and boys in Third World sweatshops rather than working class American adults who, back in the 1950’s, could have received an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work. 

 

The people in need of low-income rental housing in 2014 are our friends, neighbors, and family and those who sneer at them and sneer at the whole idea of low-income rental housing ultimately are sneering at Mr. Levitt and his vision of a better life for the working family. 

 

Paul Manton 


News

In response to the county’s fly-by-night decision to remove 176 old oak trees along Seaman’s Neck Road, earlier this month, New York State Sen. Kemp Hannon has issued a letter to Nassau County Department of Public Works Commissioner Shila Shah-Gavnoudias regarding constituents’ concerns with the appearance of the roadway.

In his letter, Hannon asks Commissioner Shah-Gavnoudias if the removal of the trees were under the jurisdiction of LIPA or PSEG.

“If not, I would like to know who made the decision to remove these trees and why,” Hannon states. “I request you review this case and take whatever course of action necessary.”

U.S. Navy Veteran Richard Meyerowitz of Levittown joined the military in 1962, enlisting straight out of high school. While he would never see combat, Meyerowitz served as a boilerman aboard the U.S.S. Dewey amid the United States’ blockade of Cuba.

“They gave us our orders,” Meyerowitz said, “turn any vessels away. If not, blow ‘em out of the water.”

During the blockade, Meyerowitz said he only encountered one ship, which they warned to turn back. Just a kid at the time, Meyerowitz said it didn’t occur to him at the time, how the country could have been on the verge of nuclear war.


Sports

Christopher Joseph of Levittown was recently selected to play on the United States world university hockey team in Italy this year. A 2009 MacArthur High School graduate, Joseph was captain of his high school team for two seasons, leading them to two championships. Joseph would later go on to play junior hockey for New York Apple Core and the New Jersey Rockets junior ‘A’ team.

Joseph’s parents, Hal and Theresa, along with his brother Robert and sister Kristin said they are very proud of Christopher’s accomplishments and are cheering him on as he heads off to Italy.

Farmingdale State College had four players named to the 2014 D3baseball.com All-New York Team. Senior outfielder Edward Bergmann of East Meadow, earned First Team honors, while junior shortstop Anthony Alvino of Lindenhurst was named to the Second Team. Junior outfielder Michael Marino of Franklin Square and sophomore pitcher Alex Weingarten of East Rockaway also earned Third Team honors this year.

Bergmann batted a team-leading .421 this season and also led the Rams in hits (53), runs scored (42), doubles (8), on-base percentage (.503), stolen bases (30) and held a perfect fielding percentage. Nationally, Bergmann ranks 4th for stolen bases per game (0.88), 10th in stolen bases, 23rd in both on-base percentage and batting average and 29th in runs scored per game (1.21).


Calendar

BOE Planning Session

Wednesday, Aug. 27

Bad Seed Auditions

Thursday, Aug. 28

Close Encounters with Benevolent ETs

Friday, Aug. 29



Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com

The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
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Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
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