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.

 

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