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Youth Movement

In the midst of Westbury’s downtown revitalization, which includes a newly redeveloped performing arts theater, focus is shifting to a vital question – is it enough keep young people here? 

Post Avenue in Westbury has transformed into a desirable downtown for young adults, though several aspects associated with living in Nassau County have many young adults heading west to live and work. 

“You have to provide reasonably priced housing but also have to have other amenities that are going to be attractive to people who are younger. My kid’s friends want to live in the city or near the city because there’s a lot going on with entertainment and job choices. As a community you have to try to develop those things. It’s not enough to say you have affordable apartment houses in Westbury if there’s nothing around or no jobs,” said Westbury Village Mayor Peter Cavallaro, who noted that the new theater, dubbed The Space at Westbury, may be six to eight weeks away from opening. 

“Long Island has been suffering from this ‘youth drain’ for decades and it’s sort of at a breaking point where if something is not done relatively soon to reverse that, you may lose people for a long period of time,” said Cavallaro. 

Similarly, Nassau County Executive hopeful Tom Suozzi wondered once his daughter went away to college if she’d ever come back. 

“Instead of moving to some other part of the country, I want my daughter to come back to live here. She wants to be somewhere there’s a job, where there’s an apartment and where she can hang out with her friends,” said Suozzi, who spoke with Anton News editors last month. 

Suozzi, though he disagreed with Charles Wang’s Lighthouse Project, said the idea at least would have “changed people’s mindset” on the county’s central Hub area. He cited White Plains and New Rochelle as formerly decrepit regions that are now vibrant downtowns – mainly because suburban planning revolves around mass transit in those areas. 

 “We need cool downtowns like Garden City, Rockville Centre and Great Neck. People live there in ‘walkable’ communities with shops, restaurants and a train station. Let’s preserve open space, but let’s develop downtowns,” said Suozzi. 

Though Money magazine has named Westbury one of the most desirable places to live for young adults, the award specifically reads, “best places for the rich and single.” 

“That’s the whole idea of smart growth. Make these communities with a lot of different features attractive to not just young people. It’s a work in progress, but I think Westbury is further ahead of the curve than a lot of other communities are, not that we’re done,” said Cavallaro.