Questions from Mexico…

Questions from Mexico…

A journalist from Mexico recently contacted me regarding Staten Island. He asked me what made the borough different from the rest of New York City? He also wanted to know what the island and the other boroughs had in common? A book could be written in answer to his questions, but this was my response. Please let me know what you think should be added?

Staten Island is different from the rest of New York City for a number of reasons. The borough is a bedroom community that is, for the most part, financially dependent on the City of New York. Many of the island’s residents work and commute to Manhattan, and to a lesser extent, the other boroughs.

A view of Wall Street by August Kollner, 1847.

Many inhabitants are employed on “Wall Street” in the Financial District. Others work in mid-town, while vast numbers of Staten Island citizens are police officers, firefighters, and sanitation workers who are stationed throughout the five boroughs. Numerous other individuals have civil servant and non-civil servant positions with the City of New York. As such, countless islanders have long commutes and are greatly affected by mass transit, infrastructure conditions, tolls, express bus fares, and traffic. There are some who live on the south shore, especially around Tottenville, Huguenot, and Prince’s Bay, who sometimes travel three-hours one way—either to or from their jobs. This is a rare, but not an unheard-of occurrence.

Opening day of the Verrazano Bridge, November 24, 1964.

In conjunction with a lengthy commute all are concerned with the constantly rising bridge tolls. Crossing the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge is a ridiculous $17 round trip, but there are resident discounts, so never forget that E-Z Pass tag!

While the Staten Island Ferry is free, it is costly and/or a challenge to find parking near the terminal as most residents do not rely on the borough’s bus system. They are slow and time consuming especially for south shore residents. Many travelers also dislike the ferry and its sloth-like movement across the harbor.

Adding to the frustration of commuting is the lack of a subway system. Historically, there were attempts to connect Staten Island to Brooklyn and Manhattan via a subway, but for various reasons this never occurred.

Certainly, there are positive reasons for living on Staten Island. One is the abundance of one and two-family homes, some with backyards. Not to mention that many of these homes are considered to be affordable for New Yorkers.

Recreational plusses for living on Staten Island are many. Numerous beaches are available and there is more parkland on the island then in any other borough. Nature parks are prominent and include the Staten Island Greenbelt, Blue Heron Park, Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve, and others.

There are three colleges including the College of Staten Island, Wagner College and a branch of Saint John’s University. Wagner College is often cited as having one of the most scenic campuses in the United States, while the abundance of open space at the College of Staten Island is unique for a New York City school. Of course, all three schools are known for their academic offerings.

There are a number of elementary and secondary schools on Staten Island that are excellent. These include PS 30–the “Westerleigh School” and Staten Island Technical High School.

The island is ethnically diverse. Historically, there have been large populations of Italian, Irish, Polish, Greek, and German-Americans. In the last fifty years they have been joined by immigrants from Russia, Liberia, Sri Lanka and Mexico, just to name a few.

In politics, the island generally votes Conservative-Republican, but this is not always the case. Some jokingly suggest it goes back to the encampment of the British during the Revolutionary War, but this lean happens for deeper reasons.

PS 30, “The Westerleigh School,” no date.

While the commute of many is somewhat arduous they have decided that the benefits of living on Staten Island outweighs the negative. In addition, to home ownership, parks and high-performing schools, one can add the fact that the crime rate is lower than in the other boroughs. Not as important, but still a plus, is the fact that there is usually parking when one comes home at the end of the day. In the City of New York that is a major plus.


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