Long Island

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This article is about Long Island in New York State. For other uses, see Long Island (disambiguation)
File:Long Island Counties.gif
The four counties of Long Island.

Long Island is an island of New York, at 1,377 square miles (3566 km²) the largest island in the continental United States, and with 7.4 million residents, the 17th most populous island in the world. True to its name, the island is much longer, jutting out some 118 miles (190 km) from New York Harbor, than it is wide, with only from 12 to 20 miles (32 km) between the southern Atlantic coast and Long Island Sound.

On the western part of Long Island are the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn (Kings County) and Queens; east of these are Nassau and Suffolk counties.

However, common usage of the term "Long Island" or "the island" is reserved to Nassau and Suffolk counties only.


Image of Long Island taken by NASA.

To the north of the island is Long Island Sound, which separates it from the coast of Connecticut and Rhode Island. To the south are the Great South Bay, South Oyster Bay, and Jamaica Bay, which are actually lagoons, protected from the Atlantic Ocean by a string of narrow barrier islands, most notably Fire Island. The island separates into two forks at the eastern end, known as the North Fork and South Fork.

Long Island is interesting because it is geographically part of the Mid-Atlantic, however many towns and hamlets along the island's north shore and in eastern Suffolk County, such as Oyster Bay, Port Jefferson and Sag Harbor seem to resemble New England towns, while many of the towns and hamlets along the south shore, such as Long Beach, Valley Stream, and Babylon seem to resemble Mid-Atlantic coastal communities, especially those on the shore between New Jersey and Virginia.

Long Island can be considered the geographical border between the Mid-Atlantic and New England.


Long Island has a climate that is very similar to other coastal areas of the Northeastern United States; it has warm, humid summers and cold winters, but the Atlantic Ocean helps bring afternoon sea breezes that temper the heat in the warmer months and limit the frequency and severity of thunderstorms. In the wintertime, temperatures are warmer than areas further inland (especially in the night and early morning hours), sometimes causing a snowstorm further inland to fall as rain on the island. However, measurable snow falls every winter, and in many winters one or more intense storms called nor'easters produce blizzard conditions with snowfalls of 1-2 feet and near-hurricane force winds.

Long Island is somewhat vulnerable to hurricanes. [1]. Its northern location and relatively cool waters tend to weaken storms to below hurricane strength by the time they reach Long Island. But some storms had made landfall at Category 1 or greater strength, including two unnamed Category 3 storms in 1938 (New England Hurricane of 1938) and 1944, Hurricane Donna in 1960, Hurricane Belle in 1976, Hurricane Gloria in 1985, Hurricane Bob in 1991 (brushed the eastern tip), and Hurricane Floyd in 1999.


Geologically, the island is formed of two spines of glacial moraine, consisting largely of gravel and loose rock over deeply-buried bedrock, formed during the two most recent pulses of the Wisconsinan glaciation, also by a chain of volcanos and earthquakes, with a sandier outwash plain beyond. The island's tallest point is Jayne's Hill near Melville, with an elevation of 400.9 feet (122.2 m) above sea level. The island is separated from the mainland by the East River - actually not a river but both a tidal strait and a tidal estuary.


The counties of Nassau and Suffolk have long been renowned for their affluence. With the median price of houses at $500,000 USD, Long Island has a very high standard of living rate with residents paying some of the highest property taxes in the country. Such affluence is especially pervasive among the towns on the North Shore of Long Island also known as the 'Gold Coast'.

Long Island is home to some of the most expensive houses in the country. In fact, the most expensive residence in the country is Three Ponds in Bridgehampton, Long Island. [2]

The economy of Long Island has long benefitted from its proximity to New York City, although after World War II, Long Island began developing industry of its own. From 1950-1980, Long Island was considered one of the aviation centers of the United States with companies such as Grumman making its headquarters in the area. In recent decades companies such as Computer Associates, with its headquarters in Islandia, have made Long Island a center for the computer industry. Nevertheless, the eastern end of the island is still partly agricultural, now including many vineyards as well as traditional truck farming. Fishing also continues to be an industry, at Northport and Montauk.

A Long Island fisherman cleans his nets

Since World War II, however, Long Island has become increasingly suburban and, in some areas, fully urbanized. Levittown was only the first of many new suburbs, and businesses followed residential development eastward. The South Fork contains the area known as the Hamptons, which also experienced a population boom after World War II.


Brooklyn and Queens do not have their own functioning county government as they are part of New York City, although both have borough presidents, a largely ceremonial title that holds little political power. Nassau County and Suffolk County do have their own governments, with a County Executive leading both and a county legislature, as well as other countywide elected officials such as district attorney, county clerk and county controller. The towns in both counties have their own governments as well, with town supervisors and a town council.

Politically, Long Island was long controlled by the Republican Party. Republican presidential candidates won both Nassau and Suffolk counties from 1900 until 1988, with the exception of the 1912 victory of Woodrow Wilson and the Lyndon Johnson landslide of 1964. In 1972, Richard Nixon won Nassau, Suffolk and Queens and came within 14,000 votes of winning heavily Democratic Brooklyn. In 1992, the counties split with Nassau voting Democratic and Suffolk voting Republican; however, since 1996, both counties have been Democratic, although by fairly close margins. In 2004, John Kerry won Suffolk County by just under 14,000 votes. In 2000, Senator Hillary Clinton lost both Nassau and Suffolk to Republican Rick Lazio, who had previously served as a congressman from Suffolk County.

In 2001, Nassau County elected Democrat Thomas Suozzi as county executive and Democrats took control of the county legislature, marking the first time Democrats had full control over county governments. Republicans still held on to the District Attorney's office and Hempstead town government, which has not had a Democratic majority on the town coucil or held the town supervisor position in close to 100 years. In 2003, Suffolk County followed suit, elected Democrat Steve Levy as county executive, however, the county legislature still remained in Republican hands.

The 2005 election saw Nassau slip further into Democratic hands. Dennis Dillon, the Republican District Attorney of Nassau County for over thirty years, lost his re-election bid to the Democrat Kathleen Rice. The Republicans also lost the Town of Brookhaven, long known as a bastion of the Republican party on the Island. The Suffolk County sheriff's race also resulted in a Democratic win. For the first time in years, Democrats once again control the Suffolk County Legislature.

On the western side, both Brooklyn and Queens are reliably Democratic, although Queens became that way fairly recently, having still been politically volatile through the 1980's. This is mainly a consequence of the recent changes in Queens demographics, that used to be a withe-middle-class suburban county, and is now one of the most diverse place in the United States.

All or parts of 15 of New York's 29 congressional districts are located on Long Island. Of them, only two are represented by Republicans; Peter T. King of Seaford represents the 3rd Congressional District, which includes most of eastern Nassau County and parts of southwestern Suffolk County. The other, Vito Fossella of the 13th Congressional District, represents parts of southwest Brooklyn as his district is mainly located in Staten Island. The other 13 representatives are all Democrats.


According to the National Census Bureau of Statistics, Long Island is considered the "safest place to live" per capita in the United States. The island is patrolled by The Nassau County Police Department (reportedly the second highest paid police force in the country), the Suffolk County Police Department (the highest paid), The New York State Troopers, and several dozen town and village police departments. Both counties also have a sheriff's office which handles civil process, domestic violence, as well as running the county jails. Suffolk County Sheriff's deputies have full police officer powers and a patrol divsion which mainly operates in the Eastern part of the county. Nassau and New York City deputies are peace officers and have no patrol function.

List of agencies

New York City

  • New York City Police Dept.
  • New York City Sheriff's Office (peace officers)
  • New York City Environmental Protection Police
  • New York City Sanitation Police
  • New York City Health and Hospitals Police (peace officers)
  • New York City Parks Enforcement Patrol (peace officers)
  • New York City Waterfront Commission Police (peace officers)
  • New York City Taxi and Limo Commision (peace officers)
  • New York City Dept. of Investigation
  • New York City Dept. of Corrections

Suffolk County

  • Suffolk County Police Dept.
  • Suffolk County Sheriff's Office
  • Suffolk County Park Police
  • Town of Islip Public Safety
  • Town of Brookhaven Public Safety (peace officers)
  • Town of Smithtown Public Safety (peace officers)
  • Town of Huntington Public Safety (peace officers)
  • Town of Babylon Public Safety (peace officers)
  • Town of East Hampton Police Dept.
  • Town of Southampton Police Dept.
  • Town of Riverhead Police Dept.
  • Town of Shelter Island Police Dept.


The Long Island Rail Road, Long Island Expressway, and Northern and Southern State Parkways (the latter three all products of the automobile-centered planning of Robert Moses) make east-west travel on the island straightforward, if not always quick.

However, travel to the north fork along Middle Country Road or to the south fork on Sunrise and Montauk Highways gives you a deceptively long and ambling journey. Both meander through the hamlets, and even once you have left the Expressway behind, a drive of over an hour is necessary before reaching the ends at Orient Point in the north and Montauk Point in the south.

Colleges and universities

Nassau and Suffolk counties are home to numerous colleges and universities, including:



Long Island has a great deal of beaches.

Resort areas

One of the most popular summer destinations on Long Island, especially for the city's well-to-do, is the Hamptons in eastern Long Island's Suffolk County.

Also, Fire Island National Seashore which is a long barrier island on Long Island's south shore is a hot spot for tourists, especially during the summer. Fire Island's prestigious beaches attract many. Ocean Beach is the most populous town on Fire Island. The island is only accessible through ferries from Bay Shore, Patchogue/Bellport, and Blue Point.


Both Nassau and Suffolk County enjoy many restaurants owned and operated by skilled chefs trained in New York City. Pizzerias are highly ubiquitous. It is not uncommon for a town/hamlet on Long Island to have more than a dozen of them, each with its own distinct flavors. Other regional eateries are very prevalent in most Long Island towns. Most every town in Nassau County has at least one diner, most of them operating 24/7, where people can meet and eat. Most were established during the 70's, and specialize in hamburgers and sandwiches.


Nassau County is also home to the New York Islanders of the National Hockey League, who play at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale. Belmont Park, whose main track is the longest dirt Thoroughbred racecourse in the world, is located in the Nassau County community of Elmont. Long Island is also home to the minor league Long Island Ducks baseball team of the Atlantic League. Their stadium, Citibank Stadium, is located in Central Islip, New York. It also has a professional soccer club, the Long Island Rough Riders, who play at Mitchel Athletic Complex in Uniondale. The Rough Riders have won two national championships in 1995 and 2002.


Modern music has a long history on Long Island, as it has long been part of US history, and it being close to the largest population center in North America, yet located in the suburbs and cantaining strong influences of youth culture. Psychedelic music was widely popular in the 60's as flocks of disaffected youth travelled to NYC to participate in protest and the culture of the time. R & B also has a history in Long Island, especially in Nassau County, where population is denser and more closely influenced by New York City (Queens and Brooklyn). Long Island, known in the hip-hop community as Strong Island, was home to the members of the groundbreaking rap groups Public Enemy and De La Soul. Hugh Flynt, one of the newest rap artists to emerge from the Island, is making a name for himself as a "deadly" MC who uses lyrical warfare as a form of musical expression. One of the genre's leading radio DJ's -- Andre (Doctor Dre) Brown, a native of Westbury -- plied his trade at Adelphi University's WBAU prior to achieving success on WQHT and MTV.

Modern music in Long Island includes indie music which has rapidly grown in popularity especially in Suffolk County, with the local emo and hardcore punk scene that continues to grow. It has been felt nationally by the moderate success of local bands such as Taking Back Sunday, Brand New, Straylight Run, The Movielife, and From Autumn to Ashes selling Gold albums nationwide, it is self serving and most bands are known on the island and it spills over into the northeast regions such as New Jersey and Connecticut. Other famous artists also have roots in Long Island. For example, Billy Joel is from Hicksville in Nassau County. Many compositions by Billy Joel pertain to life on Long Island, particularly his youth. Songs such as "Keepin the Faith", "Captain Jack", "Its Still Rock n Roll to Me" (where he actually references the "Miracle Mile" located on Northern Blvd, Manhasset, LI) and most notably "Scenes From an Italian Restaurant", which names local eateries and hangouts. The songs "No Man's Land" and "Downeaster Alexa" lament the increasing development of the island; the latter song specifically refering to the eastern island and its effect on the fishing industry. Also the Blue Öyster Cult are native to Stony Brook. Both of these artists had genera defining roles in the popular music scene of the 60's 70's and 80's. A Long Island based rock station, WBAB, 102.3 FM, plays classic rock music from the 60s, 70s and 80s.

Garden City based radio station WLIR at 92.7 FM was nationally known in the 1980's and 90's for playing "new wave" bands from Europe that were at the time unheard of in the U.S. Many of the bands and songs eventually crossed over to more mainstream radio, for example, the groups Frankie Goes to Hollywood and The Pet Shop Boys. Since 2004, the station has operated under a Spanish-language format since being bought-out by Telemundo. (WLIR has been reborn at 107.1 FM, but its more easterly location in Riverhead means many parts of the New York metro area that used to be able to hear it can now only do so via the Internet)

Long Island is probably, along with New Brunswick, New Jersey, the biggest emo scene in the United States.

Jones Beach is an extremely popular place to view summer concerts, with new as well as old artists performing there during the summer months.


Long Island is one of the most densely populated regions in the United States. In the 2000 census, the population of the Nassau-Suffolk region totalled 2.78 million people; the total population of Long Island, including Brooklyn and Queens, was more than 8 million.

While there is more diversity than in most suburban areas of the United States, Italians, Irish, and Jews make up a major portion of the local population, especially in Nassau County (the town of Massapequa has been nicknamed "Matzoh-Pizza" by many locals reflecting the heavy presence of Jews and Italians in the town).


Long Island was shaped by Ice Age glaciers. Early colonial figures included Wyandanch, Captain Kidd, Lionel Gardner, and John Underhill. The West of Long Island was settled by the Dutch, and the East settled by Puritans from Massachusetts. Long Island was the scene of several witch hunts, including one involving Lionel Gardner in Easthampton.

"Nassau" is one of several names by which the island was once known.

Long Island was the home of several prominent Roosevelts such as author Robert Roosevelt, and the summer home of his nephew Theodore Roosevelt.

In 1996, tragedy struck Long Island, as TWA Flight 800 exploded over East Moriches. 230 people were killed in the disaster.

Also, September 11th 2001 had a major affect on Long Island. Due to the proximity of New York City to Long Island, many victims lived outside of the city on Long Island in the suburbs and commuted to the trade center each day via train or subway (if in the city). So, Long Island lost many loved ones in the towers and were affected economically as well.

See also

External links

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