The quality of life experienced by those living in Stephens County is something many residents on the East Coast do not get.

Just ask George Schwartz. He’s a born and bred Long Islander who decided to uproot his family last year and transplant them to Duncan.

There were two reasons he relocated to southern Oklahoma — to cash in on the real estate market and provide his family with a better quality of life.

“Duncan reminds me of Long Island back when I was a kid,” he said.

Schwartz hoped that by relocating here he could provide for his children, 15, 13 and 9, some of those same great childhood freedoms he once had. He also has a 20-year-old living in Oklahoma City and his 22-year-old daughter still resides in Long Island as she continues medical school.

“I want to give them a better perspective of life,” he said.

Adjusting hasn’t been hard, though there are a few things he’d like to see change.

And, he predicts that in 10 years, Duncan and Stephens County will have a different appearance and culture as more coastal residents move to this area.

“Duncan is uniquely situated from Lawton and you won’t recognize Duncan,” he said.

What makes Schwartz so positive that the area will explode with new homes and families?

He said that residential areas on the coast are tapped out and that many young new families just can’t afford the cost of living, much less the purchase of a new or even used home in areas like Long Island.

“A one bedroom apartment in Long Island will run you $1,400 (monthly rental) and that’s cheap,” he said.

Schwartz first found Duncan a few years ago, and during a trip two years ago, it was on his list of places to explore.

He’s done his research about not only Duncan, but the entire region. He knows about BRAC and the fact a passenger train travels from Ardmore to Oklahoma City or Dallas.

Those were all variables he considered when he began to look at investment properties in early 2005.

He moved to Duncan in August and since that time has renovated two homes and sold them. The real estate market was just opening up for buyers, he said. He’s also hard at work on other properties and said the real estate market is in an upward mode.

“Oklahoma is booming — New York is dying.”

And another positive for Schwartz is being his own boss.

“It’s like a dream and the tax comparison here is unreal,” he said. Schwartz said when he went to pay his taxes, he was smiling and the women in the assessor’s office thought he was nuts. That’s only because they didn’t realize what he had been paying for taxes over the years before moving to Oklahoma.

“Duncan, U.S.A., has a lot of nice people and I have a chance to make some money. Let’s be real, Duncan is not on the top hit list for terrorists.”

The memories of 9-11 are still too vivid and painful, he relates. It’s not something he wants to repeat nor does he want those memories for his children.

Leaving Long Island helps distance the Schwartz family from the grim reality.

Schwartz offers plenty of positive advice and said area residents may not realize the gold mine upon which they live.

“You’re not going to stop progress.”

And while he’s in the business of flipping houses, he said that’s exactly what will happen to Duncan.

“This town is going to flip. I have friends and family who are moving here.”

It’s a better life, growing community and friendly.

“It’s a win-win scenario.”

He said the only downfall to the progress into the new century is that someday it could resemble Long Island.

He sketched a United States map and then made x’s up and down the coast borders. He said the x’s represent the population.

“Where are they going to go? Everyone has kids and everyone has to eat.” That crowding push will send new families into middle America, he predicts.

And what’s more middle in America than Duncan, Oklahoma? It sits exactly 1,500 miles inland from either coast.

In 1988, Long Island climbed incredibly as people recognized it was one of the best places to live in the country, he said. The crime rate was low, there was still quite a bit of open land and a quick commute to New York City and other metropolitan areas. Duncan is much like that, with nearby metropolitan cities such as Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Dallas.

“There’s a high rate of living style (in Long Island), taxes, and I didn’t want that for my kids.”

He sees that same real estate trend occurring today in Stephens County, mostly in Duncan.

“There’s so much opportunity and I want to grab it,” he said. Since purchasing his home here last year, he said it has appreciated just over a third from its original value.

“By moving here, I’ve created a better lifestyle. That’s what everyone should want,” he said.

Seeing how happy his family is, Schwartz knows he’s made the right choice.

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