Nassau County Legislator Debra Mulé hosted a discussion with millennial constituents last week as part of a virtual panel called “Redesigning the District: A Conversation with Millennials.”
During the Feb. 18 webinar, broadcast via Facebook Live, Baldwin and Freeport residents discussed key issues facing millennials, as well as opportunities for local civic involvement and changes they have witnessed — and would like to make — in their communities.
“My children are millennials who grew up in the 5th Legislative District, and I know that the issues of millennials are different from the issues of my generation,” said Mulé, a Democrat from Freeport. “And it’s very important that we hear what they are. We need to get your perspective, your energy, your fresh takes on things so we can make good decisions.”
Mulé’s chief of staff, Jonathan Prevost, of Baldwin, led the discussion. Baldwinite Bianca Boursiquot, owner of Sweets by B, a Baldwin-based baked goods business, joined the discussion along with Freeport natives Kyra Lewis, Jose Villatoro and Kiana Abbady.
The panelists recalled fond childhood memories and touted Baldwin’s and Freeport’s sense of community and diversity among residents, but also shared the changes they have seen while growing up and those they would like to see.
“The most change I’ve seen in Baldwin has to deal with businesses,” Boursiquot said. “And I’m proud of how many businesses that opened in Baldwin — I appreciate that [there is] an increase of food businesses — but sometimes I see that they increase fast food, so that’s some change that I see in Baldwin that I’m not too fond for.”
She said she would like to see healthier options, especially for students around the high school, since students are allowed to leave campus to buy lunch.
Boursiquot also recalled attending the St. Christopher’s Church Italian feast when she was young, and Villatoro remembered the festival at the Nautical Mile in Freeport. Boursiquot said she would love to see more festivals celebrating a variety of cultures.
“If they could incorporate multicultural programs, like festivals for everyone,” Boursiquot said, “I feel like that would bring everyone together, honestly.”
“Where I grew up in Baldwin — in my opinion, there’s only one Baldwin — but they refer to it now as north Baldwin,” Prevost said. He remembered that when he was young, there was a Friendly’s restaurant where a KFC now stands. It was a local place that created a sense of community, he said, because it was a popular spot for people who lived in the surrounding area.
“As the years changed, it kind of switched from more family restaurants to more like the McDonald’s and KFCs and Taco Bells,” Prevost said, “so I could definitely see your point on that with the increased fast-food restaurants in our district and how it kind of changed the dynamic of local places to hang out and kind of interact with your community more.”
Villatoro, who works in Mulé’s office, echoed the sentiment, saying he would like to see a greater diversity of local businesses.
Abbady said that while Freeport is known to be “a third white, a third Black and a third Hispanic,” she has noticed an increase in diversity, with more Asian and South Asian people living in Freeport.
“I love that there are more people from different backgrounds coming to live in our community,” she said. “It’s a beautiful thing, and we’ve already been a very culturally diverse village, and I’m looking forward to see those communities join us and enhance what’s already here in Freeport and make it even greater.”
Prevost also asked the panelists about civic engagement and how community groups could better connect with their age group.
Abbady, who formerly worked with Mulé, said local civic groups tend to focus their efforts more on problem solving rather than engaging with the community.
Lewis agreed, adding that it starts with building positive relationships and then working through the problem solving. She also said social media is “always the answer” when it comes to how to better connect with residents, and encouraged leaders to find innovative ways to speak to an audience.
Mulé thanked the speakers, noting that she was surprised that housing didn’t come up, although that could be a topic for another conversation.
“As members of a tremendously diverse and highly educated generation,” Mulé said in a statement, “millennials are already taking up the mantle of leadership and charting a course to a more innovative, inclusive and vibrant future for Nassau County and the United States.”