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Staten Island: Tales of the Forgotten Borough
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Bye-bye, Miss American Pie

Who says there ain't no cure for the summertime blues? In the middle of the dog days (on August 1, 1997, to be precise), the malignantly perky and relentlessly wholesome Susan Molinari stepped down from her elected office as U.S. Congresswoman, leaving the House of Representatives for . . . a role as anchorperson for CBS News in one of the tube's vaster wastelands, the Saturday morning slot. Yep, right in there amidst the other cartoons with their equally canned laughter. Real justice may be hard to come by nowadays, but poetic justice remains a perennial bumper crop.

The fear, of course, is that the U.S. public -- or at least whatever segment of it watches the Saturday morning news on CBS -- will find something lovable in this appalling twerp and turn our Mustang Susie into the Rush Limbaugh of the preppie set. I don't think so, but I've been wrong before. Meanwhile, the price we'll pay for her departure from the hustings will be the inevitable comments during her network stint reminding the world that she comes from Staten Island.

It was embarrassing enough to have her introduced at the '96 Republican Convention as an Islander, all smug and smarmy as she pimped for that great American hero Bob Dole. But, high-profile as that seemed, at least it was a one-shot. This is every week, and if she doesn't catch the adult audience she may draw the kiddies with her remarkable impersonation of an all-American teenage babysitter on speed. I dread the thought that she'll be one of those unfortunate things for which the Island is perpetually known -- like the landfill, except worse. The garbage, after all, is created primarily by other people; but Susan Molinari is definitely Staten Island's own. It will take generations for us to live her down.

(August 11, 1997)

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Bigger Ain't Necessarily Better, but It's Still Bigger

Recently, under a pseudonym (since the paper doesn't accept letters from contributors, and I'm a regular columnist there), I sent the following missive to the New York Observer:

The New York Observer
54 E. 64th Street
New York, NY 10021

Dear Sir:

In "Hey! Do You Know Me? I'm Governor Pataki . . . ," your front-page story on who the public credits for introducing the Metrocard (August 4, 1997), Joe Conason refers to Staten Island as "the city's smallest and remotest borough."

By no stretch of the imagination can Staten Island's size be so described. Staten Island measures in at approximately 68 square miles, making it almost three times as large as Manhattan. One assumes, charitably, that your young reporter and your even younger fact-checkers simply do not know the not-insignificant difference between "smallest" and "least populous." Perhaps you will instruct them on this matter.

/s/Douglass Calland

To my considerable surprise, they ran it, in the issue datelined August 25-September 1 (Vol. 11, no. 33) -- but couldn't resist yet another jab at the Island, headlining it "Jumbo Shrimp."

"Remotest," of course, cannot be denied. Staten Island is physically closer to New Jersey than to any part of New York City. Indeed, New Jersey once laid claim to it; the dispute was settled by a boat race around the Island, won by New York -- to the great disappointment of many Islanders, then as now, who feel more allegiance to the Garden State than to the Empire State.

We've just celebrated the centennial of the Island's annexation - along with the other boroughs, it became part of "greater New York" (and, at the same time, enabled new York to call itself "greater") on January 1, 1898. It is the only borough with a serious secessionist faction, indicating that, for more than a few, "remote" constitutes a state of mind as well as a geographical fact.

And, while we're at it, why not add "highest" to the list of Island characteristics? Staten Island is the highest point on the eastern seaboard of the United States. Gives you paws, eh?

(January 3, 1998)

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are © copyright 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003
by A. D. Coleman. All rights reserved.

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