The governor approved a bill to give 60 acres of Water Island to the Housing Finance Authority. That's good news.
Some senators favored this bill saying it would prevent Water Island from being "restricted to the wealthy." What? The idea that Water Island residents are all "wealthy" is entirely wrong.
There are 160 residents on Water Island. I know most, not all, and none of us would qualify as "wealthy." Among us there are carpenters, nurses, teachers, cabinetmakers, secretaries, airport service staff, food service personnel, shopkeepers, tour operators and divers. No playboys, no millionaires. No idle rich.
Year round residents of Water Island are hard working normal people earning modest incomes and struggling to live on an island where the cost of living is very high. Most work two jobs. Many spouses also work. Everyone I know would qualify for housing assistance (under $130,000 income). We work. We earn paychecks and we pay taxes.
Living on Water Island is neither cheap nor easy. Consider this — a truckload of water on Water Island costs twice the St. Thomas price due to the cost of barging the truck over and back. Construction costs are nearly twice St. Thomas costs due to moving materials and moving a construction crew back and forth every day. Without a scheduled car ferry, moving heavy materials is an expensive process and a logistical nightmare.
Living on Water Island is not for the faint of heart or those with weak knees. Working on one island and living on the other Island means maintaining a car on both islands. Water Island has no repair shops. When the car fails, you fix it yourself. Want gasoline on Water Island? Haul it over in five-gallon jugs. If your car rolls into a ditch, you better have a posse of friends and a stout rope because there is no tow truck. No fire truck, no police car, no ambulance, no hurricane shelter, no supermarket, and no hardware store. You are on your own when you live on Water Island. That means a lot of hauling things and do-it-yourself work. Not the stuff of the idle rich.
The senators show no respect for Water Island residents when they debate our issues but never come over to see this island. In the last election, one candidate (Hill) came to meet residents. In the last governor's election, one candidate (DeJongh) came to Water Island.
The senator who talks the most about Water Island has never been seen here. On six separate occasions I have invited Senator Celestino White to take a personal guided tour of the island. "Any day, any time, I will boat you over, drive you around, show you the sights and introduce you to residents." His reaction – Nothing! No interest.
I offer this to all senators. Come for a tour. I'll foot the bill. Any day, any time, any senator. Come walk the walk.
Come stand on our wobbly "temporary" dock that has been here since Hurricane Georges. Come see the potholes in our main road, the firehouse with no fire truck, the pile of derelict cars, the dump road that washes out in every heavy rain and the deep-water dock that is too shallow to use.
Come see the 200 acres you own – most of it too steep to build on and come see the site of the old hotel where a new hotel might flourish — if we had any of the critical infrastructures. If you give a damn, come walk on our island.
Frankly, I welcome the government sponsored housing on Water Island. Perhaps, these new residents will join the rest of us moderate-income folks in asking the government to address the real concerns of the island. Maybe the people the government sends here will have the ears of our government.