The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Long Island

This article is about Long Island in New York State. For other uses, see Long Island (disambiguation)
Image of Long Island taken by NASA.
Image of Long Island taken by NASA.

Long Island, part of New York State, is an island off the North American coast, some 118 miles (190 km) long, and from 12 to 20 miles (32 km) wide, extending from New York Harbor into the North Atlantic Ocean.



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.

On the western part of Long Island are the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens; east of them are Nassau and Suffolk counties. Most people in the New York metropolitan area reserve the term "Long Island" or "the island" for Nassau and Suffolk counties only.


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, 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 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 cleans his nets
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.


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.

Long Island is home to numerous colleges, including Stony Brook University, Southampton College, Hofstra University, and SUNY-Old Westbury. It is also home to the New York Islanders of the National Hockey League. The world's largest thoroughbred racetrack, Belmont Park, is located in the Nassau County community of Elmont.


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 totaled 2.78 million people; the total population of Long Island, including Brooklyn and Queens, was more than 8 million.

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