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The Five Towns is an informal grouping of villages and hamlets in Nassau County, United States on the South Shore of western Long Island adjoining the border with Queens County in New York City. Despite the name, none of these communities is a town. The Five Towns is usually said to comprise the villages of Lawrence and Cedarhurst, the hamlets of Woodmere and Inwood, and "The Hewletts", which consist of the villages of Hewlett Bay Park, Hewlett Harbor, and Hewlett Neck, and the hamlet of Hewlett, along with Woodsburgh. North Woodmere is technically not one of the named "Five Towns" but many residents consider it as such because the entire area is served by the Five Towns' two local high schools. The "towns" most commonly included as constituents of the "Five Towns" are all in the southwest corner of the Town of Hempstead.
The name "Five Towns" dates back to 1931, when individual Community Chest groups in the area banded together to form the "Five Towns Community Chest", consisting of Inwood, Lawrence, Cedarhurst, Woodmere, and Hewlett. The organization still exists (as of 2018) as a local charity, but the "Five Towns" moniker caught on as a designation for the entire area. A 1933 article in The New York Times references a Girl Scouts of the USA encampment by the "Five Towns Council, embracing the villages [sic] of Inwood, Lawrence, Cedarhurst, Woodmere and Hewlett", listed in order by LIRR station.
One notable characteristic of the Five Towns is that despite the reputation of the South Shore of Nassau County being more urbanized than the North Shore, the Five Towns retains hamlets that resemble areas along Long Island's Gold Coast on the North Shore with enormous mansions and exclusive private communities along the water.
There is no official Five Towns designation.
Each of these "towns" has a consecutive stop on the Far Rockaway Branch of the Long Island Rail Road. All five communities are part of the Town of Hempstead. Woodmere is the largest and most populous community in the Five Towns. The Five Towns is known regionally for its collection of wealthy villages and hamlets. The area is one of the wealthiest in New York State. It has one of the highest percentages of Jewish residents in the nation.
Despite the Five Towns' regional reputation for wealth and demographic homogeneity, Inwood is both significantly lower income and significantly more diverse than the other four communities, with African-American and Hispanic populations of more than 25 percent each.
There are two school districts in the Five Towns, the Lawrence Public Schools (District 15) and the Hewlett-Woodmere School District (District 14). Roughly speaking, the Lawrence school district contains all of Lawrence, Cedarhurst and Inwood, and parts of Woodmere, North Woodmere, and Woodsburgh, while the Hewlett-Woodmere district contains all of Hewlett and part of Woodmere and extends partly into the neighboring villages of Lynbrook and Valley Stream (North Woodmere and Gibson in particular).
Five Towns College
Although Lawrence was planned to be the location for Five Towns College, the original site was no longer available by the time the school received its charter in 1972. The college is currently located in Dix Hills, Suffolk County. Other than the proposed original site, the school never had a physical connection to the Five Towns.
In popular culture
- The 1993 movie Amongst Friends, by Rob Weiss, was filmed and set in the Five Towns.
- The television show Entourage features a fictional show titled Five Towns, in which Johnny Drama stars as a character. The producer of the show was supposed to be actor-director Edward Burns, who in real life grew up in Valley Stream but attended Hewlett High School. When shown on Entourage the Five Towns is oddly portrayed as a gritty industrial area.
- In Thomas Pynchon's 1963 debut novel V., he mentions the Five Towns; however, he includes Malverne as being part of the group.
- In the film Goodfellas, when trying to get Henry to come along on a double date, Tommy mentions that his date lives in the Five Towns.
Notable current and former residents of the Five Towns include:
- Henry Abramson, Dean of Touro College
- Lyle Alzado (1949–1992), NFL football player
- Bruce Blakeman, Politician, Member of the Board of Commissioners of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
- Ross Bleckner (born 1949), artist.
- Jake Burton Carpenter (born 1954), / founder and owner of Burton Snowboards.
- Howard Deutch (born 1950), movie director
- John DiResta, actor / comedian
- Debra Drimmer, VP of Talent, Comedy Central
- Gordon Edelstein, Artistic Director of the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut
- Jane Friedman, President and CEO, HarperCollins
- Jeffrey M. Friedman (born 1954), molecular geneticist and discoverer of leptin.
- James E. Gaffney, owner of the Boston Braves baseball team, winners of the 1914 World Series
- Lisa Glasberg, NYC radio DJ
- Barbara Gaines, Producer, Late Show with David Letterman, Emmy Award Winner
- Rande Gerber, nightclub owner married to Cindy Crawford
- Brent Glass, director of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History
- Louise Glück, Poet, Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1993, United States Poet Laureate 2003-04
- Carolyn Gusoff, WNBC news anchor
- Joan Hamburg, radio personality
- Mickey Hart, drummer of The Grateful Dead
- Karen Friedman Hill, who married Mobster Henry Hill – whose life was immortalized by Nicholas Pileggi's book Wiseguy and Martin Scorsese's 1990 film Goodfellas – hailed from Five Towns, and the newlyweds initially lived there with Karen's parents.
- Red Holzman (1920–1998), New York Knicks head coach.
- David M. Israel, TV producer/writer
- Donna Karan (born 1948), fashion designer.
- Aline Kominsky-Crumb, comics artist
- Peggy Lipton (born 1946), actress
- Steve Madden (born 1958), shoe designer.
- Gene Mayer, professional tennis player.
- Harvey Milk (1930–1978), first openly gay man to be elected to public office in the United States, as a city supervisor in San Francisco.
- Bruce Murray, host Murray in the Morning Radio Show
- Danny Porush investment banker/entrepreneur
- Evan Roberts, WFAN Host.
- Seth Rudetsky, composer, musical director and talk show host.
- Jim Steinman, music producer, composer
- Rob Weiss, director/producer Amongst Friends, Entourage.
- Stuart Weitzman, shoe designer
- Leslie West (born 1945), musician of the hard rock group Mountain.
- Alan Zweibel (born 1950), writer / producer.
- Barron, James. "IF YOU'RE THINKING OF LIVING IN: FIVE TOWNS", The New York Times, July 10, 1983. Accessed May 20, 2008. "The basic five are Lawrence, Cedarhurst, Woodmere, Hewlett and Inwood. But the area also includes some unincorporated communities and two tiny villages, Hewlett Bay Park and Woodsburgh, that are not added to the final total."
- "If You're Thinking of Living in: The Five Towns", The New York Times, November 20, 1988. p. R11
- "TO BREAK CAMP AT AEN.; Girl Scouts of Rockaways Leave Wednesday After 2 Weeks' Stay.", The New York Times, July 25, 1933, p. 16. Accessed September 15, 2008.
- Five Towns College: Our History Archived 2006-07-08 at the Wayback Machine., accessed July 6, 2006
- Lyall, Sarah. "FILM; 'Amongst Friends' Tops Off a Journey Of Self-Discovery", The New York Times, July 18, 1993. Accessed September 18, 2008
- Shaw, Dan. "Bachelor of Arts", The New York Times, August 29, 1993. Accessed September 15, 2008. "'I always absolutely thought there was a difference between being a young artist and an important young artist,' said Mr. Bleckner, who grew up in Hewlett, L.I., graduated in 1971 from New York University and earned an M.F.A. from the California Institute of the Arts in 1973."
- Kerr, Kathleen. "They Began Here: Around the country, leading thinkers in health and science can trace their roots to Long Island" Archived 2008-12-14 at the Wayback Machine., Newsday, July 16, 2008. Accessed September 17, 2008. "And Dr. Jeffrey Friedman is another respected scientist who hails from Long Island -- he grew up in North Woodmere."
- Berkow, Ira. "Red Holzman, Hall of Fame Coach, Dies at 78", The New York Times, November 15, 1998. Accessed September 15, 2008. "He and his wife bought a house in Cedarhurst, N.Y., in the Five Towns section of Long Island in 1950s, and stayed there all their lives, raising Gail, their only child in a 55-year marriage."
- Van Gelder, Lawrence. "INTERVIEW; Her Winning Way With Fashion", The New York Times, October 16, 1977. Accessed September 15, 2008. "And suddenly, at the age of 29, Donna Karan, who grew up in Woodmere, Who lied about her age to begin selling women's clothes at 14 in Cedarhurst, and who now lives in Lawrence, was at the top of her fashion world."
- Kominsky-Crumb, Aline. (2007). Need More Love. New York: MQ Publications. ISBN 1-84601-133-7
- Berkvist, Robert. "'Bored? Creatively I'm Bored, But...'", The New York Times, March 19, 1972. Accessed September 15, 2008. ""The girl from uptight Lawrence, L. I., was now cool, worldly; Peggy Lipton had become, in the stone-age language of the sixties, a groovy chick, and Mod Squad had found its Julie."
- Dominguez, Robert. "BRINGING IT BACK HOME. Steve Madden's new ad campaign focuses on his fashion center - Queens" Archived 2009-02-12 at the Wayback Machine., Daily News (New York), October 19, 2006. Accessed September 15, 2008. "He grew up in Lawrence, L.I., where he worked in shoe stores from his high-school days until he started his own business in 1990, at 33, with an investment of just $1,100."
- Cavanaugh, Jack. "A TENNIS TOURNAMENT SERVES SOME ACES", The New York Times, August 23, 1987. Accessed September 16, 2008. "Most of what rooting interest developed focused on the closest thing to a homegrown product in the competition, Gene Mayer of Woodmere."
- "40 Heroes", The Advocate, September 25, 2007. Accessed September 16, 2008. "Though an assassin cut his life short, Harvey Milk packed 48 years with enough accomplishments to last many lifetimes. Born in Woodmere, N.Y., in 1930..."
- Gans, Andrew. "Rhapsody in Seth’s Rudetsky Fights Back With Santorum Fund" Archived October 14, 2008, at the Wayback Machine., Playbill, May 7, 2003. Accessed September 17, 2008. "In his self-penned, one-man show directed by Peter Flynn — Rhapsody in Seth — Seth Rudetsky recalls growing up in North Woodmere, Long Island, where he was praised for his musical gifts but ridiculed for being gay."
- Lyall, Sarah. "FILM; 'Amongst Friends' Tops Off a Journey Of Self-Discovery", The New York Times, July 18, 1993. Accessed September 18, 2008. "Born in Baldwin, near the Five Towns, Mr. Weiss dropped out of the Parsons School of Design, where he studied fashion, then film. He found himself out of work and living goallessly back at his divorced father's house in Lawrence, smack in the Five Towns."
- Fischler, Marcelle S. "Nascent Hall of Fame to Welcome First Honorees"., The New York Times, October 15, 2006. Accessed November 26, 2007. "Dee Snider of Stony Brook, the shock-rocker from 1980s heavy metal band Twisted Sister, known for his defiant metal anthem We're Not Gonna Take It, and Leslie West of the band Mountain, who grew up in East Meadow, Lawrence and Forest Hills, are also being inducted..."
- Capuzzo, Jill P. "From 'Saturday Night Live' to '700 Sundays'", The New York Times, December 12, 2004. Accessed September 17, 2008. "As the funny kid in the neighborhood, Mr. Zweibel — born in Brooklyn and reared in Woodmere, on Long Island — first tried his hand at writing jokes while at the University of Buffalo, mailing them to Johnny Carson and Dick Cavett"
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Five Towns, New York.|
|Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Five Towns.|
- Archive.org: History of the Rockaways from 1685 to 1917 — free download; includes the Five Towns history.