Hard Times Lost On Long Island Where Are They Now

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Follows four suburban New York families affected by unemployment in the second half of the 2010s, as they face job prospects, dwindling savings, and eviction from their homes.

Hard Times Lost On Long Island Where Are They Now

Hard Times Lost On Long Island Where Are They Now

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Hard Times Lost On Long Island Where Are They Now

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Hard Times Lost On Long Island Where Are They Now

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Hard Times Lost On Long Island Where Are They Now

I know we’re a nation with such a short attention span and chronic addiction to instant gratification that asking an audience to spend even an hour with a documentary that could change the way they see the world is probably a fool’s errand.

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But this idiot is asking — not begging — to watch “Hard Times: Lost on Long Island,” an HBO documentary that premieres Monday at 9 p.m. and repeats on HBO and HBO 2 throughout the month.

Hard Times Lost On Long Island Where Are They Now

I have seen nothing in broadcast, online or print this presidential election year that so skillfully presents one of the most important and underreported stories of our economic and political life. And “Hard Times” humanizes the issue so vividly that after the end credits play on Otis Redding’s song “I’ve Got Dreams to Remember,” you’ll be inspired by the people and stories depicted in this stark film.

“Hard Times” is the story of four couples who live on Long Island for six months starting in the summer of 2010. Levittown, in Nassau County, Long Island, is as emblematic of post-World War II suburban prosperity as you could wish for. The prize of the American Dream was taken for granted by many Baby Boomers. Until the recession of 2008, that is.

Hard Times Lost On Long Island Where Are They Now

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All four couples include well-educated professionals, some with graduate degrees, who have lost their jobs and understand they have no chance in President Obama’s recovery plan.

This is the political dimension of this film – and there’s no escaping it, even if director Mark Levin and producer Daphne Pinkerson are motivated by a desire to tell a first-rate non-fiction story, not by any political agenda.

Hard Times Lost On Long Island Where Are They Now

But you can’t help but understand the heartbreaking stories they tell about these highly qualified workers who were left behind in the summer of 2009 with Washington’s hopeful announcement that the recession was over and we were now in “recovery.” And isn’t that “trigger” thing working wonders?

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And, by the way, shame on all the Washington journalists who unquestioningly repeated Team Obama’s story in search of stories like the Levine and Pinkerson stories.

Hard Times Lost On Long Island Where Are They Now

Such stories are not difficult to find. In fact, the Washington area itself is full of former full-time journalists who, if not financially oblivious — are like these Long Island teachers, Wall Street brokers, corporate managers and public relations professionals. But thinking about the victims of what happened to the American Dream in 2008 makes those of us still employed feel anxious at three in the morning. It is better to look at the other side and focus on the positive aspects of recovery.

One prediction: If Mitt Romney and the GOP can find a way to get voters to pay attention to stories like this, we might have a new president in 2012. And former middle-class, college-educated professionals in their fifties and sixties get the votes to do it.

Hard Times Lost On Long Island Where Are They Now

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At the center of the film are Alan and Susan Fromm. They met and married in Brooklyn. They raise two children on Long Island, and as the film opens, they’re about to lose their home.

An MA graduate, he spent most of his career in corporate training and education. Fromm is a notable survivor. Struck by lightning at the age of 15. He was there when the World Trade Center was first bombed and one of the towers around him literally collapsed on 9/11.

Hard Times Lost On Long Island Where Are They Now

But the recession eventually wore down the aging managers in a way that such incidents and terrorist acts could not. The audience meets him as he wanders around trying to find work every day. They accompany him to a restaurant that is part of a support group for similar victims called New Economy. Halfway through this film, if a number to call comes up on the screen, I am sure five lakh viewers will dial to give this person a job. But not the hiring companies.

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Nick Puccio met his wife Regina at Lehman Brothers, where he spent his entire Wall Street career until he was fired in 2008. Now she needs help from a local charity’s pantry to get enough food for a month – and she wants to sell her engagement ring. He’s against it, but he’s as broken a man as I’ve seen in any account of the Great Depression.

Hard Times Lost On Long Island Where Are They Now

Mel and Anne Strauss met while traveling back and forth to jobs in Manhattan on the Long Island Railroad. Both have since lost their salaried posts. In 2008, he was fired from his public relations job. Like Fromm, he has a master’s degree, but the only job he can get now is selling on commission. And to accomplish this, he must live in upstate New York with his married son, while Annette lives on Long Island. He has cancer. It’s beyond Willy Loman’s pain – honest.

And it’s not just baby boomers. One of the most terrifying stories is that of David and Heather Hartenstein, a chiropractor and former third-grade teacher. His application for a home loan modification was rejected the day one of his children was diagnosed with Down syndrome. It is impossible to see the effect this will have on their marriage and their lives.

Hard Times Lost On Long Island Where Are They Now

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The film is not without its flaws. On top of that, it may not answer the questions of some viewers that there may be any specific reasons why some of these people cannot find work. This is especially true of Hartenstein.

Still, this is one of the most important hours of TV media this year, although I’m not optimistic about it finding a large audience.

Hard Times Lost On Long Island Where Are They Now

But if you decide not to watch, at least be honest with yourself. Do a gut check and ask yourself why. Because you don’t want to watch such pain? Or, does it keep you up all night worrying about losing your job?

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I’m not judging. But I’m just saying the next time you hear someone talk about something not being worth watching on TV, ask yourself if that’s true? And could you handle the confirmation if the TV gave it to you – or would you prefer to watch something else?

Hard Times Lost On Long Island Where Are They Now

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