Things That Just Did Not Happen…

Things That Just Did Not Happen…

I am intrigued by plans and proposals that do not come to fruition. For example, the useless sidewalks found in the woodlands of Blue Heron Park that harken back to the prosperity and real estate boom of 1920s Staten Island. Throughout the borough there are traces and clues of things that simply did not happen. Owing to this fact there are untold volumes of paper plans, proposals, and projects that never occurred weighing down the shelving of archives across the island.

Steerage Hospital Hoffman Island early 1900s Bains LOC

Steerage Hospital, Hoffman Island, early 1900’s. Originally, the islands were to be used for quarantining immigrants with contagious diseases.

One of my favorite proposals that never happened, (I am being sarcastic of course) was the 1960s plan to landfill the bay between Swinburne Island, Hoffman Island, and South Beach. Granted it would have resulted in an abundance of parkland, this proposal was one of the strangest ever suggested. It would be accomplished by using “clean fill.” (An oxymoron if ever there was one.) “Clean fill” being garbage—when is garbage ever clean? This questionable accumulation of matter would also be used to create additional acreage along the shoreline from South Beach to Tottenville. Had this been achieved the beach fronts would not be recognizable to the average citizen today. Now I know that extra real estate has been created on many occasions, both here and in the other boroughs by using down and dirty garbage, but really, hasn’t Staten Island had enough close encounters with trash of every kind? Fortunately, both of these proposals subsided into the refuse of unsound submissions.

DEC Pouch Camp Sign 2015 P Salmon

The “Boy Scout Camp” is one of several nature-related properties enjoyed by groups and the public within the Greenbelt. Photo by – Patricia Salmon, 2015.

One plan that has yet to die an eternal death is the Richmond Parkway. One section was constructed. Two sections were not. Thankfully so as otherwise the Parkway would have ribboned right through our very own Staten Island Greenbelt. As most know, or those who are concerned know, the Richmond Parkway still exists on paper. In other words, it is still mapped. Hence it is a real and sincere threat to this central oasis of Staten Island land.

One of the Richmond Parkway’s “sister-roads” was never built. Originally, the Shore Parkway or Shore Front Drive would trail along paralleling the waterline from Tottenville to Fort Wadsworth. A later incarnation proposed that it race around the entire island creating a roadway ring to speed motorists. Of course most students of street and highway construction know “if you build it they will come” with the result that all will be “bumper to bumper.”

Crow chiefs at the groundbreaking National American Indian Memorial, Ft Wadsworth (l-r) White Man Runs Him (ca

Crow chiefs White Man Runs Him, Plenty Coups, and Medicine Crow at the groundbreaking.

According to Staten Island’s most esteemed historians William T. Davis and Charles W. Leng an Indian Memorial was to be erected at Fort Wadsworth. It never was. Proposed for installation at the eastern threshold of Fort Tompkins facing Brooklyn, a dedication occurred on February 22, 1913, with thirty-three Native American chiefs in attendance. United States Commander in Chief William Howard Taft made the scene and it was this President who turned the first shovelful of dirt. According to Mr. Davis and Mr. Leng: “the knoll which was to have supported its towering height is still waiting the execution of a pleasing thought with which the late Rodman Wannamaker was possessed.”[i] Gentlemen knew how to be polite in those days. Department store wizard Rodman Wannamaker was the individual who initially went wild about the monument. Unfortunately, his enthusiasm faded as did the years. Interestingly, the idea of a Native American Monument at the fort has resurfaced owing to the efforts of Margie Boldeagle. She has been actively working for more than ten years to convince National Park Service administrators that the monument needs to be installed.

The LNG or Liquefied Natural Gas Tanks in Rossville were never filled—and with good reason. A smaller partially submerged version owned by Texas Eastern blew up in the Bloomfield section of Staten Island on February 10, 1973. (I can still hear the window panes rattling in my childhood home on Merrill Avenue when the tank exploded.) Forty laborers were cleaning the interior of the tank when the blast occurred.[ii] The workers never had a chance. Borough residents were horrified and quickly coalesced to fight against filling the liquefied natural gas tanks that were hovering over Rossville and the Arthur Kill River. I remember my brother Frank marching in protest against these looming behemoths. The movement against the LNG tanks was led by Gene and Edwina Cosgriff who practically lived in the shadows of these frightening containers. The Cosgriff had mobilized quickly and established a group called B.L.A.S.T. It stood for “Bring Legal Action to Stop Tanks” and they were successful. It took more than thirteen years, but loading the Rossville tanks with volatile liquefied natural gas never happened. These useless, rusty reminders still stand sentinel today.

Strange as it reads an X-rated district was proposed in the community of Stapleton. The extinction of that idea was a blessing and it led to the formation of the Mud Lane Society for the Renaissance of Stapleton. Proposed in 1977 by, of all entities, the City of New York, Stapleton was selected as this island’s location for legalized pornography as part of a plan to centralize X-rated businesses in each borough. Three-hundred irate citizens rallied to fight the proposal and they succeeded in squashing this ridiculous request.

There are many more initiatives that have never come to completion on Staten Island. A future blog will focus on these mysteries of the past. In the meanwhile, can you name any other Staten Island schemes, plans, or “visions” that have never came to fruition? Do tell…

For further information on the Mud Lane Society for the Renaissance of Stapleton please visit and like the group’s Facebook page. Be sure to visit their website at http://www.mudlanesociety.org/

[i] Leng, Charles W. and William T. Davis. Staten Island and Its People. Volume II. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1930.

[ii]Staten Island Advance. “40th Anniversary of Explosion at LNG Tanks.” February 10, 2013.

 

32 Comments

  1. Patricia Salmon
    Jun 8, 2016

    Special thanks to Gina Sacco for proof reading this blog! 🙂

    • Gina Sacco
      Jun 8, 2016

      You’re quite welcome!

      • Patricia Salmon
        Jun 8, 2016

        🙂

    • Mary Gagliotti
      Jun 8, 2016

      Unsettling to know that the Parkway is still mapped through the Greenbelt. There are many that blame the traffic on the island to the Verrazano bridge, and secondarily to the non-completion of the parkway and would do anything they could to see that completed. What a shame that would be.

      • Patricia Salmon
        Jun 8, 2016

        I totally agree Mary. We have to remain vigilant. Which is a difficult thing since information on community plans and proposals is scarce. That is why I remind people of organizations like Protectors of Pine Oak Woods (siprotectors.org). They are also on FB. Cliff Hagen is president. He is active and intelligent as are Ellen Pratt, Elaine Croteau and the rest of the board. Thank you for writing Mary!

        • Mary Gagliotti
          Jun 8, 2016

          Yes, I do follow their page on FB.

  2. Patrick MacDonald
    Jun 8, 2016

    While I have never had the pleasure of actually seeing Staten Island in person, I completely enjoy learning about it’s history. Sometimes quirky, but always fascinating. Thank you.

    • Patricia Salmon
      Jun 8, 2016

      You’re not kidding Patrick! It is very quirky at times. You might be interested to know that Staten Island once had a professional football team called the Stapletons. They were named after the community of Stapleton where their stadium once stood. They were soon dubbed “The Stapes.” The team played within the NFL from 1929 until 1932. Hall of Fame member Ken Strong was on the team. When next you are in Binghamton we should take a trip to Staten Island and I will show you around. There is no Valley of Fire, but there is plenty of history 🙂 Good to hear from you Patrick. I hope all are well!

  3. Gina Sacco
    Jun 8, 2016

    Hi Pat, you mentioned the plans for the Richmond Parkway. Are these plans to build it still a possibility since it is still mapped? Thanks you!

    • Patricia Salmon
      Jun 8, 2016

      Hello Gina. It is a real possibility that the Richmond Parkway can still be built since it is still mapped. Plus, many Staten Islanders want it constructed. They believe that the additional roadway will improve traffic congestion on the island. But it has been proven that traffic only increases in urban areas when more highways are built. Staten Island needs improved public transportation. Protectors of Pine Oak Woods has been fighting to prevent the completion of the Richmond Parkway for many years. You can learn more about this important group at siprotectors.org Thanks for writing Gina!

      • Gina
        Jun 8, 2016

        Thank you for the information!

        • Patricia Salmon
          Jun 8, 2016

          My pleasure Gina!

  4. Mary Gagliotti
    Jun 8, 2016

    Staten Island definitely needs improved transportation and willingness of drivers to abandon their cars. But improved transportation (other the the addition of or restoration of train lines) is still going to leave lots of people in lots of traffic on streets like Hylan Blvd, Forest Ave, etc.

    • Patricia Salmon
      Jun 8, 2016

      Restoration of the train lines is so important. Letters to the Borough President, council members and assembly members can really assist this effort. People using the express bus proves that the public will relinquish use of their cars especially since the streets of Staten Island get more congested everyday and every year. I have faith.

      • Eric Stork
        Jun 8, 2016

        The old South Beach rail line is gone forever now having homes and the VZ toll plaza built on the right of way. The North Shore line was studied for renewal with plans for an express bus line that could be later turned into a light rail. No word has ever come from the MTA on building it, complaints came forward after the city announced building the light rail in Brooklyn/Queens.

        Now there is a study for some West Shore light rail line planned to cross over into Bayonne. Either it will go nowhere after the study is done or beg the question why it would be built when the North Shore line would serve more people thus be more useful.

        • Patricia Salmon
          Jun 10, 2016

          Thank you for your comments Eric. You present several good points and observations. Plus, as I like to point out, nothing will get done until people speak up and let those with leverage know what we want. So I encourage all to do just that. Feel free to share any future information you come across. Plans and proposals, or lack of plans and proposals, are not coming to the forefront anymore so it is more important than ever to share knowledge. Thanks very much. Pat

  5. Mary Gagliotti
    Jun 8, 2016

    Growing up on Staten Island, we never fathomed driving into the city for our commute. So I see the express bus as a different case than the everyday “around SI traffic” from shopping center to shopping center.

    • Patricia Salmon
      Jun 8, 2016

      Yes, they are two different things now. I was thinking in terms of before express bus service many people drove into Manhattan to get to work (before 1965). I would like to think that with a combination of improved pubic transportation and increased traffic people would use buses and trains. It just gets worse and worse everyday. Five years ago I would give myself an hour to get from St. George to Tottenville. Today, I would have to give myself an hour and a half. It is so crazy. There has to be some relief. The other day I was on Rockland Avenue and it was bumper to bumper from Richmond Hill Road to Egbertville. Something has to give…

  6. Mary Gagliotti
    Jun 8, 2016

    Agreed! But I think the damage is already done with over-building and poor city planning.

    • Patricia Salmon
      Jun 8, 2016

      Over-building and poor planning… good subjects for a future blog Mary.

  7. Barbara Hemedinger
    Jun 8, 2016

    I learn new things about Staten Island everyday! Interesting…thanks!

    • Patricia Salmon
      Jun 8, 2016

      Glad you liked it Barb! 🙂

  8. Eric Stork
    Jun 8, 2016

    The proposed connection to the Brooklyn N/R line, I heard it was partly built once. The Staten Island end would connect both near the Tompkinsville station and around where the ball park now is. On the SILive website, sometimes people still call for it but you can roughly tell it will never happen, they would have to displace a lot of St. George and Tompkinsville residents and remove buildings to do it. Map shown at link.
    http://thethirdrail.net/0201/sirt8.html

    The link is part of a larger document with some history of the SI rail lines and pictures going back years.
    http://thethirdrail.net/0201/index.html

    Somewhere I have or had a link to a site that had maps of the smaller port railroads that once existed on Staten Island. They were separate entities from the SIRT. One of the really old one-of-a-kind engines used by a port line is supposed to be at a railway museum in New Jersey.

    • Patricia Salmon
      Jun 10, 2016

      Thank you for the additional information Eric. The Third Rail website is a wonderful site for historical railroad information. I consulted it for an exhibit about 19th century Staten Island railroads that I did. I think our last chance for a rail to Brooklyn went by the wayside when Moses would not allow trains across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge or along what became the Staten Island Expressway. Some of the early 20th century maps show a railway going through what is now the Greenbelt. Because they are on the map many people think they really happened and there we have another one for the “Did Not Happen” list!

  9. Ken Tirado
    Jun 9, 2016

    The X-rated Stapleton story might indirectly factor into how I got to own Killmeyer’s. When Guiliani was mayor he was re-zoning the five boroughs and consolidating the strip clubs and porno shops into designated commercial and industrial neighborhoods. I assumed this was part of a larger strategy to clean up Times Square. The Charleston area of Staten Island was a chosen site for this borough Indeed, the few topless bars in Midland Beach, Tompkinsville, and South Beach, all got shut down. It was around this time (1994-1995) that Cappy Simonson put the Century Inn on the market. It is my understanding that he was approached by several people interested in transforming the place into a strip club. Cappy had grown up in and around the Killmeyer building. His father had bought it in 1945. He would have none of it. When Cap heard our plan of making a family restaurant he chose us.

    • Patricia Salmon
      Jun 10, 2016

      Always good to hear from you Ken. Thank you for sharing that story. One wonders how Cap would feel about the housing developments in the Charleston area now. (Better than topless joints I suppose.) I remember meeting him during the mid to late 1980’s when I worked at Clay Pit Ponds. He showed us around the bar and talked freely about the neighborhood. We learned so much. I spoke to Mrs. Greenfield once on the telephone. She had a wealth of knowledge about the community and the Kreischer Mansion. I wonder if there are any Killmeyer’s left? Have any ever stopped in to see your place Ken? – Pat

  10. Ciro Compagno
    Jun 9, 2016

    Good evening:

    Another idea that did not happen was the rail tunnel between Staten Island and the rest of NYC. Having such a tunnel would have had a profound effect well before the VNB in 1964.

    There is a photo of a card of the tunnel idea posed as early as 1907. It was likely to expand the electrified subway rather than an extension of the steam-powered SIRT. The photo read:

    SECTIONAL VIEW OF TUNNEL TUBES UNDER THE NARROWS AS PER PLAN OF CHIEF ENGINEER SEAMAN OF THE PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION FOR THE FIRST DISTRICT.

    In the near future, similar tunnels to connect Port Richmond with Bayonne and St. George with Manhattan will be built, plans for which are under consideration.

    Under Kill van Kull to New Jersey in 1 minute.
    Under the Bay to Manhattan in 2 minutes.
    Under The Narrows to Brooklyn in 2 minutes.

    In 1919, The Scientific American reported on a major project that was bridging, as well as tunneling, New York Harbor from Staten Island to Manhattan.

    Shafts were sunk for constructing the subway tunnel on both sides of The Narrows. It’s believed rubble from the St. George Ferry Terminal fire filled in the Staten Island shaft in 1946. And, excavated material from construction of the VNB filled in the Brooklyn shaft in the early 1960s.

    There is map that shows the proposed tunnel south of St. George Ferry terminal to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. This was called the 67th Street Route.

    If interested, I have the above reference photos and maps.

    • Patricia Salmon
      Jun 10, 2016

      Hello Ciro. I would love to see the photos and maps. Is there any way you can scan them, or sections of them, and email or text them to me for posting here? Nothing like a good map! If you scan it you can also post it to a comment submission I believe… My email address is Pat@PatSalmonHistory.com My cell number is 917-608-6437. Thanks so much! – Pat

  11. Jenny Brown
    Jun 13, 2016

    Hi Pat-another great piece ! To add to Mr. Compagno’s input- Ed’s “Music of Olde S.I.”, included a piece titled “Ten Minutes To Broadway”, written by Clarence Gaskill. My Aunt Helen Volk remembered all of the words and music to this “protest song” sung at Boro Hall- it was a rousing piece aimed at getting a tunnel built from S.I. to Manhattan and sung by many Staten Islanders of the day.

    • Patricia Salmon
      Jun 14, 2016

      How cool is that?!?! Thanks Jenny. Would love to hear more about the song and Ed’s “Music of Olde Staten Island” if you would like to write a bit about both. Regarding the “Music of…” What it is? Why he did it? Where it can be found? It was a fascinating project and I know others would be interested to read more. Thanks!

      • jenny brown
        Jun 15, 2016

        Hi Pat, To get an idea of some of the music- parts 1 and 2 are on youtube-just type in Music of Olde Staten Island. Hope to see you soon! Love, Jenny

        • Patricia Salmon
          Jun 15, 2016

          Fabulous. I will check it out. Thank you Jenny!

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