Monday, July 22, 2013

NYC and Long Island

So, this is our third post for New York.  The first two covered upstate towns from A to K and the second those from L to Z.

So, what do I attribute all this craziness to?  It’s actually two things.  They’re bad enough all by themselves, but put ‘em together, and we’re talking about three whole posts of major weirdness.  What am I talking about here?  Indians!  And Dutchmen!!

10. Canarsie

Canarise has long been the butt of jokes, as much for its remoteness and rusticity as for its funny name.

For the name, we can blame the Indians.  “Canarsie” means “fenced land,” or “fort,” in Lenape.

Canarsie’s part of Brooklyn, and sounds like a pretty rough neighborhood.  It does have an impressive list of famous sons and daughters though:
  • Basketball player John Salley
  • Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz
  • Mother of Invention Warren Cuccurullo
  • KISS drummer Peter Criss
  • Basketball player (and wonderfully named) World B. Free


9. Half Hollow Hills

I got kind of lazy on this one.  It seems like HHH may be a town on Long Island, but almost all I could find on it was information about a school district of the same name.  As to how many people live there, where it is exactly, and stuff like that … well, your guess is good as mine.

I do know where it got its name, though ...  So, about halfway between Huntington and Babylon, there’s, like, this hollow?  And this hollow kinda, like, had some hills around it?  And then, like – somewhere along the line? – the “way” kinda dropped out? 

Fury in the Half Hollow Hills!
(It’s a little kids’ basketball team, by the way)

8. Flatbush

Wow, this place sounds scary!  The first two “searches related to ‘flatbush ny’” on Google include “flatbush ny crime” and “flatbush ny zombies.”  The second one is a hip hop group.  The first one seems very much for real.  Even the Wikipedia article talks a lot about crime, drugs, and gangs. 

It also, though, points out Flatbush’s incredible diversity – mentioning, in particular, its Haitians, West Indians, and Africans.  Historically, Flatbush was a working class neighborhood with lots of “ethnics” – Jews, Irish, and Italians.  It was the site of Ebbets Field, whose Dodgers were much beloved by the locals.

Famous sons and daughters (all totally fictional, interestingly) include:
  • Bugs Bunny
  • Mario
  • Luigi
  • The Incredible Mr. Limpet

Oh, the name?  This time, we can blame the Dutch.  It’s from vlacke bos, which means “flat woods,” or “wooded plain.”

It’s not a good thing when Google Images
returns a lot of stuff like this

7. New Dorp

Meet the new dorp.  Same as the old dorp.

Well, wouldn’t ya know.  It’s those damn Dutch again.  “New Dorp” is from the Dutch “Niuew Dorp,” and means “new village.” 

So, you’re probably wondering what happened to Old Dorp.  Well, as it just so happens, New Dorp took the place of Oude Dorp (“Old Dorp”), which was destroyed in the Peach War of 1655.  You remember the Peach War of 1655, don’t you?  In case you’ve forgotten:

The Peach War had began [yup, "had began"] when an Aquehongan squaw was shot for picking a peach in a New Amsterdam orchard.  Angry Native Americans went on a rampage.  The militia responded, several lives were lost, and fighting soon extended into Staten Island.  Unfortunately, Oude Dorp was decimated. (

New Dorp’s on Staten Island, and was originally settled in 1671.  It’s where the Vanderbilt family hails from originally.  Recently, it was hit pretty hard by Hurricane Sandy.
Go Central Cougars!
(So, what’s a central cougar, anyway?)

6. Ronkonkoma

Pronunciation: ron-KON-kuh-muh

Etymology: Algonquian, “boundary fishing place”

Score: Dutch 2, Native Americans 2

We’re back on Long Island for this one.  The name Ronkonkoma applies to both a lake and a town.  The town’s main claim to fame is being the last stop on the main line of the Long Island Railroad. 

There’s also a great story about the lake.  I quote from

Supposedly, Ronkonkoma was the name of an Indian princess who fell in love with a white settler who lived near the lake.  Upon their meeting, the princess and the settler immediately fell in love, but their union was forbidden by her father.  Every night, they would sneak out to send messages of love to one another.  Ronkonkoma would paddle her canoe out to the middle of the lake, where she would then float a message the rest of the way to her lover waiting on the opposite shore.  This continued for years, until one day the princess was unable to deal with this arrangement and snapped.  She sent a final farewell note to her lover.  He received it on the shore and minutes later, the canoe washed up in front of him as well.  Inside it was the princess’s body––she had committed suicide in the middle of the lake.  He too committed suicide out of anguish over the death of his one true love.

Since that day Ronkonkoma has haunted the lake, becoming known to many as the Lady of the Lake.  Angered because she wasn’t allowed to love in life, she now drags one man into the lake each year.  People say that at least one person has drowned each year in Lake Ronkonkoma for the past 200 years, the large majority of them male.  Many others have reported being drawn by some unseen force out to the center of the lake, as if something was trying to drag them in.  These souls have been able to resist the pull of the Lady of the Lake, and have been lucky enough to live to report the existence of this strange phenomenon.

Spooky!  Sexy!  Spooky/sexy!

5. Yonkers

And the Dutch leap back into the lead!

This one’s from the phrase jonkeers, which means “the young gentleman’s.”  That young gentleman was one Adriaen van der Donck, who just so happened to own the place.

Today, Yonkers is the fourth most populous city in New York State, with around 200,000 people.  It’s just north of Manhattan and The Bronx. 

Yonkers was the site of the first Otis Elevator plant and the first FM radio broadcast.  It’s also home to Sarah Lawrence College.  And finally – at least according to Wikipedia – it has “a national reputation for racial tension.”

Famous sons (no daughters, I’m afraid) include Steven Tyler, David Berkowitz, Sid Caesar, and Jon Voight.

In World War Z, the Battle of Yonkers was the United States Military's first large scale, official engagement of the Zombie War.  The battle was an absolute catastrophe.  If any one event can be singled out as the point when zombies officially became the dominant race on the planet, it was Yonkers.  (

4. Yaphank

Well, we’re coming into the final stretch here, sports fans, and the score is all tied up.  As it stands, it’s Dutch 3, Native Americans 3. 

But wait!  Yes, Yaphank is officially Native American!  The Native American's leap into the lead!

It’s from the word yamphanke, by the way, which means “banks of a river.”  It was originally called Millville, but seeing as New York already had about 18 of those …

This town of 6,000 is a little further out on Long Island.  Some interesting tidbits about Yaphank:
  • It’s the site of the Brookhaven National Laboratory, which has garnered seven Nobel Prizes
  • Irving Berlin once wrote a musical comedy called Yip Yip Yaphank
  • Camp Siegfried, a German-American Bund (Nazi) summer camp was located there

And you thought I was making that up

3. Flushing

Take that Native Americans! 

Flushing is an Anglicization of the Dutch city Vlissingen.  I’m assuming this was done before the days of indoor plumbing.

Flushing is part of Queens, and has a population of 175,000.  It dates back to 1645. 

You may have heard of the Flushing Remonstrance (what, no?), a Dutch document that allowed Quakers to worship within the town limits.  It’s what’s behind Flushing’s claim to be the “birthplace of religious freedom in the New World.”

Flushing was home to the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs, hosts the US Open, and is also where the New York Mets call home.  It’s well known for its diversity, and has a large Chinatown.

A typical Mets fan
at Flushing’s Citi Field

2. Far Rockaway

And that, you evil Dutchmen!

This is from the Munsee, and means “sandy place.”  Early variants include Requarkie, Rechouwakie, Rechaweygh, Rechquaakie, Reckowacky, and Raechkoewyhaiqckygh (okay, I made that one up).

Is there a Near Rockaway?  As a matter of fact there is.  It’s actually the old name for East Rockaway.  There is also a Rockaway Park.  All of these places are stretched out, from east to west, along a peninsula that sticks out into the Atlantic on the southern side of Long Island. 

There’s a large Jewish  population in FR.  Some famous Jewish sons and daughters include:
  • Psychologist Joyce Brothers
  • Physicist Richard Feynman
  • Business magnate Carl Icahn
  • Folk singer Phil Ochs

It was hit pretty hard by Sandy too.


1. Throggs Neck

Little is known about Throgg …

But all we really care about is whether he was Dutch or Native American, right?  Well, wouldn’t you know … He was  English.  Throg is short for Throckmorton.  He owned this land, back in Colonial times.

As for the “neck,” it’s just another peninsula – this one sticking out into Long Island Sound from the southeast part of The Bronx.  It’s basically a stepping stone for the Throgs Neck Bridge, which links The Bronx with Long Island.  There is considerable controversy about how to spell the place – one g, two g’s, apostrophe …

So, final score: Dutch 4, Native Americans 4. 

Oh, almost forgot …  This area also includes a Little Neck and a Great Neck.  And - let me tell ya - that’s a lot of neck.

Go Throggs Neck 10 and Under Girls Softball Thunder!

Honorable Mention:

  • B-o-r-i-n-g – East New York, Landing, Ridge, East Meadow, Centereach, Middleville
  • Short & sweet – Rye*
  • Just a little out of place – Charleston, Bohemia, Babylon
  • Native American mouthfuls – Tuckahoe, Massapequa
  • Miscellaneous mouthfuls – Head of the Harbor, Village of the Branch
  • Abnormal nouns – Queens*, Utopia
  • Fun to say – Maspeth, Blauvelt, The Bronx*, Bath Beach, East Islip, Fort Salonga, Quogue
  • Just plain weird – University Gardens, Russian Gardens, Old Field, Ozone Park, Brightwaters, Lake Success, Sag Harbor, Scarsdale, Muttontown, Hicksville
  • I’d like to introduce you to – Chauncey, Howard Beach, Bethpage

* - author has visited

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