Column: What’s the deal with all these hamlets, anyway?

03/15/2014 10:00 AM |

If you Google “New York hamlet,” among the top responses that pops up is “what the hell is the diff. between city, town, village and hamlet …”

I didn’t write that. Though when I moved here fi ve years ago, I thought something pretty close to it.

Pinciaro_Joe.jpgI had never heard of a hamlet before moving to Greenport in 2009. In Massachusetts — where I grew up, at least — a town has its own government, police force, library, fire department, ambulance corps and school.

In New York, on the other hand, a “town” as big as Brookhaven can have a population of nearly half a million, with nine different incorporated villages and 50 different hamlets.

Southold Town, of course, differs from Southold hamlet. Wading River is split between Riverhead and Brookhaven towns and part of Wading River isn’t in the Shoreham-Wading River School District. Baiting Hollow shares a post offi ce with Calverton, part of what people think of as Greenport Village is actually outside the village and please make sure not to confuse Shelter Island Heights with Shelter Island.

Makes sense, right?

Not that I mind all of these peculiarities, though sometimes I have to wonder if there are more efficient ways all of these services could be provided. But I guess that’s for another column. The idea of local pride seems to be what really defi nes a hamlet and, regardless of how effi cient all these boundaries might be, that’s where the communities are. Over time, whether they come to be identifi ed through a fi re department or school district or even a local geographic landmark, these hamlets gain a certain identity, a sense of self.

In fact, my colleague tells me lots of people he knows don’t even technically know which town they’re from until they’re older. They identify with their hamlet. I can see why.

And that brings us to northforker.com’s Game of Hamlets.

We’re not exactly sure what the game is, per se, or what we’re looking for in the winner. It’s almost like if you were to get together with a bunch of friends and have a vote: who would get the most votes after making their case?

But with so many hamlets in Times/Review Newsgroup’s coverage area — from Wading River to Orient Point

— and in the spirit of March Madness, it seems like a fun idea to see which one can gather the most support.

We’ve written up a thorough description for each of 16 hamlets, with eight different writers making a case to garner your votes. But some things about each hamlet only our readers will know: where their favorite views are, where they went to their fi rst party or maybe which hamlet has the coolest name.

I guess, to an extent, it’s up to our readers to decide the rules of the game.

So while the end result of a bracket is, naturally, some kind of winner, I’d hesitate to look at it like that.

Perhaps what I’ve learned about hamlets more than anything since moving to Long Island is that there’s something worth knowing about each one. Each exists for a certain reason. Some group of people somewhere along the line started communing there for one reason or another.

So more than anything, I hope our readers get a sense of what each hamlet in our area has to offer.

The author is the managing editor of Times/Review Newsgroup. He can be reached at jpinciaro@timesreview.com.