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Levittown still selling suburban dream after 64 years

In 1947, developer William Levitt built the first of his four national Levittowns on Long Island, providing affordable housing options for World War II veterans.

In 1947, developer William Levitt built the first of his four national Levittowns on Long Island, providing affordable housing options for World War II veterans. To keep costs down, Levitt created an “assembly line” of workers that churned out as many as 36 houses a day, according to Ann Glorioso, archive librarian at Levittown Public Library.

Levitt didn’t just build houses, he created an entire community, complete with schools and seven shopping centers called “Village Greens,” which had supermarkets and dry cleaners; most even had pools. But even with all the amenities, Levitt kept the prices of his houses down, so that even first-time home-buyers like Polly Dwyer and her first husband could own one.

“It was the only place we could afford,” said the 82-year-old Dwyer, who is the Levittown Historical Society president and has lived in the same house since 1954.

Levitt built two types of houses, the cape cod and the ranch house, with few variations, and a lot of rules, including a policy of not selling to African Americans. The ban was eventually lifted, but African Americans are still underrepresented in the town — making up 0.9 percent of the population, nearly 12 percent less than the national average, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.

The town has other problems, including foreclosures and high property taxes.

Despite the area’s troubles, real estate broker and Levittown resident Richard Dallow insists that with the low interest rates it’s a great time to buy in Levittown. “It’s a great place to grow up,” said Dallow. “It’s a wonderful community.”

 
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