The dream of Suffolk's five East End towns breaking away and forming their own county -- long-slumbering but never forgotten -- has sprung back to life.
They have introduced a bill calling for the creation of a bi-county commission to study creating the separate State of Long Island, and a companion resolution to create a Peconic County within that state.
It is, Thiele admits, "a long shot." But he said any study that brings attention to the region's unique economy and problems is always worthwhile.
Thiele said he was responding to a recent proposal by the Long Island Association, a Melville-based business and civic group, to study merging Nassau and Suffolk counties into a single Long Island County in a move to save money.
Thiele said he was concerned that the five East End towns -- Riverhead, Southold, Southampton, East Hampton and Shelter Island -- are so small they already lack significant representation in county government.
He said that, in a merged county of 2.8 million people, the 100,000 East End residents would get only one member in a county legislature of 22 districts.
The idea of creating a Peconic County has been talked about for 50 years. The high point came in 1997, when 71 percent of East End residents voted to create it in a nonbinding referendum.
Even then, there were no answers to key questions, such as how to pay for the county parks located on the East End, or for existing facilities, such as the Suffolk County jail or the county court buildings.