The Young Life in Three Village
For 21-year-old Vanessa Antoine, staying in Three Village long after her college graduation last May was out of the question once she realized the limited opportunities available to her.
“In the area specifically around Stony Brook there are jobs but ones that are already taken,” said Antoine. “A recently graduated student trying to find a job out in East Setauket is hard and the only reason I had a job was because I stayed with it through college.”
During her time at Stony Brook University, Antoine worked at Stony Brook Child Care Center, Inc. and babysat locally while staying at the university. In terms of a job related to her degree in Psychology, Antoine had little luck and realized Three Village wouldn’t provide her with the tools she needed to advance.
Knowing that she would need to go further in her studies, Antoine decided she would move to Boston this summer and start looking into nursing programs and jobs there.
“If I stay out here and just take more classes I’ll be staying in a rut, working here, doing everything here,” said Antoine. “If I go out to Boston and look into the nursing program, there will be more of a focus on why I’m there.”
As a native Long Islander, Antoine is also familiar with the nightlife surrounding the university and feels that it can only be as good as the students and graduates make it. For the most part students only attend events thrown by other students because other than that it’s mostly local restaurants with bars, according to Antoine.
“Older crowds go out to eat and then they are in bed by 12 a.m.,” she said. “If young people see that they aren’t going to want to live there after a while and I think it will turn into an area like Florida: far away from everything except the grocery stores, gyms, clothing stores, and the local Whole Foods.”
Life After Three Village
In 2010, following his graduation from Stony Brook University, 26-year-old Brian DeCourcy moved to Brooklyn in search of affordable rent, a graduate school to attend, and a more adventurous environment than Three Village had to offer.
“I'd have to pay for the cost of a car and insurance just to get around and any apartment I could afford would be in a basement,” he said.
Now DeCourcy attends Hunter College part time and works as a barista at a local coffee shop. Things like the laundromat, subway, and café are all within walking distance so there is no need for the added expense of a car.
DeCourcy lives in a rent-controlled apartment with a roommate and describes the apartment as “The Holy Grail of Apartments.”
"I think for me New York City was a much better option," he said. "I have excellent public transportation and a pre-war apartment with huge windows, all for $500 a month."
In the Middle
Falcon Sahin, 38, emigrated to the United States from Turkey more than 13 years ago, settling in Three Village after living in New York City's Chinatown. He said he arrived with $200 and no English, but he eventually opened up his own martial arts school, Extreme Martial Arts in Selden, got married and bought a home here.
Sahin said he likes the community because it is diverse, quiet, and clean with nice neighborhoods. Among his favorite places are the Pita House, West Meadow Beach, and Port Jefferson in the summertime.
But he said he doesn't envision staying here through retirement. The property taxes are high, services are expensive – and anyway, he said he prefers warmer climates.
"I would go someplace cheaper. Life is too short, you work and you pay and pay and it never ends," Sahin said.
Life as a Local
More than 30 years ago, as soon as Ann Helfgott finished college, she was able to leave the nest and get an apartment in Manhattan with a roommate.
“It was $190 a month and I rented it with a roommate, so we had each been paying about $95 a month,” she said.
Now, as a mother and an adjunct professor at Suffolk Community College, Helfgott realizes just how much times have changed for her daughter’s generation.
“Things were a lot easier back then,” Helfgott said. “That same apartment would be ten times that price now.”
Helfgott has been living in Three Village since 1981, when she moved here with her husband and first child. Since then she has seen neighbors leave the community in search of lower property taxes or retirement.
“I noticed some of my neighbors moved to Delaware because of the property tax and some of my other neighbors moved to Florida and retired there,” she said.
In addition to adults seeking lower property taxes, Helfgott suggested that the real factor likely to be affecting the population here is the difficulty of finding jobs. She also suggested that the lack of a vibrant nightlife scene and opportunities to meet other young people isolates the few that are here and makes Three Village undesirable for their age group. In addition to a weak nightlife, she said, the area practically requires people to own vehicles, something not all young people can afford.
“It’s not just a matter of not having affordable housing,” Helfgott said. “It’s hard to find jobs out here and I think that young people out here feel very isolated.”