Staten Island, New York, once thought of as the ‘forgotten borough of New York City’, sits on the far southern border of the city limits. The opening of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge in 1964 made Staten Island much more accessible. Today, the population numbers 443,728 (Census 2000 data), almost doubling in size since 1970. Staten Islanders have made their home well worth remembering now.
Also known as Richmond County, Staten Island is approximately 14 miles long and 7 miles wide. The borough of Brooklyn lies half a mile away. Several bridges now connect Staten Island to the rest of New York City, one extending across the Arthur Kill to connect with mainland New Jersey. The Staten Island Ferry provides a relaxing 25-minute ride to the shores of commercially rich Manhattan, giving spectacular views of New York Harbor and our beloved Statue of Liberty.
Lying within the heart of Richmond County is the lovely Staten Island Greenbelt. In the late 60’s, as they lost their inaccessibility, Staten Islanders fought hard to preserve the natural unspoiled terrain of their home. They insisted on rerouting the planned Richmond Parkway, to protect a section of wild hillsides and low-lying wetlands. The result of their struggles is 2,800 acres of untamed beauty, where hikers and bikers can forget that they live in mammoth New York City. The Greenbelt is one of the largest natural areas remaining to New Yorkers. Here, birdwatchers track migratory flocks at the Davis Wildlife Refuge.
Numerous parks are part of the Greenbelt, where visitors can golf, swim, play tennis and learn archery. Three long fishing piers, two lake parks, and shimmering blue ponds keep anglers and boaters happy. Staten Island’s two beaches fill up with tanning tourists under the hot summer sun.
Staten Island claims the highest point in New York City and along the Eastern Seaboard south of Maine. Todt Hill rises almost 410 feet above sea level, and a long hike through woodlands covering the hill affords tremendous views of the harbor.
Many fine attractions await visitors to Staten Island, New York. Steeped in Revolutionary War history, the Conference House was the site of a 1776 peace conference, ending with our presenting the British with the Declaration of Independence. Staten Islanders halted the planned razing of this historic home, built in the 17th century; today it stands as a National Historic Landmark. Fort Wadsworth was one of the oldest military bases in the United States. Today it stays open to the public and contains the fascinating National Lighthouse Museum. The Staten Island Museum carefully preserves much of New York City’s history. The Sandy Ground Historical Museum honors the memories of the first community of freed slaves in America.
Children of all ages delight in the Staten Island Zoo, New York City’s ‘biggest little zoo’. It houses an internationally acclaimed reptile collection, an African Savannah exhibit and a South American tropical rainforest. The 53-acre Staten Island Botanical Gardens holds the distinction of having the first Chinese Scholar Garden in the United States. It is located within the Snug Harbor Cultural Center, an extraordinary New York Landmark with a collection of 26 preserved historic buildings from centuries ago. A Performing Arts Program here presents music, theater and dance year-round. The CSI Center for the Arts also provides Staten Island with exemplary cultural entertainment. Located in the College of Staten Island, five separate theaters hold fine performances.
Staten Island, New York has come a long way from being the ‘forgotten borough of New York City’. Residents here earn a median household income of $55,000 annually, more than $13,000 above national averages and compared to the $38,000 average of New York City as a whole. Four colleges now exist on Staten Island itself, while within a forty-mile radius, 131 institutes of higher learning await students. Rich with history and carefully guarded natural beauty, Staten Island is a place to remember.