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Brookhaven, New York
Stony Brook Post Office 2.jpg
Setauket Mill.jpg
Long Island Museum carriage house.jpg
William miller homestead.jpg
Main Street in Port Jefferson, NY.jpg
Clockwise from top-left: Stony Brook Village Center, mill in Frank Melville Park in Setauket, Stony Brook University, Old Field Point Light, downtown Port Jefferson, Miller homestead in Miller Place, and the Long Island Museum
Location of Brookhaven in Suffolk County, New York
Location of Brookhaven in Suffolk County, New York
Brookhaven, New York is located in Long Island
Brookhaven, New York
Brookhaven, New York
Location in Long Island
Brookhaven, New York is located in New York
Brookhaven, New York
Brookhaven, New York
Location in New York
Brookhaven, New York is located in the United States
Brookhaven, New York
Brookhaven, New York
Location in the United States
Country United States
State New York
County Suffolk
Settled 1655
Incorporated 1686
 • Type Civil township
 • Total 531.54 sq mi (1,376.68 km2)
 • Land 259.44 sq mi (671.93 km2)
 • Water 272.11 sq mi (704.75 km2)
79 ft (24 m)
 • Total 486,040
 • Estimate 
 • Density 1,875.61/sq mi (724.18/km2)
Time zone UTC−05:00 (Eastern Time Zone)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−04:00
Area code(s) 631, 934
FIPS code 36-10000
GNIS feature ID 0978758

The Town of Brookhaven is the most populous of the ten towns of Suffolk County, New York, United States. Part of the New York metropolitan area, it is located approximately 50 miles from Manhattan. It is the only town in the county that stretches from the north shore to the south shore of Long Island. It is the largest of New York State's 932 towns by area (when water area is included), and the second most populous after the Town of Hempstead.

The first settlement in what is now Brookhaven was known as Setauket. Founded as a group of agricultural hamlets in the mid-17th century, Brookhaven first expanded as a major center of shipbuilding in the 19th century. Its proximity to New York City facilitated the establishment of resort communities, followed by a post-war population boom. In the 2010 census record, Brookhaven contained 486,040 people.

The township is home to two renowned research centers, Stony Brook University and Brookhaven National Laboratory. Combined these two research centers are approximately 50% of the Town's top ten employer's employee count. Tourism is also a major part of the local economy. The largest traditional downtowns are located in Port Jefferson, a regional transportation hub, and Patchogue. The area has long been serviced by the Long Island Rail Road and Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Ferry.


Origins and etymology

Brewster House, Setauket
The c. 1665 Brewster House is the oldest extant structure in the Town of Brookhaven and is within the town's first settlement, Setauket

The first known inhabitants were Algonquian-speaking Native Americans, of the Setauket and Unkechaug tribes. The first English settlers arrived around 1640, and in 1655, several purchased Brookhaven's land from its tribal inhabitants. The latter founding year was recognized in 1976, when the Brookhaven Town Bicentennial Commission proposed setting the date on the seal to 1655 in line with this first deed of settlement of the Town of Brookhaven at Setauket on April 14, 1655. Considering this founding year of 1655, Brookhaven is the fifth English township on Long Island following Southampton, Southold, Huntington, and East Hampton.

Caroline Church of Brookhaven
The Caroline Church in Setauket, was built in 1729 and is the oldest extant church in Brookhaven

The first English settlement was named Setauket after the Native American tribe. Brookhaven is the anglicized version of the Algonquin name Setauket. These terms were initially used interchangeably to describe the village or the town. The verbal division between the smaller hamlet of Setauket and township of Brookhaven was not set until well into the 19th century. A point of confusion is the existence of the hamlet named Brookhaven, which was in fact named for the township in 1879. Other names used in the settlement's first decades were Ashford, after Ashford, Kent in England, and Cromwell Bay, for English Protestant leader Oliver Cromwell.

Seal of Brookhaven, NY
The Dongan seal of Brookhaven, in use since 1686

The original land purchase from the native Setalcott tribe that took place in 1655 encompassed the land making up present-day Setauket, Stony Brook, and Port Jefferson. A second purchase in 1664 expanded this tract eastward along the North Shore to additionally include all lands from the Old Mans area (Mount Sinai and Miller Place) to Wading River. Another land purchase in the same year expanded Brookhaven to the South Shore of Long Island.

Brookhaven was integrated into the Province of New York following that colony's establishment in 1664, and in 1666 Governor Richard Nicolls granted a patent for the town which confirmed title to the lands purchased. Governor Thomas Dongan issued a patent in 1686 which granted powers to the town and established a representative form of government. The town seal was authorized at this time. The central element of the town seal, the letter “D”, was designated to the Town of Brookhaven as its official cattle earmark by the Duke’s Laws of 1665. Although no records exist dating to the town seal's original design plan, it is generally thought that the seal's olive branch signified peace and the whaling tools signified the most lucrative business in the Town of Brookhaven at the time. The current seal is a redesign, retaining the original elements, but adding the Town of Brookhaven and its 1655 date of settlement.

Colonial era

The Miller Place Academy schoolhouse, c.1834

Early English settlers farmed, fished, and hunted whales. Brookhaven was largely agrarian, with each hamlet being limited to a handful of families yet containing miles of land. This economy was supplemented in coastal sections with fishing. A major commercial center did non exist in Brookhaven until the early 19th century.

Brookhaven was founded primarily by English colonists that partook in the settlement of Southold, New York, and was likewise under the jurisdiction of the theocratic New Haven Colony in the modern state of Connecticut. Brookhaven was transferred to the more secular Hartford-led Connecticut Colony in 1662. Following the English takeover of New Netherland in 1664, the new English colony of New York laid claim to Long Island and brought Brookhaven into its jurisdiction.

Revolutionary War era

During the early stages of the American Revolutionary War, Brookhaven and the rest of Long Island were captured by British forces, and many residents sided with the British as loyalists to the English crown. Nevertheless, Brookhaven had multiple episodes of celebrated American activity during the war. This included the actions of the Culper Spy Ring, a spy network working for George Washington that largely consisted of Brookhaveners working in occupied territory. Another episode was Benjamin Tallmadge's successful raid from across Long Island to the British stronghold at the Manor St. George, wherein his raiding party rowed from Connecticut to Cedar Beach and marched across Long Island, culminating in the Battle of Fort St. George and burning of the defensive structure. A more minor skirmish occurred within the settlement of Setauket, where the British had repurposed the local Protestant church as a fortress. Gunshots were fired and some bullet holes remain within the walls of the adjacent Caroline Church.


View of Patchogue
Sketch of early Patchogue
Mather Shipyard Crew, 1884
Mather Shipyard in Port Jefferson, 1884

In the mid-19th century, several communities in Brookhaven prospered as shipbuilding ports. The most successful of these are the villages of Port Jefferson and Patchogue, which remain the township's most bustling traditional downtowns. Whaling and cordwood industries also developed in Brookhaven.

Railroads reached Brookhaven in the mid-19th century, beginning in 1843 with trains reaching inland to Ronkonkoma. The earliest equivalent to the North Shore's present-day Port Jefferson Branch began operation in 1873. The Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Ferry has been operating between Port Jefferson and Bridgeport, Connecticut since 1888 and was partly founded by legendary circus-master P.T. Barnum.

William Glackens - Bathers at Bellport - Google Art Project
Bathers at Bellport by William Glackens

From the end of the late 19th century until the middle of the 20th, many communities along the North Shore and South Shore became successful resort towns. These hosted many urban residents from nearby New York City, including numerous celebrities of the era, during the summer months. Meanwhile, many rural sections across Brookhaven served as campgrounds for youth clubs.

During the Gilded Age, Brookhaven underwent some of the same changes that affected Long Island's Gold Coast. Waterfront areas along the North Shore, including Belle Terre and Old Field, transformed from small fishing communities into fashionable and exclusive enclaves of the moneyed elite.

A variety of notable research occurred in Brookhaven around the turn of the 20th century. Inventor Nikola Tesla had a research center in Shoreham, which featured the large Wardenclyffe Tower. As of 2016 this site is being renovated as the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe. Guglielmo Marconi opened one of the world's largest radio facilities, known as RCA's Radio Central, in Rocky Point.

Modern history

In the post-war era, Brookhaven experienced a massive population boom. This was partly due to its proximity to New York City along the Long Island Rail Road and the highway system of Robert Moses. The township's most internationally renowned institutions, Stony Brook University and Brookhaven National Lab, both date to the years following World War II.

Simons Center for Geometry and Physics
Simons Center for Geometry and Physics at Stony Brook University
Aerial View of Brookhaven National Laboratory
Brookhaven National Laboratory

During the mid-century, a number of major transformations were conducted by philanthropist Ward Melville in the Three Village area (The Setaukets, Stony Brook, and Old Field). Melville, an Old Field resident and owner of what later became CVS Corporation, used his fortune to transform Northwestern Brookhaven to his vision of an idealized New England-style region. To this end, he ordered the construction in 1939 of the Stony Brook Village Center, a picturesque commercial center set on village green in Stony Brook, with clapboard buildings designed to look as if they had colonial origins. In 1962, Ward Melville donated 400 acres of land for the relocation of now-named Stony Brook University from Oyster Bay.

Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) sits on the site of Camp Upton, a United States army installation that was used as a training ground in World War I and World War II by thousands of soldiers including composer Irving Berlin. In 1946 ownership of the grounds was transferred for use by the new national laboratory, which began operating the following year. Brookhaven researchers have since made such diverse contributions as patenting Maglev, designing one of the first video games, detecting the first solar neutrinos, designing pollutant-eating bacteria, creating the first PET scan, and various contributions to particle physics. The laboratory contains the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) and the National Synchrotron Light Source. Noted physicist and Nobel laureate I.I. Rabi was instrumental in the national laboratory's establishment.


Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai, New York
Sunbathers at Cedar Beach on the Long Island Sound

Brookhaven is located centrally on the geographic Long Island and extends from the North Shore to the South Shore. According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 531.5 square miles (1,376.6 km²), of which 259.3 square miles (671.6 km²) is land and 272.2 square miles (705.1 km² or 51.22%) is water. It is the largest town in New York in terms of total area. Excluding water, however, there are four towns in the state with more land area: Webb in Herkimer County, Long Lake in Hamilton County, Arietta in Hamilton County, and Ohio in Herkimer County.

Brookhaven is bounded to the north and south by the Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. Riverhead and Southampton lie to the east, and Smithtown and Islip lie to the west.

A large part of Fire Island (accessible by a bridge at Smith Point) and the Great South Bay are in the town.

Bald Hill, a large hill in the hamlet of Farmingville, marks where the glacier which formed Long Island stopped. At the top of Bald Hill is a Vietnam veterans memorial. Telescope Hill, to the west of Bald Hill Cultural Park, is slightly taller at 334 feet (102 m) above sea level and the highest point in the town.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1790 3,224
1800 4,022 24.8%
1810 4,176 3.8%
1820 5,218 25.0%
1830 6,095 16.8%
1840 7,050 15.7%
1850 8,595 21.9%
1860 9,923 15.5%
1870 10,159 2.4%
1880 11,544 13.6%
1890 12,772 10.6%
1900 14,892 16.6%
1910 16,737 12.4%
1920 21,847 30.5%
1930 28,291 29.5%
1940 32,118 13.5%
1950 44,522 38.6%
1960 109,900 146.8%
1970 245,260 123.2%
1980 364,812 48.7%
1990 407,779 11.8%
2000 448,248 9.9%
2010 486,040 8.4%
2016 (est.) 486,599 0.1%
U.S. Decennial Census

As of the census of 2000, there were 448,248 people, 146,828 households, and 112,910 families residing in the town. The population density was 1,728.8 people per square mile (667.5/km2). There were 155,406 housing units at an average density of 599.4 per square mile (231.4/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 68.43% White, 24.33% Black or African American, 0.23% Native American, 2.90% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 2.21% from other races, and 1.87% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino people of any race were 8.04% of the population.

There were 146,828 households, out of which 38.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 62.3% were married couples living together, 10.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 23.1% were non-families. 17.9% of all households were made up of individuals, and 7.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.97 and the average family size was 3.37.

In the town, the population was spread out, with 26.7% under the age of 18, 8.9% from 18 to 24, 31.5% from 25 to 44, 22.7% from 45 to 64, and 10.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females, there were 96.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.8 males.

According to a 2006 estimate, the median income for a household in the town was $73,566, and the median income for a family was $84,705. Males had a median income of $48,601 versus $32,157 for females. The per capita income for the town was $24,191. About 3.9% of families and 5.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 6.5% of those under age 18 and 6.6% of those age 65 or over.

Communities and locations

Villages (incorporated)

Brookhaven has nine villages:

Hamlets (unincorporated)

Brookhaven includes all or part of approximately 50 hamlets. One of those hamlets is also named Brookhaven.

Physical features

Other communities

  • Bayberry Dunes
  • Bellview Beach
  • Coram Hill
  • Crystal Brook
  • East Yaphank
  • Hallock Landing
  • Old Mastic
  • Poospatuck Reservation
  • Rocky Point Landing
  • Patchogue Highlands
  • Sigfield Park
  • South Manor
  • South Medford
  • South Setauket
  • South Yaphank
  • Squassux Landing
  • Smith Point
  • Wading River Landing
  • West Yaphank
  • Woodhull Landing



Major roads

  • I-495.svg Interstate 495
  • NY-25A.svg New York State Route 25A
  • NY-25.svg New York State Route 25
  • NY-24.svg New York State Route 24
  • NY-27.svg New York State Route 27
  • NY-112.svg New York State Route 112
  • NY-347.svg New York State Route 347
  • Suffolk County 16.svg County Route 16
  • Suffolk County 80.svgSuffolk County 85.svg Montauk Highway, including County Route 85 and County Route 80
  • Suffolk County 97.svg County Route 97
  • Suffolk County 83.svg County Route 83
  • Suffolk County 46.svg County Route 46
  • Suffolk County 51.svg County Route 51
  • Suffolk County 111.svg County Route 111

Bus service

The Town of Brookhaven is served primarily by Suffolk County Transit bus routes, although the Village of Patchogue has its own bus service.

Railroad lines

Long Island Rail Road has three lines running through the Town of Brookhaven. The Main Line includes Ronkonkoma station, which not only serves as a major transportation hub, but is also located on the Islip-Brookhaven Town Line. It also contains the Medford and Yaphank stations. The Montauk Branch, located on the South Shore of Long Island, includes the Patchogue, Bellport, and Mastic–Shirley stations, with the Center Moriches station having operated until 1998. On the North Shore of the town, the Port Jefferson Branch contains two stations as it enters from the Town of Smithtown: Stony Brook station along the northern edge of SUNY at Stony Brook, and Port Jefferson station along Main Street where the line terminates.


The primary ferry within the Town of Brookhaven is the Bridgeport-Port Jefferson Ferry, which takes vehicles and passengers across the Long Island Sound to and from Port Jefferson to Bridgeport, Connecticut. On the Great South Bay, passenger ferries take vacationers to and from Fire Island. The ferry terminals in Patchogue lead to the communities of Davis Park, and Watch Hill Visitor's Center, on the western edge of the Otis Pike Fire Island High Dune Wilderness Area. Bellport also has a ferry leading to Bellport Beach on Fire Island.

From Fire Island itself, communities have ferries from Fire Island Pines and Cherry Grove, both of which are popular vacation spots for LGBT tourists as well as the Sailors Haven Visitor's Center, which is located within the Sunken Forest Visitor's Center. All three ferries lead to Sayville in the Town of Islip. Ocean Bay Park is the westernmost community in the Town of Brookhaven, and ferries from there lead to Bay Shore.


The town of Brookhaven contains three minor reliever airports, all of which are in south shore communities. The first one is the Brookhaven Calabro Airport in Shirley. East of this is the Spadaro Airport and Lufker Airport both of which are in East Moriches, and both of which share a taxiway. Coram Airport was operational until 1984.


According to Brookhaven's 2009 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the top employers in the town are:

# Employer # of Employees Location
1 Stony Brook University 13,623 Stony Brook
2 Internal Revenue Service 3,332 Holtsville
3 Sachem School District 3,100 Holbrook
4 Brookhaven National Laboratory 2,500 Upton
5 John T. Mather Memorial Hospital 2,047 Port Jefferson
6 Long Island Community Hospital 2,030 East Patchogue
7 St. Charles Hospital 1,520 Port Jefferson
8 Three Village Central School District 1,454 East Setauket
9 Verizon 1,440 Patchogue
10 William Floyd School District 1,300 Mastic Beach


Brookhaven is the home of Stony Brook University, which moved to Stony Brook from its original Oyster Bay campus in 1962; the university has since become the town's largest employer. The town is home to the first and largest campus of Suffolk County Community College, located in Selden. The town is also home to The Stony Brook School, a Christian college prep and boarding school in Stony Brook.

Notable people

  • Alfred Charles Garratt
  • Tapping Reeve

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Brookhaven (Nueva York) para niños

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