Welcome to Syosset, Long Island, New York 11791 (as if there might be another Syosset!) Syosset is a hamlet in the Town of Oyster Bay. It is on the north shore of Nassau County closer to the Long Island Sound than to the Ocean of the South Shore. A quick drive up through Oyster Bay Cove, the town immediately north of Syosset, will let you look across the sound to see Connecticut. It is one of the most in demand places to live.
The Syosset Name Edit
by Tom Montalbano, Syosset Historian/Author
For more than a century and a half, Syosset residents have debated the origin of our community’s name, most upholding the conviction that it is a tribute to the Native Americans who first settled this area -- others maintaining that the name is based on a word of Dutch origin. Recently, I had the opportunity to delve into these opposing theories with the assistance of Town of Oyster Bay Historian, John Hammond. After examining a series of 17th Century documents, old maps, and other historical records, I believe I have finally arrived at a definitive conclusion.
A well-known 1911 book by Algonquin historian William Wallace Tooker entitled The Indian Place Names On Long Island did little to unravel the “Syosset” mystery by first stating that the name is of Indian derivation, then contradicting itself by explaining that it had evolved from the Dutch word, Schouts. Despite the ambiguity of Tooker’s explanation, generation after generation continues to believe that the name must have some Native American origins.
Because Syosset was never officially incorporated as a village, there is no entry in the Town of Oyster Bay records denoting exactly when our community took on its present name. However, it is evident from archived newspaper articles and advertisements that the official call on the name change was made by the Long Island Rail Road Company, when it extended its main line to our hamlet in 1854. Interestingly, between 1846 and 1848, the hamlet we now know as Oyster Bay used the name “Syosset” for reasons outlined below. As seen in the 1853 stage coach ad to the left, prior to this time, what we now call “Syosset” was known as “East Woods.” To understand how the name Syosset came into use, we need to go back to the 1600s, when Long Island was the subject of an ownership dispute between the Dutch and the English.
A Simple Mistake?
When the Dutch arrived here during the early 17th Century, they named what is now Oyster Bay “Schout’s Bay,” which translates roughly to “Sheriff’s Bay.” Subsequently, the English arrived at the same harbor and established a settlement they called Oyster Bay. The Dutch had not authorized this settlement and, after unsuccessfully demanding that the English at Oyster Bay pledge allegiance to the governor of New Netherlands, set out to dissolve the English colony. An entry in the New York State Historical Records describes the confrontation that ensued:
“On the 13th of May, 1640, [Governor] Kieft sent Cornelius Van Tienhoven, his
Secretary, with the under-sheriff, a sergeant, and twenty-five soldiers, to Schouts Bay,
on Long Island, to break up a settlement which the English had begun at that place.”
The Dutch pronunciation of the “sch” sound, much like the Hebrew pronunciation of “ch,” was difficult for English-speaking people to recreate, being produced by placing an “s” in front of a sound that can best be compared to the sound made when clearing a small crumb from one’s throat. This may explain why a widely circulated history of New Netherlands written two hundred years later by William Dunlap misprinted the passage as:
“On the 13th of May, 1640, Kieft sent Cornelius Van Tienhoven, his
Secretary, with the under-sheriff, a sergeant, and twenty-five soldiers, to Siocits Bay,
on Long Island, to break up a settlement which the English had begun at that place.”
The misspelling of “Schouts” in this 1839 passage may have simply been the result of a misheard consonant or two; or it could have been the effect of two hundred years of evolution on the original word. Regardless, from that point forward, residents of Oyster Bay hamlet believed the original name of their community had been Siocits, which, through additional misinterpretations and misprints (“Siocit,” “Syocit,” “Syossett”), eventually became “Syosset.” Perhaps due to this word’s similarity to “Suwasset” (the name originally used by Native Americans for Port Jefferson), “Syosset” was widely believed to have also been of Indian origin.
The “First” Syosset
In the mid 1840s, a situation arose which prompted Oyster Bay citizens to revisit what they believed was their hamlet’s original name. Much of the mail delivery during this period was via the LIRR’s Hicksville station, from which a private stage coach service would cart letters to East Woods, Oyster Bay, and other surrounding areas. One stop along the stage driver’s route was a place known as “South Oyster Bay,” the original name for Massapequa. As you might suspect, mail intended for residents of Oyster Bay often ended up in South Oyster Bay, sometimes never to be recovered.
In 1846, prominent residents of Oyster Bay hamlet petitioned the US Post Master General to rename their post office in order to end confusion with its namesake on the south shore. After much debate, the Oyster Bay constituency decided to honor its assumed Native American heritage and rename the community “Syosset.”
When the Postmaster General made the name change to “Syosset” official, newspapers across Long Island congratulated the residents of Oyster Bay for losing their unappealing name and reclaiming their Indian roots.
One year later, a US Coast Survey map of Long Island identified the harbor adjacent to the former Oyster Bay as “Oyster or Syosset Bay.” A subsequent Colton map labeled the village “Oyster Bay or Syosset.”
Meanwhile, within the community formerly known as Oyster Bay, there was bitterness between those who had successfully lobbied for the name change and those who felt they should have been consulted before such a drastic step was taken. In 1848, a large delegation of the village’s residents voted to restore the old name of Oyster Bay.
The (Real) “Syosset” Connection
This might have been the end of the name “Syosset” had the Long Island Rail Road not agreed, in 1854, to extend its main line from Hicksville to Cold Spring Harbor. LIRR planners determined that the most direct route for this extension would be through the sparsely populated farming community commonly known as East Woods. Ultimately, the project stalled, but not before track had been laid as far as Willis Avenue, just west of today’s Jackson Avenue. In the end, the out-of-the-way farming village between Hicksville and Cold Spring Harbor became the terminus of the LIRR’s new branch. To ensure that its efforts would not be wasted, the LIRR decided to establish an official stop in this community, but first needed to confirm its proper name.
While most identified the hamlet as East Woods, some referred to it as Ketchams, after a well-known merchant from the area. Others called it Locust Grove, a name that had been used to describe the area just north and south of Jericho Turnpike. Still others referred to the area as Buckwheat, a reference to the buckwheat fields that skirted the new train tracks. Ironically, even with all the new information available, unraveling the reason for the railroad’s choice of “Syosset” requires some speculation.
Because East Woods did not appear capable of supporting a railroad station on its own, it is logical that the LIRR wanted (and needed) to draw farmers and businessmen from the closest established community. In keeping with its typical method of assigning station names, the LIRR likely consulted the most recently produced maps, which still listed the nearest large village as “Oyster Bay or Syosset.” Several businesses and organizations formed in Oyster Bay during the period of 1846-1848, in fact, still attached the name “Syosset” to themselves, and many Oyster Bay residents had continued to call the hamlet “Syosset” for years after the name change was reversed.
Ultimately, the railroad company named the station near Jackson Avenue “Syosset,” and, from the day the line opened in July of 1854, the New York Times and the Long Islander newspaper began referring to our hamlet as the same. One year later, when the US Postal Service established a post office in Philetus Ketcham’s general store on Jackson Avenue and named it “Syosset,” all debate as to the “official” name of the community was put to rest. Henceforth, we were Syosset.
Although Syosset does have some very impressive pine trees, sadly, it is not “The Place In The Pines” described by the Native American word, Suwassett -- which, in fact, was never associated by Native Americans with the place we now call Syosset. Even harder to accept is that the word “Syosset” has no Native American roots at all and, in actuality, was not a real word…in ANY language!
This sheds new light on the late 1990s debate about the use of the name “Braves” by many of Syosset’s athletic teams. Ultimately, those who contended that the name and the accompanying mascot were a fitting tribute to the early inhabitants of our area won out and the name remained. However, given the strongly convincing argument that the word Syosset is more likely of Dutch derivation than anything else, perhaps it is time to reconsider our team names altogether. “Let’s Go, Syosset Schouts!” anyone?
Syosset, A Great Long Island Town Edit
Syosset is a popular place to live. If a home goes up for sale, it can sell in a day with many bidders if priced correctly. The demand for living in Syosset is one of the highest in Long Island due to three key factors:
- Syosset School District is one of the three most popular school districts on Long Island due to excellent graduation statistics of an exceptionally high number of students going on to a four year college. The ratings are also high due to the high number of students taking Advanced Placement exams. The district is large and serves Syosset, Woodbury, Muttontown, and parts of Oyster Bay Cove. A small number of Plainview residents also are zoned for Syosset schools. Some of the reasons the district is appreciated are:
- Many high achieving students
- Bussing for every student
- Active teacher initiation of tutoring for students
- Extensive second language programs with good results for students
- Doubling of class instruction for students in their weakest subject
- Special planned award dinners and social events for student achievement
- Coaches that are very attentive to safety concerns on trips, who often hold meetings with parents to describe travel procedures.
- Syosset - One of the Nations Lowest Crime Rates
Syosset is a family oriented community, mainly surrounded by other low crime residential neighborhoods. Driving through, you will rarely if ever see typical teenagers standing around. Nearly every student is highly engaged in school, sports, and planned activities even through upper teen years. It is an exceptionally productive community and students have exceptional peer support with little or no negative distraction. Sports initiations or teenage drinking efforts very rarely occur, and are discovered early and thwarted by on-guard parents on rare occasion.
Syosset Media Edit
Patch Media, an Aol local news initiative, will launch Syosset.patch.com in March 2010. The site, which will be edited by former Long Island Press Associate Managing Editor Josh Stewart, will be an addition to the 30-plus Patch.com sites already covering locales in Long Island, New Jersey, Connecticut and Westchester.
Well developed Sports Programs Edit
In addition to Lacrosse, Wrestling, Football, The Track team of Syosset High boasts two recent All American players.
Syosset Properties and Homes Edit
Although above the median price for housing, Syosset residents enjoy living amongst many of the large Gold Coast estates in the surrounding community. Top schools, access to the Oyster Bay Harbor within minutes, yet immediate access to trains, and main road routes make it exceptionally conducive to both family life and business. There are beautiful older traditional homes in and around Syosset. Top rated restaurants are everywhere you drive and seldom close. The joke is that no one cooks in Syosset/Woodbury. Restaurants, quiet by day, come alive with completely filled parking lots when residents return. We should also add the that property taxes are no joke and if you intend on moving to Syosset be prepared to be robbed.
Syosset Real Estate Edit
There are dozens of real estate brokers in the town of Syosset. The right space and price of commercial real estate are important as is understanding the market. When a business goes out of business in Syosset, it seems to be in 10 minutes. Either that or they stay forever. No matter what. For instance there are stores you would imagine would have no customers at all. Yet they remain on and sometimes make changes in their shop windows lazily.
Strong community support of education and sports programs, make Syosset an ideal place to live, work and raise a family.
Syosset Village Edit
The main town in the middle of Syosset is not too fancy. It looks like a bunch of old fashioned German buildings with pointed roofs on the individual connected stores curving around a bend in the road. Old, but not qualifying for quaint as much as is quirky, the town is hodge-podge of oddities. The stores are patronized heavily regardless of the lack of or defiance of ambiance. I personally enjoy the messy village.
Stores of Syosset Edit
Lacking in department stores, Syosset has a busy 24 hour CVS that carries cheap holiday gifts like stiff slippers, the equivalant of Old Spice cologne, cheap candies, and holiday decorations. After Christmas one can make off with these items at 75% off. They fly off the shelves apparently needed severely for next year.
The owners hail from Russia and run a tight ship. Breakfast (eggs or pancakes)come in a silver tin, with free bagel and coffee for about $3. The bagelmaster owners are not the original but the store makes a claim for inventing the world famous "Flagel" now used everywhere since being invented in Syosset. The big flat bagel is crispy with no doughy inside. The new owners are feisty and will not hesitate to speak up if a patron annoys them. They have easily kept the Syosset crowd and actually improved it. Lines wrap around in the busy part of the morning and on a crowded Saturday a car could wreck easily in the small lot.
- Home Depot
Home Depot of Syosset is the treasure we have all been waiting for. The Home Depot of Syosset has no lines. It is a semi "mini" Home Depot, which will eventually evidence itself when searching for tile, windows, doors, etc.
Restaurants of Syosset Edit
- Cardinali's of Syosset- The Italian Bakery
Even the regionally renowned Cardinali's bakery has an aging pink sign that needs replacing. But inside.. there is a phenomenal bakery with special soft Italian style home made Ice Cream (Gelato) in a multitude of fun flavors. Most popular is the Gianduia "JANDUIA" or Chocolate Hazelnut. Too delicious for words. They have another turning case of homemade ices scooped back fancily into the fruits used for the flavoring. Oranges, Lemons, Coconut halves, Pineapples etc.. The other half of the store patrons can sit in and have fresh cappuccino with the bakery items they order at 11:30 at night on a weekend. Few bakeries offer such service on Long Island. Even when closed you can see a small smoke stack going on the roof, from the mass baking they must do in the basement as they also supply other retailers. If you visit, try their Italian cheese cake and cappuccino and get a small table by the window to relax and take a break. Cardinali's also serves as one of the only "Good Coffee" places in Syosset village.
- It's Greek To Me
Syossets only Greek Restaurant sits on the side of the main road going from the main road of Jericho Tpk up into the village. They are sweet proprietors who make a good Greek Salad and flavorful Chicken Souvlaki.
A older Italian place just before you get to the village stores. Old red and brown interior. Stucco ceilings, dollar bills on the ceiling and a decent crowd at night. Intelligent looking people professional may be found dining at the bar probably after getting off the train after work. The place looks very 1970 ish and holds its own as do the other local restaurants. Chicken parmigian is their dish with homemade chunky chicken breast - obviously not premade.
Further North in Syosset are the following little/medium sized restaurants.
Mims is a cool place for evening drinks and appetizers. By day a few ladies may have lunch then cheat on their husband after.
Angelinas has a valet ready to park your car for the restaurant immediately to your east on the small winding road heading north out of Syosset toward Oyster Bay Cove. When you look carefully the restaurant front is actually the side of a converted residential house that is on the corner between the winding road and a side street. The place somehow feels dressy despite that fact and the service is and atmosphere are nice. Food is excellent.
- El Parral
This Spanish restaurant serves Paella with seafood, chicken sausage, clams, etc. Very good stuff. Again the dimly lit circa 1976 restaurant is at the end of a in a down trodden mini strip of tiny stores going north on Berry Hill road (Same as Jackson- just more north and right at the fork). In the strip is a paint store, printer and not too much else. Yet at night, the small lot is full. The restaurants earn their keep with fresh food, and do not appear compromised by high rents as they might be if on Jericho Tpk.
Syosset- Near or on Jericho Turnpike Edit
- Venezia Pizza
Owned by Afghani proprietors, that look Italian. The pizza is fine. Do not tell the owner that it is as good as if made by an Italian. He goes nuts with incredulous outrage that Italians do not make better Pizza. Haha. Go at lunchtime and there are more varieties that look very neat. The eggplant parmigian pizza is the big hit. Don't miss it.
- Marios Pizza
Also on Jericho Tpk in Syosset, on the south side in the Blockbuster strip there are all kinds of big Pizza slices. Baked ziti slices are just wild and crazy. And good.
- The Kam Garden
Another downtown "unpretentious" atmosphere that is here to stay. The cheap buffet has warning signs not to overfill past the ability to close the white plastic top of the to go container. The ribs are way too red. The food is so less than average, but quick to get and they are doing an amazingly consistent business near the train.
This is the one! Sushi and sashimi cannot be beat. So good. There is a difference and this is where it can be found. Simple restaurant. Nicer atmosphere because it is in the Syosset Plaza right off the Rt 135 expressway and on Jericho Tpk. This is syossets only quasi above average strip mall. Get the sashimi lunchbox before 2:30 or you will be sent back out.
- Ralphs Ices
This place looks horrible as it is a shack way down the Jericho Tpk. almost near if not bordering on Jericho in the long road strip no one seems to want to dress up. On the shared lot of a body shop, and next to a bright yellow deli posing cheap breakfast specials and heros, This Ralphs got off to another phenomenal Syosset start. Syosset residents leave the residential area, travel west on Jericho Tpk. endanger themselves trying to turn left across the busiest part of Jericho Tpk going around a fast curve.. to struggle to find a spot in the lot shared with four mismatched entities (RVs, Fine Italian Restaurant, Old body shop, cheap Deli) so they may all wait on a wrap around line in August for an ice. I do this often.
Competition to Ralphs? No. The people look completely different at both places and are not the same customers. The Ralphs people are all thin. Friendlys Ice Cream.. not all thin but vary in size. They have a mean double chocolate icecream which blends well with pecan, which will tempt you if you go there.
The Syosset Movies Edit
There is no movie theater in the whole town. Blockbuster or cable are the residents access to convenient movies. That or travel to the newly opened movies in north Jericho. But Blockbuster closed, so...
Syosset Art Edit
I have found no sign of art in Syosset. Travel down to Woodbury for art in local galleries. Syosset has a large framing shop that sells inexpensive prints, or frames your art.
Syosset Business Edit
Syosset business groups are many. The main groups include the Syosset Chamber of Commerce and the Kiwannis club.
The Highly Controversial Syosset Mall Edit
Picketing, lobbying, letter writing... to stop the Syosset Mall from coming to the part of Syosset that is very far south of the village and south of Jericho Tpk area, all the way over by Jericho and the Long Island Expressway at the sight of an old polluted superfund site known as the Cerro Wire plant. They are cleaning it up and plan to put an upscale mall with high end retailers and nice cafes.