New York 3rd District
September 1947 was a pivotal moment in American history: 300 families moved into 750-square-foot houses that sold for $6,990, with no money down for veterans. The location was Levittown—America’s first mass-produced suburb, where delivery trucks dropped off piles of prefabricated materials 60 feet apart, to be picked up by roving teams of specialized workers with power tools. By the time the final house was sold for $9,500 in November 1951, Levittown, a former potato field, had become synonymous with instant suburbanization. Southern State Parkway, the road that drew New York City’s working- and middle-class families out to Long Island, was originally constructed in the 1920s by the legendary city-builder Robert Moses as a way of linking New Yorkers, at least those affluent enough to own a car, with the newly constructed Jones Beach State Park. Three decades later, Moses widened the parkway to accommodate the growing ranks of long-distance commuters who populated Long Island’s bedroom communities and worked in New York City. More than a half-century later, aging Nassau County is all but built out and is sometimes referred to as the nation’s “first mature suburb.” Its population, 450,000 in 1940, zoomed to 1.4 million in 1970. In recent years, it has stabilized at 1.3 million.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
As the prototype suburb, Nassau County created what may have been the nation’s premier county Republican machine. Among other pols, it produced three-term Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, a former Hempstead supervisor. The GOP-run county government, which was one of the highest-salaried, highest-spending in America, thrived until the late 1990s, when fiscal laxity dropped the county’s credit rating to near junk-bond status despite tax rates that were among the highest in the country. Voters rebelled in 1999, by giving Democrats their first-ever majority in the county legislature, and in 2001, by electing Democrat Thomas Suozzi as county executive. He shook up the local government and agreed to abide by the bipartisan legislative majority.
The 3rd Congressional District of New York includes roughly half of Nassau County. It covers much of the southern shoreline of Long Island, taking in the old railroad resort of Long Beach, plus Baldwin, Merrick, and Massapequa in Nassau County; and Amityville, Lindenhurst, most of Babylon, Bay Shore, and Islip in Suffolk County. Nearly one-fourth of the district’s population lives in Suffolk County. The district runs north all the way to Long Island Sound, where old estates—including Sagamore Hill, the home Theodore Roosevelt built on Cold Spring Harbor in 1885—alternate with more-modest homes and newer subdivisions. Most of the people in the district live in towns strung along either side of Sunrise Highway or just off the Southern and Northern State parkways: Levittown, Syosset, Hicksville (home to Billy Joel), and Bethpage (home to a major Northrop Grumman facility). For a district so close to New York City, its minority population remains low. Although few of Greater New York’s wealthiest live in the 3rd District, the overall level of affluence is high. Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore carried the district 52%-44% in 2000, but it broke for Republican George W. Bush in 2004, 52%-47%. In 2008, Republican nominee John McCain beat Democratic nominee Barack Obama by an identical 52%-47%.