Shore by shore: A new look at Staten Island
To many, Staten Island is the borough of unrealized potential.
And along each of its shores, the waterfront has long been a symbol of the borough’s promise, its beauty and its shortcomings.
Residents marvel at the moonshine reflected in our harbors and cringe at ratty fences blocking sunset views. They remember the old South Beach with its Ferris wheel. They wonder aloud why Stapleton’s Home Port sits empty and undeveloped. They wish they could hop water taxis to Manhattan.
Drawn by the potential of Staten Island’s under-utilized coasts, the American Institute of Architect’s Regional/ Urban Design Assistance Team (R/UDAT) chose to visit Staten Island next month to create an unbiased, independent assessment that could shape its future.
The R/UDAT team (pronounced ROO-dat) will visit the borough Sept. 21 to 25, but locals have already started to provide input since the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce launched a survey on its Web site: www.itsashorethingsi.com.
Nearly a quarter of the 132 Islanders who took the survey at last count said they never take advantage of Staten Island’s waterfront.
About 60 percent said they do so weekly or monthly, with only about 13 percent accessing the coast every day.
“I have spent many summers getting in the car and driving to the Jersey Shore,” said one survey-taker, Lauren Kane of New Springville. “This summer, with the gas prices, we realized we have great beaches here that could have more restaurants and rides and could become more of a tourist draw.”
So Ms. Kane’s 9-year-old daughter ditched her training wheels and rode along the Boardwalk and Midland Beach this season, but her family can imagine more for the Island.
“I look at the houses along Arthur Kill Road and I want to take an eraser and erase those oil plants and give them something more beautiful to look at,” said the jewelry artist. “I’d like to improve parking at the Ferry. I’d like to have our own aquarium on Staten Island. And we could go back to our roots of being a place for summer vacations, to chill and commune with nature. Staten Island is gorgeous, and we as Staten Islanders have a really unique situation.”
Other survey responders said they would love to see a Whole Foods grocery store on the North Shore and outdoor shopping near the Ferry. Some suggested adding restaurants, sailing schools, kite rentals and recreational activities for kids.
Islanders said they love area views, watching boats pass R.H. Tugs in Livingston, the Alice Austen House in Rosebank, the Postcards Memorial in St. George and the Conference House in Tottenville.
Most said their use of the waterfront is limited by lack of access in their neighborhoods.
The survey remains available online and at the Richmond County Fair next month, both the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce and the Advance will be encouraging Staten Islanders to complete the survey. Look for a version of the survey in the Advance Shore sections after Labor Day.
Funding for the “It’s a Shore Thing” project was secured by Councilman James Oddo (R-Mid-Island), Borough President James Molinaro and the Staten Island Foundation.
For more information about the R/UDAT project, call the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce at 718-727-1900.
by Tevah Platt