The Village of Rockville Centre is inside the southwest part of the Town of Hempstead.
Near Rockaway, formerly a village for the Reckouackie Indians, in the late 17th century included what today is Rockville Centre, as well as Oceanside, Lynbrook, and East Rockaway. Population increased slowly through the 17th century, but with the erection of DeMott's Mill on Smith's Pond, Rockville Centre's position as a commercial center for the South Shore of Long Island began to emerge. The revolutionary fervor sweeping other parts of the thirteen colonies seemed far removed from the inhabitants of Near Rockaway, until June 1776, when a skirmish at DeMott's Mill turned neighbor against neighbor as the forces of independence swept through a fiercely loyalist community.
As the 19th century unfolded, perhaps the single most important event, other than incorporation, in transforming the hamlet into a thriving Village, occurred when Robert Pettit, in 1849, applied to the United States Post Office for permission to open a post office in his general store. Several names for this postal address were rejected in Washington, including Smithville, Smithtown, and Rockville, but the addition of "Centre" created what the Post Office agreed was a distinctive-sounding designation.
"Gentlemen wishing a county seat will find it to their interest to secure lots in said Village." With development came entrepreneurs who established newspapers, such as "The Picket," first published in 1865, with a distinct anti-South bias. It was "The South Side Observer," a successor paper which first touted the idea of a referendum on incorporation.
The Village Green is located on the site of the Wallace home. It is the setting for a variety of special events for residents, including summer concerts, springtime arts festival and holiday programs.
The arrival of the railroad in 1867 heralded the entry of Rockville Centre into the modern era. It was now possible to get into New York City faster and more frequently than had ever been possible by stage coach on the Jamaica Plain Road or by sailing ship from East Rockaway. By 1870, the local press was urging a home rule referendum.
Even before its establishment as a municipality, Rockville Centre enjoyed diverse services, including a volunteer fire company founded in 1875, a public library opened in 1882, and the South Shore's first high school, opened in 1892. South Side High School occupied the building and grounds which now house the Rockville Centre Municipal Building. The former high school, now Village Hall, erected a New York State historic marker in front of the building after its 100th birthday. It sets forth the building's place in the history of this Village and Long Island.
As incorporation and self-determination of municipal services dawned, Rockville Centre was a thriving community of 2,000.
Village History Reflects Its Growth and Stability The date: July 15,1893. The place: Atheneum Hall. The vote: 139 in favor, 79 opposed. With that, the citizens of Rockville Centre, Queens County, State of New York, took the first step toward the home rule and self determination.
Following ratification of the home rule referendum, the first Village elections were held on August 19, 1893, and John Lyon was elected Village President. This title, for the Village's chief elected official was changed to Mayor in 1925, during the tenure of Charles Richmond. Mr. Lyon was joined on the Village Board by Edwin Wallace, Edwin Seabury, Glentworth Combes, Nelson Seaman, and John Runcie. The first Village Board meeting was held on August 26, at the Wallace home on Maple Avenue.
The First water and electric utilities building on the south side of Maple Avenue was constructed on land obtained by the Village from Captain Edwin Wallace. Water service started in 1895, and the electric generating plant began operations at that site in 1898.
The original steam generator used to pump Village water is on display at the utilities complex on Maple Avenue.
The motivating force behind the creation of a municipal water utility was concern for controlling the spread of fires. In 1895, residents approved the levy of a water tax to construct a water system. The Water Department was established on land donated by Trustee Wallace, where it still stands today. Originally, water mains were installed in the downtown business district, and gradually, residential pumping was added to the system.
The original wells were about deep while water is pumped today from 10 wells nearly deep, and enters the distribution system under pressure from storage in four towers that collectively hold nearly 4 million gallons.
At the outset, the power plant averaged 206,182 kilowatt hours of power per year to 285 customers. Today, with the continuing upgrade of the generators, and the Village's access to hydropower supplied by the Power Authority of the State of New York, Rockville Centre's Electric Light and Power provides more than 10,000 residential and commercial customers with approximately 170 million kilowatt hours of power each year, at rates substantially below any other electric utility in the region.
The out front philosophy is still evident as the Village works to complete an electric enhancement project which will ensure Rockville Centre's continued access to safe, efficient and economical electric power.
Back in 1925, the Long Island Rail Road ran at ground level, through downtown Rockville Centre. Front Street was wide enough at that time to permit two-way traffic with sufficient space in the center to provide some convenient parking for some residents commuting to NYC.
Throughout its first 35 years, Rockville Centre grew and prospered. The expansion northward and the advent of residential development in the late 1910s and early 1920s resulted in the creation of a Building Department, and sewers were installed in the late 20's. In 1926, the Village was one of the first Long Island communities to install traffic lights, and by 1928, the Rockville Centre Police Department was completely motorized.
The year-round programs attracted 1900 boys and girls, ages 5 to 18, in 1956; today's extensive recreation schedule of classes, events, and facilities' use is enjoyed by every age group, from toddler to senior citizen. In 1992, more than 10,000 residents utilized the Recreation Center and the Village's parks.
The safety and convenience of having the railroad tracks run overhead has narrowed Front Street. The increase in the number of LIRR commuters has been accommodated at the parking fields built by the Village during the forties and fifties in areas near the station.
During the mid-50's, the Village built commuter parking fields, and augmented existing lots to provide space for the explosion of automobiles experienced in the post-war period. It successfully urged the State to complete the rerouting of the Sunrise Highway/ Merrick Road intersection, to eliminate a hazardous entry into the Village, and it approved preliminary plans to eliminate substandard housing in the west end of the community.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre was established in 1957.
Rockville Centre’s public school district consists of five elementary schools which include: Watson, Covert, Wilson, Hewitt,and Riverside In addition to the elementary schools, Rockville Centre also consists of South Side Middle School and South Side High School
In 2008, South Side High School was again ranked in Newsweek's The Top of the Class: The complete list of the 1,300 top U.S. schools, this year at #42. Year after year, RVC has maintained this distinction, at #44 in 2007, #32 in 2006, #45 in 2005 and #65 in 2003.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the village has a total area of 3.4 square miles (8.7 km²), of which, 3.3 square miles (8.5 km²) of it is land and 0.1 square miles (0.2 km²) of it is water. The total area is 2.38% water.
There are 9,201 households, out of which 33.9% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 59.1% are married couples living together, 9.0% have a female householder with no husband present, and 29.7% are non-families. 26.9% of all households are made up of individuals and 13.7% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.64 and the average family size is 3.25.
In the village the population is spread out with 25.8% under the age of 18, 5.8% from 18 to 24, 26.2% from 25 to 44, 25.9% from 45 to 64, and 16.3% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 40 years. For every 100 females there are 87.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 81.9 males.
The median income for a household in the village is $79,345, and the median income for a family is $103,315. Males have a median income of $70,149 versus $43,800 for females. The per capita income for the village is $40,739. 5.0% of the population and 2.8% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 7.0% of those under the age of 18 and 5.7% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.