The name "Five Towns" dates back to 1931, when individual Community Chest groups in the area banded together to form the "Five Towns Community Chest", consisting of Inwood, Lawrence, Cedarhurst, Woodmere and Hewlett. The organization still exists (as of 2006) as a local charity, but the "Five Towns" moniker caught on as a designation for the entire area. A 1933 article in The New York Times references a Girl Scouts of the USA encampment by the "Five Towns Council, embracing the villages [sic] of Inwood, Lawrence, Cedarhurst, Woodmere and Hewlett", listed in order by LIRR station.
One notable characteristic of the Five Towns is that despite the reputation of the South Shore of Nassau County being more urbanized than the North Shore, the 5 towns retains hamlets that resemble areas along Long Island's Gold Coast on the North Shore with enormous mansions and exclusive private communities along the water.
Each of these "towns" has a consecutive stop on the Far Rockaway Branch of the Long Island Rail Road. All five communities are part of the Town of Hempstead. Woodmere is the largest and most populous community in the Five Towns. The Five Towns is known regionally for its collection of wealthy, Orthodox Jewish villages and hamlets. The area is one of the wealthiest in New York State and has one of the highest percentages of Jewish residents in the nation.
There are two school districts in the Five Towns, the Lawrence Public Schools (District 15) and the Hewlett-Woodmere School District (District 14). Roughly speaking, the Lawrence school district contains all of Lawrence, Cedarhurst and Inwood, and part of Woodmere while the Hewlett-Woodmere district contains all of Hewlett and part of Woodmere and extends partly into the neighboring villages of Lynbrook and Valley Stream (North Woodmere and Gibson in particular).
Five Towns College
Although Lawrence was planned to be the location for Five Towns College, the original site was no longer available by the time the school received its charter in 1972. The college is currently located in Dix Hills, Suffolk County. Other than the proposed original site, the school never had a physical connection to the Five Towns.
The television show, Entourage, features a fictional show titled Five Towns, in which Johnny Drama stars as a character. The producer of the show was supposed to be actor-director Edward Burns, who in real life grew up in Valley Stream but attended Hewlett High School. When shown on Entourage the Five Towns is portrayed as a gritty industrial area.
Karen Hill, who married Mobster Henry Hill - whose life was immortalized by Nicholas Pileggi's book Wiseguy and Martin Scorsese's 1990 film Goodfellas - hailed from Five Towns, and the newlyweds initially lived there with Karen's parents
In Thomas Pynchon's 1963 debut novel V., he mentions the Five Towns, however, he includes Malverne as being part of the group.
Notable current and former residents of the Five Towns include:
^Barron, James. "IF YOU'RE THINKING OF LIVING IN: FIVE TOWNS", The New York Times, July 10, 1983. Accessed May 20, 2008. "The basic five are Lawrence, Cedarhurst, Woodmere, Hewlett and Inwood. But the area also includes some unincorporated communities and two tiny villages, Hewlett Bay Park and Woodsburgh, that are not added to the final total."
^Shaw, Dan. "Bachelor of Arts", The New York Times, August 29, 1993. Accessed September 15, 2008. "'I always absolutely thought there was a difference between being a young artist and an important young artist,' said Mr. Bleckner, who grew up in Hewlett, L.I., graduated in 1971 from New York University and earned an M.F.A. from the California Institute of the Arts in 1973."
^Van Gelder, Lawrence. "INTERVIEW; Her Winning Way With Fashion", The New York Times, October 16, 1977. Accessed September 15, 2008. "And suddenly, at the age of 29, Donna Karan, who grew up in Woodmere, Who lied about her age to begin selling women's clothes at 14 in Cedarhurst, and who now lives in Lawrence, was at the top of her fashion world."
^Berkvist, Robert. "'Bored? Creatively I'm Bored, But...'", The New York Times, March 19, 1972. Accessed September 15, 2008. ""The girl from uptight Lawrence, L. I., was now cool, worldly; Peggy Lipton had become, in the stone-age language of the sixties, a groovy chick, and Mod Squad had found its Julie."
^"40 Heroes", The Advocate, September 25, 2007. Accessed September 16, 2008. "Though an assassin cut his life short, Harvey Milk packed 48 years with enough accomplishments to last many lifetimes. Born in Woodmere, N.Y., in 1930..."
^Gans, Andrew. "Rhapsody in Seth’s Rudetsky Fights Back With Santorum Fund", Playbill, May 7, 2003. Accessed September 17, 2008. "In his self-penned, one-man show directed by Peter Flynn — Rhapsody in Seth — Seth Rudetsky recalls growing up in North Woodmere, Long Island, where he was praised for his musical gifts but ridiculed for being gay."
^Fischler, Marcelle S. "Nascent Hall of Fame to Welcome First Honorees"., The New York Times , October 15, 2006. Accessed November 26, 2007. "Dee Snider of Stony Brook, the shock-rocker from 1980s heavy metal band Twisted Sister, known for his defiant metal anthem We're Not Gonna Take It, and Leslie West of the band Mountain, who grew up in East Meadow, Lawrence and Forest Hills, are also being inducted..."
^Capuzzo, Jill P. "From 'Saturday Night Live' to '700 Sundays'", The New York Times, December 12, 2004. Accessed September 17, 2008. "As the funny kid in the neighborhood, Mr. Zweibel — born in Brooklyn and reared in Woodmere, on Long Island — first tried his hand at writing jokes while at the University of Buffalo, mailing them to Johnny Carson and Dick Cavett"