If you are new to New York City, you are bound to encounter eccentric conversations about how the people refer to Brooklyn, and Queens as if they are separate places from Long Island. You might even be a bit embarrassed to ask the locals to clarify the “Brooklyn-Queens-Long Island” situation in fear of getting that dreaded side-eye.
You know, the one that says, “you’re obviously not from around here.”
Here’s the thing: Long Island is a densely populated island located at the southeast of the New York Metropolitan area, east of Manhattan Island, and extends eastward to the Atlantic Ocean. If you consult any map, you can easily see that Brooklyn and Queens are both parts of Long Island. However, whenever New Yorkers ask whether you come from Long Island, they’re probably asking if you are from Nassau and Suffolk counties -- which are also located on Long Island.
By now you’re probably wondering, “Is Brooklyn an official part of Long Island? How about Queens? What rich history do these two old boroughs hold and why are they referred to as separate lands?”
If you’re a bit confused, don’t worry, we’ve got you!
Let’s get something out of the way first. If you’re going to go by the technicalities of geography, Brooklyn and Queens ARE part of Long Island. If you look into a map or globe, the western edge of Brooklyn (along with the north-western part of Queens) makes up the western edge of Long Island.
So, where did the separation come from?
Long Island has four counties: Brooklyn (Kings County), Queens County, Nassau County, and Suffolk County. In common local conversations, when somebody refers to "Long Island" they usually mean Suffolk or Nassau County, because Queens and Brooklyn are generally accepted as parts of New York City. NYC, in turn, is made up of five counties: Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, Staten Island, and the Bronx.
Before the consolidation of New York City in 1898 when Queens and Brooklyn both became official parts of New York City, Queens and Brooklyn were often included in the general discourse as part of Long Island. Up until the 1940s, locals accepted these two places as part of Long Island. While Queens had longer farmlands than Brooklyn, both were still “country enough” to be considered counties. However, as urbanization came about, it became more common to reserve the terms "on Long Island" and "on Long Island" for Nassau and Suffolk counties.
Politically and geographically speaking, they are indeed parts of western Long Island. However, in terms of culture, beliefs, and most importantly, sports team allegiance, Long Island stands loyal to their own National League Team: The Islanders. In a fan loyalty survey conducted in 2012, the New York Islanders still had a strong and passionate fan base in Long Island despite not winning a playoff series since 1993.
Statistics show that more than half of New York City resides in Long Island, Queens, and Brooklyn. The remaining population can be found in Nassau and Suffolk counties. The central and eastern part of Long Island is where Suffolk County can be located. It comprises ten towns, namely: Babylon, Brookhaven, East Hampton, Huntington, Islip, Riverhead (county seat), Shelter Island, Smithtown, Southampton, and Southold. It is the fourth most populous county in the New York Metropolitan.
Nassau County, on the other hand, is located on western Long Island, bordering New York City's precinct of Queens toward the west, and Suffolk County toward the east. It is the most thickly populated and second-most crowded region in New York State outside of New York City, and is viewed as one of the focal areas inside the New York metropolitan region.
Together, Nassau and Suffolk counties are referred to as "Long Island," while Brooklyn and Queens are referred to as "outer boroughs" or simply by their names. In terms of political structure, demographics, urban development and density, and other factors, Brooklyn and Queens are very different from the rest of Long Island. Because of these distinctions, particularly the fact that Nassau and Suffolk counties are separate from New York City, locations in Nassau and Suffolk counties are grouped into a suburban area known as "out on Long Island." It's simply a technique of distinguishing Nassau and Suffolk counties from New York City and the five boroughs.
When you ask a person who resides within the New York Metropolitan area what the most fun part of being a New Yorker is, most will likely bring up their most favorite sports team. The number of teams located in a relatively small geographical area is one of the most enjoyable aspects of being a sports fan.
Hockey is especially enjoyable because there are four teams (Rangers, Devils, Islanders, and Flyers) within a three-hour driving radius of one another within the boroughs... And most fans are willing to fight fire for their supported team.
When it comes to baseball, New York is by far the most divided. This is also true historically, as the city once housed three separate franchises, including the Giants, Dodgers, and Yankees before the first two relocated west. The Bronx (home of both Yankee Stadiums since 1923) and Manhattan have supported the Yankees, while Queens has supported the Mets since 1962. And, more recently, Citi Field) and Brooklyn is Mets fans. Football is much more mixed, but there are more Jet fans in Brooklyn and Queens because they used to play at Shea Stadium. New Jersey is mostly dominated by Giants fans, but there are a few Jets fans as well.
Now that you know why Queens and Brooklyn aren’t considered part of Long Island, the most important question comes up: does it really matter?
To a point, yes. Knowing where your borough is located can affect several aspects of living in New York, from your address to the amount of rent you will be paying. It will also be important when you’re looking for the best neighborhoods on Long Island.
At the end of the day, however, you’ll still be a New Yorker, and you’ll be living in one of the most diverse, dynamic, and progressive places in the United States!