New York 1st District
Long Island—“the Island” to most New Yorkers—is the largest and most populous island in the mainland United States. It stretches 103 miles, from the two-century-old Montauk Point lighthouse on a crumbling bluff at its eastern extremity to Fort Hamilton at the foot of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. Ranging from 12 to 20 miles wide, Long Island is ringed by gentle hills and cliffs above Long Island Sound and sand-spit beaches that front the Atlantic Ocean. Including the populations of Brooklyn and Queens, some 7.5 million people live on Long Island, more than in all but 12 states. Brooklyn, at the island’s western end, is urban and thickly settled, while the Hamptons in the east are carefully manicured countryside, preserved as a playground for the New York elite. Demographically, the Hamptons are only a small part of Long Island. More important economically are the suburbs created in the post-World War II migration out of the city.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
Developers looking for cheaper land for aircraft factories, shopping centers, subdivisions, and office parks found them first in Nassau County, just east of Queens, and then farther out in Suffolk County. Suffolk attracted young families of Irish and Italian descent looking for more space and less crime. More recently the county has been attracting Latinos, who are now 13% of the population and include Salvadorans and Puerto Ricans in lower-income areas. Over the past 30 years, the island’s economy soured as defense plants were decimated by the end of the Cold War, cost overruns on nuclear plants led to electricity rate increases, and young people fled older suburbs for jobs elsewhere. The Bush administration’s defense buildup resulted in a temporary increase in defense jobs at Northrop Grumman, and the Long Island Power Authority wants to build wind farms and run underwater cables from Connecticut to bring more energy across Long Island Sound. High taxes and expensive housing remain endemic problems.
The 1st Congressional District of New York consists of the eastern end of Long Island and covers eastern Suffolk County. It runs as far west as Smithtown on the North Shore and Patchogue on the South Shore. It includes Shelter Island, located between the north and south forks of Long Island’s “fishtail,” and Plum Island, which houses the nation’s only animal infection research site, operated by the Homeland Security Department but scheduled to be closed in 2015 and replaced by a lab in Kansas. A few farmers remain on Long Island, where they grow sweet corn and pumpkins. The 1st District includes two areas frequented in the summer by urban sophisticates: the Hamptons, with their extravagant prices, and most of Fire Island National Seashore, the only federal wilderness area in New York state and a magnet for gay vacationers for decades. The district also includes Brookhaven National Laboratory, a physics research lab, and the defense plants in the center of the Island. Suffolk County was long one of the most conservative parts of New York, though not very conservative by today’s national standards. Republican voter registration remains robust, despite the district’s trending Democratic in recent presidential elections. The district voted solidly for Democrat Al Gore in 2000 but swung narrowly to Republican George W. Bush in 2004—a September 11 effect. It backed Democratic nominee Barack Obama in 2008.