Long Island Index
Our operating principle is: "Good information presented in a neutral manner can move policy."
In November 2002, Nancy Rauch Douzinas, president of the Rauch Foundation, convened a small group of Long Island’s civic, academic, labor and business leaders to discuss challenges facing the Long Island region and potential catalysts for new direction. The group continued to expand and within a few months formed an Advisory Committee to identify key goals for the region and develop plans for what would become the Long Island Index.
The goal of these reports is to chart how we are doing on an annual basis and to ensure that the data provided is useful, unbiased information that will lead to greater community awareness of Long Island issues and to serve as a catalyst for action. The Index does not advocate specific policies. Instead, our goal is to be a catalyst for action, by engaging the community in thinking about the Long Island region and its future.
The first Long Island Index was launched on February 12, 2004 and had a substantial impact on public dialogue. By year’s end, the Index had been cited in over one hundred newspaper articles, three radio shows and 11 television programs, as well as by numerous public officials and civic leaders.
The 2005 Index sought to emphasize the interrelatedness among indicators. In particular, a Special Analysis examined land use on Long Island, describing the many ways that land use impacts housing, employment, transportation, the environment and even the very character of our communities.
The 2006 Index emphasized Long Island as a region: comparable to others, similar to some, unique in many ways. The report looked at where we are succeeding competitively and particularly, where we still face significant challenges. Housing costs and taxes, in particular, stood out as onerous issues.
The 2007 Index report paid particular attention to how several indicators, particularly the economy, housing, education and health, impacted different socio-economic groups within the region. Looking to go beyond averages, the Index sought to understand the region’s future from multiple perspectives.
The 2008 Index focus was on downtown development and how these areas could be a source for new affordable housing. Successful regions recognize and utilize their assets. Long Island’s more than 100 downtowns are a valuable asset, but for the past 50 years the majority of them have been neglected and underutilized. The Index reports the willingness of Long Islanders to live, work, and shop in downtown locations.
The 2009 Index, released on January 30, 2009, focused on education and specifically, the structural inefficiencies and inequalities and mismatch in funding versus student needs. Among the anomalies the Index reported, in districts where student needs are greatest, per-pupil spending is the least. By contrast, in districts where large sums are spent, academic achievement is no higher than in mid-range schools.
Our 2010 report revisited one of Long Island's greatest assets—our downtowns. Analyzing how much available land might be available within a 1/2 mile of our downtown centers, the Index calculated that on the 8,300 available acres there is the potential to build 90,000 new housing units. This is only possible, however, if we consider alternative housing options—town houses, apartments, low-rise buildings and the like.
In 2011, the Index focused on Long Island’s development review process and zoning regulations and asked how these needed to change if we were going to make the best use of our downtown assets.
2012’s report looked at Long Island’s economy and our potential to become an innovative powerhouse. Citing the large number of scientific labs and universities in the region, the report found that Long Island has the potential to transform itself much as San Diego has done over the past 20 years.
The 2013 Index report focuses again on our economy and looks at the Long Island Rail Road's untapped potential to transform the economies of Nassau and Suffolk by growing the number of high-salary Manhattan commuters living on Long Island and by creating new job centers and housing developments near LIRR stations. Focusing on the potential to rethink how we build in our downtowns and the fact that there are more than 4,000 acres of surface parking lots within a half-mile of our downtown centers.
The 2014 Long Island Index asked four nationally recognized architectural firms to help us imagine what might be possible for four Long Island communities. The ParkingPLUS Design Challenge reveals new concepts of parking design to both rethink and enliven our downtowns.
In 2015 we took a look back at the demographic changes that have occurred on Long Island over the past 40 years. We launched new interactive maps highlighting this historic data. The Index report tackled the economic stagnation facing Long Island and showed that if the trends of the past 20 years continue into the future, Long Island will have greatly reduced potential. But, investments in the biomedical industry and multifamily housing could produce the kind of growth that would allow Long Island to thrive.