10 WTF Things About Long Island

Long Island

Beyond the obvious issues that everyone complains about–taxes, traffic, cost of living, the way we tawk–there are some seriously twisted things about this place we call home. Here are a few we take for granted that boggle the minds of interlopers who happen upon our fair Island.

Robert Moses

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1. Robert Moses was a racist. If you’re from Long Island you’re familiar with this little nugget of history. When the parkways were designed on Long Island, the underpasses were constructed with low clearances so buses couldn’t pass under them. In the master planner’s mind, buses were for minorities. In the minds of the people who approved these plans, minorities = Democrats. And the rest is history. So while we still have the Long Island Expressway (gasp!) the parkways have ingloriously preserved this piece of our racist history. But here’s the deal: If you’re from Long Island and don’t know this already and insist on driving a too-big-for-the-bridges truck on the parkways, you might be better off moving to New Jersey and attempting to navigate the insane jug-handle exits they built to confuse everyone else on the planet not from the Garden State.



2. All Things Lohan. Most celebrities, and hopefully their families, hit the Big Apple or Hollywood and gradually lose their Long Island identity. A few hang around, like Billy Joel, Alan Alda and Nelson DeMille. And we’re cool with that. Others like Billy Crystal, Howard Stern, Jerry Seinfeld and Jim Brown moved on. They don’t deny their Long Island roots; they just got on with their lives and moved to places celebrities move, wherever that is. Not the Lohan family. They’re hanging around doing their level best to constantly remind people that they’re Long Islanders. The one who’s actually famous doesn’t live here, but the ones that want to be famous do. And, honestly, it’s kind of a nightmare. Our sincere apologies.

Montauk Lighthouse

3. Montauk Highway in July. Who’s up for a road trip? There’s nothing quite like a scenic drive down Long Island’s historic thoroughfare, meandering through quaint South Fork villages on your way to the iconic Montauk Lighthouse. Such a journey is best made any time of the year that’s not summer. Try doing this between June and September and you’ll have to set aside a solid four hours in bumper-to-bumper traffic. (Here we go again complaining about traffic.)

Long Island Strip Malls

4. Strip Malls. What’s with our beautiful Island and strip malls, anyway? Seriously, we’re dying to know. These ubiquitous shopping centers are usually replete with a nail salon, deli, a store where everything is a dollar, cell phone shop, pizza parlor, a tailor and (if we’re lucky) an OTB! Yes! Since us web-savvy Long Islanders learned to master the art of online shopping, stretches of Sunrise Highway now look like a post-apocalyptic scene from a sci-fi movie. And yet, the only thing Long Island seems to build (i.e. the only thing zoning boards are capable of approving) are strip malls.



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5. Segregation. Long Islanders know the folklore well. Brothers William and Alfred Levitt established a planned community called Levittown, which is widely acknowledged as the birthplace of modern suburbia. Affordable loans with no down payment were offered to applicants, in particular G.I.s returning from World War II, and the community was an instant success. But there was a catch: Only Caucasian families were allowed to apply. Though this exclusion was rarely so public as this, most Long Island communities developed organically in a similar fashion. The result is the most diversely populated, segregated community in America. Fancy that. It’s a sad legacy that persists today. No wonder the KKK has been on a recruitment drive here. Come to think of it, maybe President Trump will name Long Island America’s new capital. He’d fit right in. But we’d definitely high tail it out of here. We hear Canada is nice.

Cheese Fries

6. Cheese Fries at 2 a.m. It’s a rite of passage. We love diners more than special agent Dale Cooper from Twin Peaks. Any establishment that moves effortlessly from chocolate chip pancakes to prime rib no matter the time of day is worthy of a Michelin Star in our books. But you haven’t lived until you’ve gorged on the Long Island delicacy that is cheese fries—with gravy!—at 2 a.m. The scene is as gory as the dish. Five or six grown adults stuffed into a four-person booth ordering two, no three, plates of cheese fries. Surely, it’s the cure to the common hangover. It must be! “This is a good idea,” you’ll say to one another as the waiter clears a path on the crowded table and slides three orders of coronary sludgery toward the napkin dispenser. You won’t be needing those napkins, anyway. That’s what sleeves are for.

LIPA crews working to restore power after Superstorm Sandy. (Rashed Mian/Long Island Press)

7. Above-Ground Power Lines. Many Long Islanders came in close contact with out-of-state power crews in the days following Hurricane Sandy. We invited them into our candlelit homes, offered them stovetop-warmed coffee and listened as they spun yarns of restoring power throughout the nation. We listened in horror and amazement as they marveled over our antiquated above-ground utility wires fastened to poles that haven’t been used in industrialized nations for decades. “It’s not like this in other places?” we wondered aloud to these fearless power generators. “No, ma’am. We’ve only ever heard of grids like this. It’s like traveling back in time. But we’re much obliged for your hospitality.” And like that, they were gone. Yet, the delicate power lines persist, forcing us to huddle in prayer before every storm, pleading with our almighty savior that those precarious wooden poles dotting our neighborhoods withstand Mother Nature’s wrath one more time.

Great Neck Plaza
Photo credit: Village of Great Neck Plaza

8. The land of a million municipalities. Great Neck. Great Neck Estates. Great Neck Plaza. Great Neck Gardens. Great Neck Manor. Kings Point Police Department. Kensington Police Department. Great Neck Estates Police Department. Great Neck North Schools. Great Neck South Schools. Seven zip codes. Three fire departments. Hamlets, villages, police departments. Whew! This is just one peninsula on Long Island we’re talking about. We have about 40,000 more municipal and educational entities and districts to cover, but that’s for another listicle—or perhaps a months-long investigation that will shock you to the core! Apparently we won’t be satisfied until we have one mayor, police officer, councilperson, teacher and firefighter per person. Cronyism? Not here. Noooo way.

Patchogue Downtown
Artists rendering of the Tritec Redevelopment in Patchogue.
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9. No Vacancy, Because No Rentals. In spite of some of the crazy things you’ve just read about our rather ridiculous Island, people really do want to live here. High employment, great schools, incredible beaches… We’ve got some pretty enviable stuff. One thing we don’t have, however, is enough rental housing. There are a couple of reasons for this, but the biggest one happens to be political. When Long Island was formed into the cozy, tax-gouging land of opportunity it is today, the planners had a similar vision. (See No. 1, 5 and 8 above.) The political architects of our suburban paradise were mostly Republicans who believed in a very simple equation: Apartments = Colored People = Democrats. So when you add it all up—low bridges to prevent mass transit, housing specifically designed for white people, and hundreds of municipalities that control local zoning laws—the result is 3 million people living mostly in single-family houses.

New York Islanders sale
New York Islanders John Tavares shoots against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday, May 11, 2013. (Photo by Joe Nuzzo)

10. Our Sports Teams can’t wait to get the f— out of here. The Nets were on Long Island, briefly. If we can claim Queens for the purpose of this argument, then we had possession of the New York Jets as well for a bit. Even if the Queens connection is too much of a stretch, at least the Jets practiced at Hofstra University until recently. The Islanders, well, we all know what happened there. The bottom line is that our football teams play in New Jersey, our baseball, basketball, and now our hockey teams all belong to the boroughs. It’s given us quite the complex, actually. If the Long Island Ducks ever leave, we’ll all need therapy.