The Town of Oyster Bay is easternmost of the three towns in Nassau County, New York, in the United States. Part of the New York metropolitan area, it is the only town in Nassau County that extends from the North Shore to the South Shore of Long Island. As of the 2010 census, the town population was 293,214.
There are 18 villages and 18 hamlets within the town of Oyster Bay. The U.S. Postal Service has organized these 36 places into 30 different 5-digit ZIP codes served by 20 different post offices. Each post office has the same name as a hamlet or village, but their boundaries seldomly correlate.
Oyster Bay is also the name of a hamlet on the north shore, within the town of Oyster Bay. Near this hamlet, in the village of Cove Neck, is Sagamore Hill, the former residence and summer White House of Theodore Roosevelt and now a museum. At least six of the 36 villages and hamlets of the town have shores on Oyster Bay Harbor, an inlet of Long Island Sound, and many of these at one time or another have also been referred to as being part of the hamlet of Oyster Bay.
Succeeding cultures of indigenous peoples had lived in the area for thousands of years. At the time of European contact, the Lenape (Delaware) nation inhabited western Long Island. By 1600 the band inhabiting the local area was called the Matinecock after their location, but they were Lenape people.
Following European colonization, the area became part of the colony of New Netherland. In 1639, the Dutch West India Company made its first purchase of land on Long Island from the local Native Americans. The English also had colonies on Long Island at this time. The Dutch did not dispute English claims to what is now Suffolk County, but when settlers from New England arrived in (present-day) Oyster Bay in 1640, they were soon arrested as part of a boundary dispute. In 1643, Englishmen purchased land in the present-day town of Hempstead from the Indians that included land purchased by the Dutch in 1639. Nevertheless, in 1644, the Dutch director granted a patent for Hempstead to the English.
The Dutch also granted other English settlements in Flushing, Newtown, and Jamaica. In 1650, the Treaty of Hartford established a boundary between Dutch and English claims at “Oysterbay”, by which the Dutch meant present-day Cold Spring Harbor (to the east) and the English meant all of the water connected to present-day Oyster Bay Harbor. Meanwhile, the government of England came under the control of Oliver Cromwell as a republic, and smugglers took advantage of the unresolved border dispute. In 1653, English settlers made their first purchase of land in Oyster Bay from the local Matinecock tribe, though there were already some rogue English settlements there. For this purchase, the English settlers paid to the Native American Moheness (aka Assiapum), “six kettles, six fathoms of wampum, six hoes, six hatchets, three pairs of stockings, thirty awl-blades or muxes, twenty knives, three shirts and as much Peague as will amount to four pounds sterling.” The monarchy was restored in England in 1660, and in 1664 King Charles gave Long Island (and much else) to his brother James, leading to the Dutch relinquishing control of all of New Amsterdam.
In 1667 the settlement at Oyster Bay received its charter from the new English colony of New York, becoming the Township of Oyster Bay. By 1687, the last piece of land was sold by the Indians, and few remained by 1709.
During most of the American Revolution the town was under the control of British forces. The town was originally part of Queens County, until the western portion of that county was amalgamated into New York City in 1898 and Nassau County was created in 1899. In 1918 Glen Cove, to the west, incorporated as a city and formed a governing system separate from the town. Following World War II, housing replaced farmland as the population grew from about 40,000 in 1950 to more than 290,000 in 1990.
Oyster Bay is home to the Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club, one of the oldest yacht clubs in the Western Hemisphere, which opened in 1871. There are 40 buildings and sites presently named Town of Oyster Bay Landmarks.
The town of Oyster Bay extends from Long Island Sound in the north, south to the waters of South Oyster Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by the town of North Hempstead on the northwest and the town of Hempstead on the southwest. It is the easternmost of the three towns of Nassau County, with Suffolk County immediately to the east.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 169.5 square miles (439 km2), of which 104.4 square miles (270 km2) is land and 65.1 square miles (169 km2), or 38.42%, is water. As with most of Long Island, the north shore is hilly, the south shore has sandy beaches, and the area between is a plain.
Between the 1990 Census and the 2000 census, the town exchanged territory with the towns of Hempstead (Nassau County) and Babylon (Suffolk County). It also gained territory from the town of Huntington in Suffolk County.
The Long Island Rail Road’s Oyster Bay Branch serves the town’s vicinity from Glen Head to Oyster Bay. The Main Line runs through the center of the town from with stations in Hicksville, and Bethpage. The Port Jefferson Branch begins at Hicksville, and goes through Hicksville and Syosset. Rail freight service also exists along the Central Branch which begins in Bethpage. Further south in the town, the Babylon Branch runs from Seaford to the Suffolk County Line with stations in Massapequa and Massapequa Park.
The Town of Oyster Bay has a government made up of a town supervisor and a town council of six members. Council members are elected on a town-wide basis, as there are no election districts within the town. Two other elected positions are Town Clerk and Receiver of Taxes.
In New York, a town is a major division within a county. Larger towns may contain a number of named incorporated villages which provides numerous local services to the village residents. Towns may also contain named unincorporated hamlets, governed and administered by the town council.
Both the State University of New York at Old Westbury and New York Institute of Technology or NYIT (and its affiliated New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine) are located in Old Westbury. LIU Post, the largest campus of the private Long Island University system, is located in Brookville. Also, The Town of Oyster Bay boasts being home to the Jericho Union Free School District, the 2nd best school district in New York State and the country.
- Carter F. Bales Co-Founder, Chairman and Managing Partner of NewWorld Capital Group, LLC
- John Barry (1933-2011), Academy and Grammy Award–winning film composer (died at his home here on 30 January 2011)
- Marie Colvin, award-winning reporter (killed by shelling at Homs, Syria, February 2012)
- John Gotti Jr., former boss of the Gambino crime family
- Sean Hannity, conservative media personality
- Billy Joel, singer-songwriter and owner of a custom motorcycle shop called 20th Century Cycles
- Thomas Pynchon, National Book Award-winning novelist
- Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), 26th President of the United States
- Henry Norris Russell, Dean of American Astronomers, Professor at Princeton University.
- Robert Townsend (spy), part of Culper Spy Ring utilized by George Washington to help sway the American Revolution in the colonists’ favor
In Popular Culture
- According to Cole Porter, in his song “Let’s Do It,” “even oysters down in Oyster Bay do it.”
- Billy Joel mentions Oyster Bay in his song “The Ballad of Billy the Kid” on the album Piano Man.
- Oyster Bay is the home of Jack and Dina Byrnes in the movie Meet the Parents.
- In the HBO TV show The Sopranos, Oyster Bay is where Phil Leotardo is hiding and eventually killed.
- Roger Barnes, played by James Spader, mentions owning a home in Oyster Bay in the movie Wall Street (1987).
- Oyster Bay served as the shooting location for the small town in the horror movie Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972).
- In the CBS TV show Person of Interest, formerly corrupt police officer Lionel Fusco disposes of corpses in Oyster Bay several times.