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Staten Island: Tales of the Forgotten Borough
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There's much more to do on Staten Island than merely turn around in the splendid new ferry terminal and catch the boat back to Manhattan. The Island has great trails and paths for biking and hiking, including the Greenbelt, the largest untouched natural preserve in New York City. Its parks and beaches are generally uncrowded. And there's a wide range of cultural resources and events for people of all ages and interests. The links below will bring you to sources of information about some favorites; all offer further information, including schedules and phone numbers. -- A. D. C.

Getting to Staten Island

Travelling around Staten Island

What to do once you are here

Arts and Culture




How to Get to Staten Island
drawing of bicycle
Many bus and subway lines in Manhattan terminate at or near the Staten Island Ferry Terminal at the foot of Battery Park, past the Wall Street district on Manhattan's southern tip. Take the world-famous Staten Island Ferry, now a free ride in both directions, the cheapest and best ocean voyage you'll ever experience. This ferry runs all night, 365 days a year; for the schedule, click on the link below. Extremely safe at all hours.

Link to Ferry Schedules

Alternative Link to Ferry Schedules

drawing of car

Prior to the terrorist attack on New York City of September 11, 2001, you could bring your car across on some but not all ferries, a really nice way to go. That service has been suspended until further notice. However, you can as always get here via four bridges -- the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, which connects to Brooklyn, or any of the three bridges linking the Island to New Jersey (the Goethals, the Bayonne, and the Outerbridge Crossing). Bridge tolls are $4-7 coming to the island; no charge for leaving.

drawing of bus
Weekdays during rush hours (and a bit before and after) you can come in from Manhattan or travel to it on several express buses. Here's a link to the MTA's schedules for the Manhattan-Staten Island Express Buses.

Link to Bus Schedules

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Travelling around the Island
drawing of bicycle

Great walking and cycling. Little auto traffic, spectacular views. (Staten Island is the highest point on the eastern seaboard). The North Shore -- stretching to your immediate left and right as you leave the Ferry terminal -- is rich with old houses and cultural attractions.

drawing of car

Staten Islanders often own cars; it's a big place (almost three times the size of Manhattan), parking is rarely a problem anywhere, and the city's bus and elevated-train service here remains somewhat erratic (though improving). Note: The Island has no street-cruising taxis, only radio-controlled taxi services. They're listed in the Yellow Pages. There's a taxi and jitney stand at the St. George Ferry Terminal; they're not metered, but charge by the zone; prices are a bargain by Manhattan standards. In my experience, they're all equally dependable, and I've heard no horror stories about them in all the years I've lived here. This may not be Kansas, Toto, but it ain't Bed-Stuy either.

drawing of bus
As just noted, sometimes undependable but getting better. Reasonably reliable through early evening. The system includes a comprehensive network of bus lines and an elevated train, the Staten Island Rapid Transit (SIRT), that runs a single route roughly down the middle of the Island. All begin and conclude their routes at the St. George Ferry terminal. Once you get off the Ferry you transfer free from any Manhattan bus or train line to any of the Island components of the MTA, and vice versa. For the MTA's official Staten Island Bus Schedules, click here. For the MTA's official Staten Island Railway Schedules, click here.
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What to do now that you're here
Arts and Culture
  • To begin with, spend a few minutes wandering around the new ferry terminals themselves; both the one here and its counterpart on the Manhattan side have fine design and attention to comfort, a first for these transit points.
  • The Staten Island Yankees - Baseball surely qualifies as culture in the Americas, north and south. And yes, we now have our own minor-league baseball team -- the Staten Island Yankees, a farm team of the fabled New York Yankees. With their own stadium, right next to the ferry terminal, overlooking New York Harbor and the southern tip of Manhattan. (And
  • On the east side of the ferry terminal, opposite from the stadium, you'll find the site of the forthcoming National Lighthouse Museum. Still under construction. No lighthouses in place yet, but a number of historic buildings to wander around.
  • Just a short walk from there we have the Staten Island September 11 Memorial, designed by Masayuki Sono to honor the 270 Islanders who lost their lives in that 2001 tragedy. Because many police, fire, and EMS personnel live here, the Island had the highest per-capita casualty rate of all the boroughs.
  • Head up the hill from there to the St. George Theatre, at 35 Hyatt St. Designed in 1929 by Eugene deRosa, it blends Spanish and Italian Baroque styles, and has undergone extensive renovation. Originally a vaudeville house, it subsequently served as a movie theater, and has since hosted everything from rock concerts to a poetry festival.
  • Snug Harbor Cultural Center, a unique place, combines visual and performing arts, parklands, botanical treasures, a nationally recognized children's museum, and a variety of cultural experiences in a setting unlike any other in this country. Explore a century of American architecture and discover New York's fastest growing center for the arts. Contemporary art, the Noble Maritime Collection, theatre, recitals, outdoor sculpture, and concerts are presented in landmark settings, as Snug Harbor includes over 28 historic buildings, a collection of 19th-century Greek Revival, Beaux Arts, Second Empire, and Italianate architecture. The Staten Island Botanical Garden, one of its constituent organizations, offers The New York Chinese Scholar’s Garden, a superbly crafted example of Ming design; The White Garden, inspired by Vita Sackville-West’s famous garden at Sissinghurst; and Connie Gretz’s Secret Garden, complete with a child-sized castle, a maze and walled secret garden. Kids will also enjoy the Staten Island Children’s Museum. (Over 70 organizations make their home at Snug Harbor.)
  • The Alice Austen House - With its spectacular view of the harbor and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, this place -- former home of Alice Austen, a serious amateur photographer and posthumously uncloseted lesbian, gives you a sense of how the other half lived at the turn of the century. The house includes a good selection of her photographs. You may run into more coming over on the ferry; one of the boats is named after her, and decorated with her images.
  • The Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art once offered sanctuary to the Dalai Lama (who politely declined), but opens its collection of Tibetan art and artifacts, and its cultural programming, to all.
  • Historic Richmond Town isn't a restoration on the scale of Colonial Williamsburg (yet). But it includes 15 restored buildings, among them homes and commercial and civic buildings, not to mention the oldest surviving schoolhouse in tthe U.S. Plus a museum. Civil War reenactments and other seasonal activities take place there year-round.
  • The Staten Island Institute of Arts & Sciences - Founded in 1881, S.I.I.A.S. is one of New York City's oldest & most diverse cultural institutions. Its exhibitions, programs, and collections focus on art, science and history. With more than two million artifacts (count 'em!) in its collection, the Institute is dedicated to Staten Island and its people. Special & exciting events for all ages include annual exhibitions as well as weekly & regularly scheduled events. The Institute & the collections are conveniently located within "walking distance of Lower Manhattan" via the Staten Island Ferry. Having served on its Board, I can vouch for this fine organization's quality. They'll be expanding into a major new site at the St. George Ferry Terminal, to be built within the next few years -- the first NYC museum of the 21st century.
  • Tattfoo Gallery. Within walking distance of the St. George Ferry Terminal you'll also find a fine space for contemporary art: Tattfoo Gallery, At 67 Monroe Ave. This space presents experimental artworks, performance art, live music, film screenings, and other events, with admission cheap or free. (The late, lamented Vlepo Gallery, formerly at 36 Richmond Terrace, maintains a web presence and continues to represent work by some Staten island artists.)
  • Then head down Bay Street, on foot or otherwise, toward the township of Stapleton and its Tappen Park. Not far past that, at 83 Harrison Street, you'll find 6 Gallery, a new space for art on Staten Island's North Shore (by appointment only: 718-981-1147/ that Jeff Kolasinski opened on June 4, 2005.
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  • The Conference House is the site where the first & only Peace Conference was held between Great Britain and America during the Revolution of 1776. Lord Howe, commander of the British forces, invited three members of the Continental Congress to this house in an attempt to stop the revolution -- these men were Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Edward Rutledge. This National Historic Landmark offers period furnishings, including a 17th-century working kitchen, and is open from March 15 through December 15.
  • The Garibaldi Giuseppe Museum - where the Abraham Lincoln of Italy lived in exile with the inventor of the telephone, Antonio Meucci, who opened his home to Guiseppe Garibaldi in the early 1850s. Alexander Graham Bell would subsequently steal Meucci's invention from him.
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  • Staten Island Botanical Gardens - Not to be missed while at the Harbor are the Staten Island Botanical Gardens, which lie within Snug Harbor's 83 acres. These include an English Perennial Garden, a Butterfly Garden, formal displays of annuals, a permanent Greenhouse Display of Tropicals and Orchids, specimen trees and shrubs; the grounds are also home to the first Chinese Scholar's Garden in the United States. A Pond Garden, Rose Garden, and Sensory Garden are currently under construction. Tours are available by appointment.
  • The William T. Davis Wildlife Refuge is ideal for all nature lovers in New York City. A 260-acre sanctuary, this refuge is located within the Greenbelt of Staten Island, which is a vast 2500-acre parkland that includes two adventurous hiking trails called the Blue Trail and the White Trail. The park is a preserver of many varieties and species of animal and plant wildlife. This would be a perfect outing for anyone who loves the serenity and calm of a wilderness environment. Tours, parking, and public transportation are available.
  • Clove Lakes Park - Think of it as Central Park without the crowds. Clove Lakes Park is the perfect place for picnicking, trysting, frisbee, or anything else you'd normally do in a park. Inside this vast 191-acre meadow, there are four lakes & connecting by streams where one can enjoy rowboating and freshwater fishing, as well as an outdoor ice-skating rink (in season). Clove Lakes also offers picnic grounds, playgrounds, a baseball field, nature trails, bridle paths, a cross-country course, and a restaurant.
  • Latourette Park & Golf Course of Staten Island is located in Staten Island's Greenbelt. This beautiful green park features an 18-hole golf course built upon 125 acres of land, complemented by 455 acres of woodlands. Golfers and visitors alike may relax in either the clubhouse or the restaurant. When in season, ski and sleigh hills are available. Amenities also include showers and lockers. Parking and public transportation are available.
  • The Greenbelt Conservancy is the umbrella under which all the above get sheltered, in partnership with the NYC Dept. of Parks & Recreation. Staten Island remains by far the greenest of the boroughs: 9300 acres of federal, state, and city parkland (roughly 25 percent of landmass), with 2800 of those in the Greenbelt, a mix of parks and nature preserves.
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  • South Beach & FDR Boardwalk - Still not swimmable, due to pollution (though it's gradually being recovered), South Beach is a huge sunbathing beach with a scenic view of the Atlantic Ocean and the Lower New York Bay. The F.D.R. Boardwalk along South Beach, recently renovated, is two and one-half miles long, which is the fourth largest in the world. Perfect for strolling and bicycling year-round. From October to May, fishing is also permitted.
  • Staten Island Zoo - The island has a small but first-rate zoo, known internationally for its herpetology collection (that's snakes to you, chum). They've posted a fairly frenetic website that's full of information -- but there's still nothing like being there at feeding time and watching dem reptiles chow down.

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Unless otherwise credited, all text and images in this newsletter
are © copyright 1997-2005
by A. D. Coleman. All rights reserved.

By permission of the author and
Image/World Syndication Services,
P.O.B. 040078,
Staten Island, New York 10304-0002 USA.