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May 2003


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Walter Greenspan <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
A LISTSERV list for discussions pertaining to New York State history." <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 2 May 2003 13:21:55 EDT
text/plain (152 lines)
On 5/2/03 (7:16:44 AM MDT), Scott Monje ([log in to unmask]) asked,

"Here is a question for enthusiasts of legal nuance. Can anyone help me find
the state boundaries in Long Island Sound? I understand that the islands of
the sound belong to New York (having been granted to the duke of York in
1664). Does that mean that the water and submerged land of the sound also
belong to New York, or are there distinctions as there are in the New
York-New Jersey boundaries in New York Bay? A 1985 Supreme Court decision
that I came across declared the Long Island Sound "internal waters" and thus
within the jurisdiction of the adjacent states, but it didn't go into any
details regarding the New York-Connecticut boundary as it was concerned with
establishing the U.S. boundary at the east end of the sound. It set the U.S.
border from the North Fork of Long Island to Watch Hill Point, Rhode Island
(or, more precisely, three miles seaward from that line). Can we assume that
the New York-Rhode Island state boundary is at the midpoint of that line?"

The information that I have would say no.

According to information provided to me by Ms. Antonia Booth, the Historian
for the Town of Southold, Suffolk County, New York, when I asked her about
Fishers Island.  She told me, "Ownership of Fishers Island was claimed by
both Connecticut and New York. State ownership was not settled until 1878
when a joint commission from the two states finally decided that "New York
has the title having had actual possession for more than a century". The
decision was based on a prior 1664 decision that the southern boundary of
Connecticut was the northern shore of Long Island Sound."

I translate this to mean that the southern border of Connecticut is the low
water mark.

Contact information for Ms. Antonia Booth:

Ms. Antonia Booth
Town Historian
Southold Town Hall
P.O. Box 1179
53095 Main Road
Southold, NY 11971

Tel: 631/765-1981
Fax: 631/765-1823

eMail: [log in to unmask]


The pertinent geography:

Fishers Island is a very interesting and geographically unique place:

Fishers Island is an island hamlet (unincorporated area) in the extreme
northeast section of the Town of Southold, Suffolk County. There are 1
village and 10 hamlets in the Town of Southold.  There are no cities and 10
towns in Suffolk County.  There are 2 Indian reservations in Suffolk County.
(I'm including after my name a NYS Geographic Glossary with the NYS
definitions of county, city, town, village, hamlet and postal zone.)

Fishers Island is located in Long Island Sound and is to the northwest of
Plum Island and the Hamlet of Orient also in the Town of Southold.

Fishers Island is unique in many ways, one of which is that while it
certainly is part of New York State, it has a Connecticut ZIP Code.

If you or I want to write to a person or company located on Fishers Island,
the last line of the mailing address -- it's postal "city" -- is Fishers
Island, CT 06390.

Mail to and from Fishers Island is handled within a facility in the New
London, CT Post Office. The manager of the New London-Fishers Island ferry
lives in New London and on his way to work on Fishers Island picks up the
mail bag with the incoming mail at the New London Post Office and in the
evening, when he returns to New London, drops off a bag of outgoing mail.

The Town Board of the Town of Southold and representatives of each department
in the Town journey by boat every August to Fishers Island to conduct a board
meeting. This is done as a courtesy and is not required by law.

A good source (one I have not read yet) is Fishers Island, NY, 1614-1925 by
Henry L. Ferguson, 1925 and subsequently reprinted.

Fishers Island has two additional geographic quirks:

1. It is the only part of Suffolk County not in the R.C. Diocese of Rockville
Centre. Fishers Island is in the R.C. Diocese of Hartford. (Meanwhile, the
R.C. Diocese of Rockville Centre is the only R.C. Diocese not named after a
city; Rockville Centre is a village in the Town of Hempstead, Nassau County.)
Fishers Island is in the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island (so is Brooklyn and
Queens, along with all of Nassau and Suffolk)

2. Between Fishers Island and Orient (Orient, as its name suggests, is the
eastern most point on the north fork) is Plum Island. Plum Island is the
U.S.D.A.'s animal disease experimental station.

For those who have their copy of the 2002 or earlier edition of the LI
Population Survey or have already downloaded the report from the Long Island
Power Authority web site (eMail me directly if you need instructions on how
to access and download the report), you'll find the Hamlet of Fishers Island
in the Town of Southold, Suffolk County on pages 15 & 30 (map) and 31
(population estimate).

I hope this information is useful or, at least, interesting.


Walter Greenspan

   Cities, Towns, Villages, Hamlets and Postal Zones in New York State

New York State is divided into counties.

A county is a municipal corporation, a subdivision of the state, created to
perform state functions; a "regional" government.  All counties are divided
into cities, towns and Indian reservations.

A city is a unique governmental entity with its own special charter.  Cities
are not sub-divided, except into neighborhoods, which are informal geographic

A town is a municipal corporation and encompasses all territory within the
state except that within cities or Indian reservations.  Towns can be
sub-divided into villages and hamlets.

A village is a general purpose municipal corporation formed voluntarily by
the residents of an area in one or more towns to provide themselves with
municipal services.  The pattern of village organization is similar to those
of a city.  A village is divided into neighborhoods, which are informal
geographic areas.

A hamlet is an unincorporated area in one or more towns that is governed
at-large by the town(s) it is in.  A hamlet is divided into neighborhoods,
which are informal geographic areas.

Postal Zone "City" and "Town"
A postal zone "City" and "Town" is an administrative district established by
the U.S. Postal Service to deliver the mail.  Postal zone "City" and "Town"
may not (but are encouraged to) conform to municipal or community borders.
Thus, postal zone location does not always determine city, village or hamlet

Please be aware:  In many areas of New York State, the problem of
non-conforming postal zones leads to a situation where the majority of places
have a different community name in their mailing address than the community
where that place is actually located.