Long Island History

It was a highlight of my life.
Dennis Fabiszak, director of the East Hampton Library, sent an email last month saying: “I have great news. Your archive is now live. We currently have 3,401 documents included and we are scanning every day…Here is a direct link to the archive.”
What a thrill! After 55 years as a journalist on Long Island, all my files—thousands of articles and what historians call “primary documents”—are being digitized by the East Hampton Library to be available to anyone on Long Island and indeed the world.
They chronicle the modern history of Long Island which I’ve covered from 1962 to the present, for most of the years as an investigative reporter and columnist. My now nearly 50-year-old column, begun at the daily Long Island Press, has since The Press folded in 1977 run in weekly newspapers and now also on news websites. The material amassed derives, too, from my work as nightly news anchor on the island’s commercial TV station, WSNL67, and host of “Long Island World” on its PBS station, WLIW21.
It’s a great honor to donate all the material to the East Hampton Library. The title of the archive: “Karl Grossman Research Archive.”
The East Hampton Library is famous for its Long Island Collection.
As the library notes on its website: “What was once a room specially built in 1930 to house the personal collection of historian Morton Pennypacker is currently a 5-room research and study area containing a vast array of original, historic, as well as contemporary materials that chronicle life on Long Island from the seventeenth century to the present day.”
The “Long Island Collection’s holdings include photographs, postcards, whaling logs, diaries, account books, deeds, wills, genealogies, maps, architectural drawings, oral histories and newspapers. Various items of note include Native American documents and artifacts, the 1599 Gardiner family bible, the original deed to Shelter Island, the Captain Kidd ‘cloth of gold’ [presented by the pirate on a visit to Gardiner’s Island], and materials relating to the Culper Spy Ring.”
I’ve had a front-row seat as Long Island has exploded in population and gone through many changes—while, so fortunately, preserving much of its beautiful nature and the charm of its communities.
Some examples of what you and others can now start to access digitally:
Robert Moses was hell-bent between 1962 and 1964 on building a highway the length of Fire Island but was stopped by creation of a Fire Island National Seashore. I was in the middle of this story. All the documents—Moses’ declarations, the statements of Citizens Committee for a Fire Island National Seashore—and many, many articles, are all there.
The establishment by New York State of Stony Brook University was mired in “town-gown” conflict with some in the nearby area objecting to the university and its students. This culminated in an army of Suffolk Police streaming onto the campus at 5 a.m. on January 17, 1968 in a raid I covered called “Operation Stony Brook.” The police put out a 107-page manual, in my files, identifying student after student as a purveyor of drugs, mostly marijuana. One of the cops whose undercover activities, hanging out with Stony Brook students, led to the raid would later remark: “We were the first police department that ever had the nerve to hit a university.”
There are voluminous records and articles on a huge Suffolk scandal of the 1970s—the $1 billion Southwest Sewer District project. With sewering on again here, they offer lessons.
The Long Island Lighting Company spent decades seeking to build seven to 11 nuclear power plants with Shoreham the first. There are thousands of records of this ultimately defeated scheme to make Long Island what nuclear promoters called a “nuclear park.” I also wrote a book published by Grove Press on this nuclear push titled “Power Crazy.”
With development pressures intense, Suffolk created an extraordinary Open Space Program, the largest land acquisition undertaking of any county in the U.S., and a first-in-the-nation Farmland Preservation Program. Many documents and articles about them are in the files.
There were major campaigns for the secession of the East End of Long Island from Suffolk County to form a separate Peconic County, and there are records of these drives.
There was the scam about building a “deepwater port” in Jamesport. Excavation on a square mile of land along the Long Island Sound was proceeding full-tilt by 1970. But, in fact, what was involved was a gigantic sand mine, no port. I received the George Polk Award for my journalism’s role in stopping this. Then LILCO bought the land for four of its planned nuclear plants. And this was stopped in the 1980s. I was deep as a journalist in this phase of the saga, too. The land is happily now the site of Hallockville State Park.
If you’d like to support this archive project, please contact Mr. Fabiszak, at dennis@easthamptonlibrary.org, or call him at 631-324-0222, extension 7.

Filed in: Suffolk Closeup

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