Three residents who have lived in Inwood for a collective 59 years have joined forces to organize the eighth annual celebration of the Town of Hempstead hamlet. This year the event is dedicated to a longtime advocate of the community that was once known as Near Rockaway and Westerville.
Inwood Day will take place this Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Five Towns Community Center, at 270 Lawrence Ave. in Lawrence. The afternoon of family fun will include arts and crafts, games, food, music and prize raffles.
There will be soccer games on the Sadie E. Scott Recreation Field outside the community center, 3-on-3 basketball in the gym, pool and Ping-Pong in the game room and Zumba dancing outside, as well as obstacle courses and a bouncy attraction for children, and a deejay. Backpacks and school supplies will be distributed as well.
“Inwood Day is an amazing time for our community to come together and celebrate the community center and all of the services that we provide, and it’s a great time for families to meet each other if they don’t already know each other,” said Sasha Young, one of the organizers, who has lived in Inwood for 15 years. Young runs Gammy’s Pantry at the center, where food, clothes and other items are available for people in need.
“Everything this year is dedicated to Pete [Sobol], because of all the hard work he did for Inwood Day in the past and the Five Towns as a whole,” Young added. Sobol, a longtime Inwood businessman and advocate for the community, died in February, at age 64. He left an indelible mark on the hamlet as a community center board member, interim executive director and one of the creators of the Inwood 5K.
The money raised by the annual race supports college scholarship money for graduating Lawrence High School and other Five Towns students.
Considered one of the least wealthy communities in Nassau County, Inwood has a poverty level of 14.55 percent, compared with a countywide rate of 5.6 percent, according to U.S. Census figures. During the coronavirus pandemic, Inwood has recorded more than 2,200 cases of Covid-19.
“I think it’s very important, especially now, to come together to celebrate the community and ourselves,” said County Legislator Carrié Solages, from Lawrence, who represents Inwood. “We “deserve that day to just enjoy, as the community has been through so much, and there is a continuing Covid uptick.” Solages, who has been in the Legislature since 2012, has supported Inwood Day since its inception.
The first two celebrations were at Inwood Park, and since then the event has been held at the community center, which was once known as the Inwood Community Center.
First settled in the 1600s, the community, identical to many nearby areas, was once known as Near Rockaway. At a Town of Hempstead meeting in 1663, the community was named North West Point for its location in relation to Far Rockaway.
Another name change, to Westville, occurred in 1871. After unsuccessfully petitioning the U.S. Postal Service for a post office — there was already a Westville upstate — the community became Inwood, with that name receiving the most votes in a local referendum in December 1888. The following February, the Inwood post office was established.
Having lived his entire life within a 3½-mile span, born and raised in Far Rockaway and a resident of Inwood since 1998, David Hance has some historical perspective on the importance of Inwood Day.
“It brings the community together — it’s almost like school spirit, but it’s community spirit. Everyone comes together,” said Hance, the president of the Inwood Civic Association, who thinks of the community as a “great little town on the rise” as property values increase, he said.
“Everyone has stress like work or school, but we get together and have fun. We’re a diverse town, and I hope the different members are there this year.” Hance added that Pete Sobol was sorely missed.
Byron Alvardo Valiente, who has lived in Inwood for 21 years, said that Sobol was his best friend and mentor, and got him involved in the community. “This means a lot — it’s the biggest day for Inwood,” Valiente said, adding that he would be cooking at the event. “There’s never enough we could do to make sure everyone who comes to the event feels welcome and in the memory of Pete.”