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. Although there is no official Five Towns designation, "the basic five are Lawrence, Cedarhurst, Woodmere, Hewlett and Inwood." 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, while Inwood is the second largest community in the Five Towns.
The area also includes some unincorporated communities and two tiny villages, Hewlett Bay Park and Woodsburgh, that are not added to the final total. 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 one of the "Five Towns" as it is served by the Five Towns' two local high schools and its constituents use the "Five Towns" many public services. Others do not consider it to be part of the "Five Towns," as it is a section of Valley Stream, separated from the rest of the Five Towns by Motts Creek. Atlantic Beach, which is located across a drawbridge from Lawrence on a barrier island it shares with Long Beach, Lido Beach and Point Lookout, is culturally linked to the Five Towns, with its students attending Five Towns public schools, but it is usually — though not always — excluded from the designation.
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. The New York Times used the term "affluent" in describing the area.  Inwood, however, is much less affluent than the other "towns," with a more urban character and a significantly more ethnically diverse population.
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.
As of February 2019, the Five Towns has a weekly local publication: The Nassau Herald
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.
- Opening scene to Married to the Mob was filmed at the Cedarhurst train station (but with the trains going in the reverse direction per the director's decision).
Notable current and former residents of the Five Towns include:
- Henry Abramson (born 1963), dean of the Lander College of Arts and Sciences]]
- Lyle Alzado (1949–1992), former NFL football player.
- Bruce Blakeman, Politician, Member of the Board of Commissioners of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
- Lil Tecca (born 2002), rapper.
- Ross Bleckner (born 1949), artist.
- Jake Burton Carpenter (1954–2019), / founder and owner of Burton Snowboards.
- Michael Cohen (born 1966), former attorney and former lawyer for President Trump.
- 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
- David Friedman (born 1958), former US Ambassador to Israel
- 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 (born 1956), 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, Nobel Laureate in Literature 2020
- 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
- Stan Lee, Marvel comics writer, co-creator of Spider-Man and other comic characters, actor
- 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 (born 1983), WFAN host.
- Seth Rudetsky (born 1967), composer, musical director and talk show host.
- Jim Steinman (1947–2021), music producer and composer, best known for working with Meat Loaf, Celine Dion and Bonnie Tyler.
- Rob Weiss, director/producer Amongst Friends, Entourage.
- Stuart Weitzman (born 1941), 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 March 24, 2022. "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."
- Shaman, Diana. "If You're Thinking Of Living In: Five Towns", The New York Times, November 20, 1988. Accessed March 24, 2022. "The area's name dates to 1931, when Community Chest organizers pooled their efforts and formed the Five Towns Community Chest to serve Inwood, Lawrence, Cedarhurst, Woodmere and Hewlett. The name clung, even though Cedarhurst and Lawrence are incorporated villages. The Five Towns area, which lies within the Town of Hempstead, also includes five other villages - Hewlett Bay Park, Hewlett Harbor, Hewlett Neck, Woodsburgh and East Rockaway. Many also include Atlantic Beach, which is in the Lawrence Public School District."
- "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.
- Marcelle S. Fischler (December 30, 2009). "Portrait of a Village at 100". The New York Times.
- 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 March 24, 2022. "Now comes Rob Weiss, a brash 26-year-old whose first movie, Amongst Friends, portrays a world of mobsters and drug dealers in the Five Towns, a cluster of mostly affluent communities east of Kennedy Airport and near Mr. Weiss's birthplace."
- Gergen, Joe, via Newsday. "Commentary : Lyle Alzado Delivering Forceful Message", Los Angeles Times, July 7, 1991. Accessed March 24, 2022. "Once more, Lyle Alzado is the protagonist in a compelling tale.... By the end of the week, reporters who knew nothing about New York geography were associating Lawrence, in Long Island’s fashionable Five Towns, with Bed-Stuy and the South Bronx. Actually, Alzado hailed from the poorer Inwood section."
- Shaw, Dan. "Bachelor of Arts", The New York Times, August 29, 1993. Accessed March 23, 2022. "'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."
- Bessen, Jeff. "Donald Trump’s lawyer has Five Towns ties", Long Island Herald, April 19, 2018. Accessed March 24, 2022. "Michael Dean Cohen could be in more than a little trouble through his role as President Donald Trump’s lawyer, but before his name became synonymous with hush money payoffs, he was just another boy growing up in the Five Towns. Cohen grew up in Lawrence off Central Avenue. His mother, Sondra, was one of several parents who volunteered to fundraise for Hillel, the Jewish Day School Cohen attended."
- 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 March 24, 2022. "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..."
- Coen, Andrew. "Q&A: WFAN's Evan Roberts' Persistence Paid Off Former Five Towner and sports radio co-host talks with Patch about his successful career.", Five Towns, NY Patch, June 10, 2011. Accessed March 24, 2022. "Woodmere native Evan Roberts has successful pursued his passion for covering sports since graduating in 2001 by serving as a co-host on WFAN's Midday Show for the last four years."
- 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."
- Bessen, Jeff. "Hewlett Harbor's Jim Steinman wrote the classic 'Bat Out Of Hell'", Long Island Herald, April 28, 2021. Accessed March 24, 2022. "He rode his bike from his Hewlett Harbor home to Green Acres Mall, in Valley Stream, and bought records at Sam Goody’s produced by rock ’n’ roll legend Phil Spector, and others that featured the classical music of Richard Wagner. Jim Steinman blended those two diverse styles in his work, culminating in the songs he wrote for Meat Loaf’s classic Bat Out of Hell album, produced by Todd Rundgren."
- Lyall, Sarah. "Film; Amongst Friends Tops Off a Journey Of Self-Discovery", The New York Times, July 18, 1993. Accessed March 24, 2022. "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 March 24, 2022. "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"
- Archive.org: History of the Rockaways from 1685 to 1917 — free download; includes the Five Towns history.