Immigrant Commuters Bolster Long Island Economy

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(Photo/Creative Commons/Lexcie)

A newly released data analysis published by the Fiscal Policy Institute (FPI) for Newsday shows that immigrant workers now make up more than half of New York City-to-Long Island commuters 51 percent demonstrating yet again their vital place in the local economic engine.

Newsday profiled one of these reverse commute workers, Miguel Mane, a Dominican immigrant who treks from Brooklyn to Hempstead for about two hours to get to his job as a handyman. Mane is just one of thousands of immigrants who contribute to both Long Island’s workforce and economy.

David Dyssegaard Kallick, director of the FPI’s Immigration Research Initiative, told Newsday that immigrants “often fill in gaps in the labor force.” However, he added, “Long Island may not seem as attractive a place for immigrants to live, even if they work there.”

Long Island’s ongoing “brain drain” presents a serious issue for the prosperity of Nassau and Suffolk counties. As Long Island moves into the future, it will have to adjust to continue being an attractive place to live for all, no matter their background or country of origin.

“Many of the things that would make Long Island more attractive for immigrants are the same things that would make it more attractive for young adults in their 20s and 30s: A bigger range of housing options, more walkable downtown areas, more local nightlife, and a more diverse cultural experience.” Kallick told Newsday.

An FPI report from 2015 details the various economic contributions of immigrants in Long Island, including the fact that they comprise 18 percent of the Long Island population and contribute 20 percent of its economic output. With more than 40 percent of Long Island immigrants paying over $10,000 in property taxes, their essential role is clear.

The FPI report’s title was even updated to “New Americans on Long Island: A Vital Fifth of the Economy” from its 2011 version called “New Americans on Long Island: A Vital Sixth of the Economy.”

Despite the geographical distance, the boroughs of New York City and its immigrants bring immense economic gain for Nassau and Suffolk.

“The Long Island economy is closely linked to the economy of New York City, with commuters playing a big part in supporting the area’s high standard of living,” the report concludes.

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Jano Tantongco is the online editor of Long Island Wins. He's previously worked in community journalism as a staff reporter for The Long Islander and The Queens Courier. He aims to pursue truth through a combination of rational inquiry and intuition. He also enjoys bossa nova, road trips and zen philosophy.

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