By Robert Amato.
On the gentle side
of dreams lies reality. The
American suburb was proposed as a post war panacea. Green lawns, security, private ownership were catchwords for
Returning servicemen looked for change and found it in secure bedroom
communities. William Levitt was
seen as a modern prophet leading his people east onto Long Island.
There are inherent
weaknesses in any innovative project.
Levittown was no exception.
Village Greens, a community pool system, localized shopping were not
entirely practical. This was never
a quaint New England Village.
There were elements of bias.
Neighborhood tapestries remained white on white for some time.
I certainly have
pleasant adolescent memories of the Levitt experiment, days roaming about,
exploring new neighborhoods, meeting new friends. I learned to swim at the pool, barbecued every summer
evening, once hit a baseball out of sight at Northside School field. The community library offered
opportunity to grow and fantasize.
Entertainment was always in close proximity. A date was inexpensive, the evening quick to materialize.
an air of communal commitment. I
knew every neighbor. Politics were
conservative but tolerant, social commitment evident. The 1960s proved
difficult for many parents. Civil
rights, an unpopular war added to the confusion caused by changing mores and
customs. Core values, although
challenged, remained intact. Devotion to cause and country never lessened. A community of veterans sent its sons
into harm’s way. I remember friends leaving for Viet Nam, parties, letters,
good and bad news.
We live in changing
times. The dream exists but this
time tempered by an insistent reality.
Village Greens are often empty.
Business does not flourish in an insular world. Shopping centers, access to
entertainment and available transportation can make summer afternoons at the
pool superfluous. The question
remains, what type of community do we hope to maintain? Is it possible to keep the original
Levitt concept financially viable?
There have been
recent efforts to change our demographic. Plans for housing developments, businesses are frequently proposed. Tax pressures would certainly be
alleviated. The question remains at what price? Can a community maintain its pastoral innocence? In 1960 a child could ride his bike for
miles without seeing any traffic, encountering a single street light. Perhaps it is time to consider cultural
preservation. Dreams need not
remain the province of children alone.
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