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Thread: Staten Island Neighborhoods

  1. #1

    Default Staten Island Neighborhoods

    Living In | Grasmere, Staten Island

    Bucolic and Bustling, All at Once

    Mary DiBiase Blaich for The New York Times
    GRASMERE IDYLL Brady’s Pond is open for swimming and sunbathing to members of the private Cameron Club. The pond offers a sand beach, lifeguards, rowboats and swans.

    Published: September 5, 2008

    OFFERING a stop on the Staten Island Railway and a short drive to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, the Grasmere neighborhood in northeastern Staten Island has the singular advantage of convenience, according to residents.

    If this sounds like a charmless merit, evoking early morning crowds and the like, consider that the pride of Grasmere becomes more evident when the day is done — when the tidal flow of commuters washes back, away from the bustle of Manhattan and Brooklyn, to a neighborhood occupying less than a square mile with its own legitimate claim to the idyllic.

    Grasmere is bounded to the north by the Staten Island Expressway, to the east by Hylan Boulevard, the south by Hylan Boulevard and Old Town Road, and to the east by Targee Street and the neighborhood of Emerson Hill.

    A major attraction in the area’s northeast corner is Brady’s Pond, which covers 15 acres. The Encyclopedia of New York City describes it as the only freshwater pond within city limits to be fit for swimming. Complete with a sand beach, lifeguards and rowboats and pedal boats, the pond is the property of the private Cameron Club, which was formed in 1930 for members who lived within a prescribed area. Swans glide on the water’s surface against a backdrop of lush greenery and large houses.

    “You don’t even feel like you’re on Staten Island when you’re there,” said Jerry Smith, the club’s vice president. “It’s a jewel for many people in the area.”

    For residents of the streets lining the pond, the many charms are evident.

    The neighborhood’s original creators “were very selective when they made up the lake area,” said Gene Reilly, an 86-year-old widower and club member who on a recent morning sat reading the newspaper on the front porch of his two-story house on Hillcrest Terrace, a shady street near the pond where he has lived for 45 years. He pointed toward Clove Road, one of Grasmere’s main streets, noting that membership in the club was based solely on geography and that houses on the street’s far side did not have it.

    Mr. Smith, the club’s vice president, said it was difficult to determine the logic behind the map, pointing out that his own home, though not terribly close to the pond, is included in it.

    “It branches out to many streets in the area,” Mr. Smith said,
    encompassing about 400 area homes. Ninety-nine families are currently members and pay $500 yearly for access.

    It was the proximity to Brooklyn that originally brought Rhonda and Mario Romano to Grasmere. Mr. Romano owned a pizzeria in Bensonhurst, over the bridge, and convenience led them and their three sons to a home on Steuben Street, a four-lane street connecting Hylan Boulevard to the Staten Island Expressway.

    Seven years ago, with Mr. Romano now working closer to home, in Great Kills, they moved two blocks away to a four-bedroom four-bathroom brick colonial overlooking Brady’s Pond, at the end of a cul-de-sac on Delphine Terrace. “It was like a highway,” Ms. Romano said of Steuben Street.

    “And then we moved here, and it’s like a country house.”

    That difference reflects the variety of housing options in this neighborhood of about 6,500 people, from the quiet connecting streets — and “Dead End” signs near the water — to the small but growing condominium market.

    A few blocks south of Brady’s Pond is the smaller and less swimmable Cameron Pond, surrounded by modest ranches and gated homes of varying architectural styles.

    Stonegate at Grasmere, a condo complex off West Fingerboard Road, a main street bisecting the neighborhood, was completed in the early 1980s and remains Grasmere’s largest such development. The 313 units include two-, three- and four-bedroom town houses, said Laura Slavin, an account executive with Wentworth Property Management. “The setting of Stonegate is very country,” Ms. Slavin said. “The streets are very quiet. It’s a neighborhood within itself.”

    Across West Fingerboard Road are the offices of The Staten Island Advance, the borough’s daily newspaper, housed in a distinctive building of dark tinted glass set upon an orange brick base. On a recent morning, a man in running shorts passed through its doors, wordlessly placed two quarters on the receptionist’s desk, took a paper from a nearby stack and strode briskly out.

    “You have a vast array of different price ranges in the same neighborhood,” said Neil Litvin, the managing director of Robert Defalco Realty. In general, brokers say, Grasmere’s convenience has helped it to weather the economic slowdown, though sales prices have fallen and homes tend to linger as sellers come to terms with the market’s realities.

    The crop of luxury homes near Brady’s Pond, which can climb above $1 million, have remained relatively immune to such realities, said Paul Coglitore, a broker with Re/Max United.

    “Luxury homes have been keeping their value a little bit more,” he said.

    “People looking for a home like that are more in a position to pay for it.”
    This is often the case for pricier homes in Staten Island, Mr. Coglitore said, adding, “There is not a tremendous turnaround in those areas, either.”

    In the first half of 2008, Mr. Coglitore said, 37 units sold in Grasmere, with an average price of $437,500. By comparison, the first half of 2007 yielded 52 sales, with an average of $505,800.

    Mr. Coglitore said that houses a year ago averaged 111 days on the market, and today they average 127 days, a figure that led Mr. Litvin to characterize Grasmere’s current market as “very stable.” Rentals are scarce.

    Stonegate condos start around $325,000; larger units, listed last year for more than $500,000, now run about $479,000, Ms. Slavin said. Mr. Litvin, who lives in Dongan Hills but is moving to Florida, bought his first home, a three-bedroom Stonegate condo, in 1986 for $121,000, enjoying the tennis court and the pool. “It gave you the best of everything,” he said of Grasmere.

    Hylan Boulevard, at Grasmere’s southern and eastern borders, is the closest thing to a commercial thoroughfare, with several bakeries, restaurants and markets evoking the area’s Italian roots. Residents and brokers also mentioned restaurants and sidewalk cafes along Bay Street in nearby Rosebank, or the recently restored boardwalk at South Beach.

    The only park is Brady’s Pond Park, a seven-acre patch opposite the private beach. And Fort Wadsworth, beneath the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, is operated by the National Park Service, offering tours of fortifications used for more than 200 years to stand watch over New York Harbor.

    Grasmere is a stop on the Staten Island Railway, with a 10-minute ride to St. George, the stop closest to the ferry. The Staten Island Expressway at Grasmere’s northern border leads into the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

    Grasmere is well served by buses. The No. 78 runs to St. George, the 79 to Brooklyn via the bridge and the 20 express to Manhattan.

    David Vain, a broker with Talk of the Millennium Realty, said high gas prices made Grasmere more attractive.

    “If you’re buying a house somewhere in Staten Island, let’s say Tottenville, it’s going to take you 30 minutes just to get to the Verrazano Bridge,” he said. “By being in Grasmere, you’re right there.”

    For some residents, however, Grasmere’s convenience presents a downside. “Why should we be plagued with speeding and congestion,” asked Alyce Arniotes, president of the Grasmere Civic Association, “because we’re so close to the bridge?”

    Elementary schools include the William C. Wilcox School, Public School 48, on Targee Street, which teaches kindergarten through Grade 5. Of fourth graders last year, 92 percent met state standards in English and 98 in math, versus 61 and 80 percent citywide.

    One middle school option is the Michael J. Petrides School, on Ocean Terrace near Milford Avenue, teaching kindergarten through Grade 12 and accommodating special-education students. An Education Department quality review last year judged it “a school with many strengths.” Also last year 78 percent of its eighth graders met state standards in English and 81 in math, versus 43 and 60 percent citywide.

    Concord High School, on Rhine Avenue, teaches Grades 10 through 12 and had SAT averages last year of 401 in reading, 384 in math and 373 in writing, versus 438, 460 and 433 citywide.

    Roderick Cameron, a mid-19th-century developer, named the area for Grasmere, an English Lake District village. In the 1880s, Mr. Cameron sold land to Philip Brady, who harvested ice from the pond that would bear his name.

    Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

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    Default South Beach, Staten Island

    July 26, 2009

    Living In | South Beach, Staten Island

    Why Ask for the Moon? They’ve Got the Beach


    more pictures

    THE South Beach neighborhood of Staten Island may lack the glamour and bravado of its famous namesake in Florida, but in both places, it is safe to see the beach as the primary attraction.

    The beach is what drew Randy Iglesias from Yonkers 16 years ago, and it’s what keeps him satisfied with the neighborhood now. Several days a week, he runs along the Franklin D. Roosevelt boardwalk, or on the sand itself. “Literally, I just walk out my door and I’m there in two minutes,” he said. “I just love it.”

    With the added bonus of easy access to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, it’s no wonder that residents of South Beach believe they’re part of a convenient hideaway in the big city.

    The area has come a long way in 20 years. Back in the ’90s it faced serious problems. Even the now-popular boardwalk was overgrown, frequently a target for arson and a favorite spot for drug dealers. When Mr. Iglesias, who is now 45, originally told friends where he was moving, they said that “it was voodoo to live there,” he recalled. “People would say, ‘Oh, South Beach, that’s bad.’

    “People don’t say that to me anymore.”

    It was about 10 years ago that developers stepped in, replacing much of the housing stock of small bungalows with two-family colonials or town houses. The city also pitched in to clean up the beach; since 1995, it has spent $20 million on the boardwalk.

    These days the area is crowded with families, much as it was in the early part of the last century, when the neighborhood was a popular resort destination for city dwellers and other fun seekers. (In 1906, for example, 30,000 people flocked to the opening of Happyland Amusement Park.)

    The changes in the later ’90s caused home prices to jump. In 1993 Mr. Iglesias, a mechanic who has a real estate license but has never been an active agent, paid $227,000 for his brick two-family. He estimated that it would now get about $600,000. Yet South Beach today remains largely undiscovered, said Yesenia Gonzalez, a partner and agent at the NY Casa Group, which just recently started selling homes on Staten Island. “It’s possible to get a lot of house for your money and still be in a quality neighborhood,” she said.

    It’s the quality of the neighborhood that most concerns Joseph McAllister, who helped create the South Beach Civic Association in 2001 to push back against the newly abundant development. The spate of town houses in particular introduced a glut of cars to the narrow streets. His group has had some success, as new zoning regulations have gone into effect. His group and others in the community have also been successful in stopping Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s plan to close Engine Company 161, the area’s fire station.

    Mr. McAllister, who has lived in the same three-bedroom “handyman special” he bought for $115,000 in 1994 — he says it’s now worth about $500,000 — takes those victories with a dose of humility. “We’ve done some great things,” he said. “But we’re not heroes or anything.”

    Like many neighborhoods on Staten Island, South Beach has somewhat amorphous boundaries. It is generally said to stretch from Lily Pond Avenue on the northeast, to Lower New York Bay on the southeast. Quintard Street is the southwestern boundary; McClean and Major Avenues are the other major lines of demarcation.

    A few more than 8,000 people call South Beach home, according to Onboard Informatics, a company that provides data to the real estate industry. The area is predominantly white, with a sprinkling of nonwhite Hispanics and blacks. In recent years it has gained a population of Russian-Americans migrating from Brooklyn.

    Were it not for the numerous Metropolitan Transportation Authority buses passing through, visitors could be forgiven for thinking they were outside of New York City. The neighborhood slopes up from the bay, and various roads wind up and around the emerging hill.

    Two distinct housing options predominate: the remaining single-family bungalows and the new town houses and semidetached colonials. Most of the newer homes add bulk and height to the neighborhood, but also a different feel — less summer hideaway, more permanent playground.

    Despite all of the development in the past decade, the area has managed to avoid many of the usual trappings of gentrification; it has maintained a decidedly working- and middle-class aura. The nearest Starbucks, it might be noted, is in Brooklyn.
    “It’s not fancy here; there’s not snobbery,” Mr. McAllister said. “There’s quietness. Neighbors get along.”


    Of the 78 homes for sale in the neighborhood earlier this month, the average list price was $474,000, according to Dil Gillani, the owner of Gillani Homes, which has a local office. As in the rest of the city, the number of sales and the prices have dropped significantly in the last year. In the first six months of 2008, according to Mr. Gillani, 35 homes sold, for an average of $481,214. For the same period this year, 22 have sold, for an average of $378,000.

    Not all of the homes have experienced such a precipitous drop in value, Mr. Gillani added, pointing out that a wave of foreclosures has skewed some figures. He says most homes sell for 10 to 15 percent less than a couple of years ago. And although this year’s sales figures trail last year’s, he said there were 30 homes under contract earlier this month — more than the 22 sold in the first half of the year. He saw this as a sign of a market uptick.

    In general, a semidetached house can be had for $375,000 to $450,000, said Natalie Levine, the director of marketing for Staten Island Dream House Realty. For that price, Ms. Levine said, a buyer will often get three bedrooms and a garage. Newer detached homes generally sell for a little more, with the top range closer to $500,000, while the older bungalows may fetch less than $375,000. Most of the rentals are in two-family homes; a three-bedroom can be rented for roughly $1,400 a month.


    Without question the beach is the main draw. The 1.7-mile-long boardwalk is ideal for joggers or for catching a sunrise. The South Fin Grill, which opened in 2005 on the boardwalk, is a popular dining option; for dessert, there is the nearby Ben & Jerry’s. Fishermen, meanwhile, toss their bait into the bay from the 835-foot-long Ocean Breeze Fishing Pier.

    Although there are some shops on Sand Avenue, the neighborhood doesn’t have much retailing. Shopping is a short drive away, along Hylan Boulevard.
    The Basilio Inn Restaurant, off Lily Pond Road in South Beach, opened in 1921 and lays claim to being the oldest restaurant in the borough.

    Just to the north of the neighborhood, partially under the bridge, is the 18th-century Fort Wadsworth, a military base that opened its gates to the public in 1997. “If you go there, bring your walking shoes,” Mr. Iglesias said. “You’re going to want to be there for a while.”


    Many of the children in the area attend either Public School 39, Francis J. Murphy, or Public School 46, Albert V. Maniscalco. Both schools serve prekindergarten through Grade 5. Eighty percent of the fourth graders at P.S. 39 met standards in reading and 92 percent in math, versus 69 and 85 citywide. At P.S. 46, 65 percent met standards in reading and 74 percent in math.

    There are no public middle schools or high schools. Some students travel to nearby Intermediate School 49, Bertha A. Dreyfus, which serves students in Grades 6 to 8. Of its eighth graders, 45 percent met standards in English and 59 percent in math, versus 57 and 71 citywide.

    New Dorp High School has just over 2,000 students. Last year, SAT averages were 438 in reading, 451 in math and 426 in writing, versus 502, 515 and 494 statewide.

    In addition, the general area has two prominent all-girls Catholic schools: St. John Villa Academy and St. Joseph Hill Academy.


    Many residents take the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to Brooklyn or Midtown Manhattan. The drive to Midtown can take from 30 to 90 minutes, depending on the traffic.

    Several express buses serve the area, too, including an X6, which generally takes 40 minutes or more to arrive in Midtown during rush hour. The S51 and S52 take residents to the Staten Island Ferry.


    The area now known as South Beach was the site of the first permanent settlement on Staten Island, according to “Staten Island: Isle of the Bay,” by Margaret Lundrigan. The settlement started in the early 1660s and was known as Oude Dorp — Old Town in Dutch. The site was appreciated because of its flat land, which allowed for farming and grazing, and because a creek allowed easy access to the bay.

  3. #3
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    Oct 2002


    OK, so this is just lil' ol' Staten Island, but, boy, this neighborhood sure looks like it could be anywhere in beautiful New England .

    Living In | Castleton Corners, S.I.

    Small Town Tucked Away in Big City


    The hub of activity in Castleton Corners, on Staten Island's North Shore, is the intersection of Manor Road and Victory Boulevard.

    128 Fairview Avenue

    17 Joan Place

    Victory Boulevard

    Staten Island Armory, Manor Road

    St. Teresa's, a Catholic school

    PS 129, Bardwell School

    Clove Lakes Park

    IN January, Dan Carbone moved into his first house, a three-bedroom colonial in Castleton Corners, on the North Shore of Staten Island. Having grown up in nearby West Brighton, Mr. Carbone, an information technology director, thought he knew what to expect.

    The new neighborhood was serene, with easy access to the Staten Island Parkway and an obvious jogging destination in nearby Clove Lakes Park. But the reception from his new neighbors was disarmingly outgoing.

    “Not that the area I came from was unfriendly,” said Mr. Carbone, 27, “but when I moved in here, everyone came up to the house to welcome me. Now I’m good friends with the neighbors across the street.”

    It’s that kind of place, residents say — one where newcomers are welcomed, and families stay for generations. Since the opening of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in 1964, Staten Island as a whole has gradually become less disconnected from the rest of the city, and more susceptible to change. But Castleton Corners, a middle- and upper-middle class neighborhood nestled between Westerleigh and Clove Lakes Park, appears determined to keep what it has.

    The intersection of Manor Road and Victory Boulevard has for a long time been the heart of the neighborhood, and that hasn’t changed: its shops buzz with activity. And, in general, the houses, most built before the bridge and some more than 100 years ago, impart a sense of a neighborhood at ease with itself.

    “It’s just peaceful, it’s quiet, there are no worries when you’re going to sleep,” Mr. Carbone said.

    Still, quiet does not mean static. Leticia Remauro, the chairwoman of Community Board 1, which covers the square mile of Castleton Corners, arrived in 1992 from South Beach, a few miles away. At that time, only a few families had children, she said, and now “on just about every block there’s a gaggle of children on the street.”

    There are also, increasingly, traffic issues, Ms. Remauro said, citing a frequent bottleneck at the corner of Victory Boulevard and Manor Road. To mitigate it, the community board is working with the borough president’s office to widen the boulevard and create a turning lane on Manor Road.

    John Pagliaro, a broker with Coldwell Banker DeSimone Realty, said that the people who move to Castleton Corners, many of them young professionals like Mr. Carbone, are usually looking for something specific: Old World architecture in traditional surroundings — something not often found on the southern part of the island, where housing boomed after the bridge opened.

    “If you’re looking for bells and whistles, this isn’t the place,” said Mr. Pagliaro, a 30-year resident. “The people who want a quaint community, those are the kinds of buyers who are interested.”

    As Ms. Remauro put it, “We just call it ‘our little town.’ ” And it can definitely feel like one. On a recent weekend, a driver found himself held up in traffic for a bit along Victory Boulevard while trying to make a left turn.

    Needing a driver in the oncoming lane to move forward slightly so that he could maneuver past, the man pleaded his case without honking or yelling. “Please,” he said, sticking his head out his window. He got his way.


    Especially on the blocks north of Victory Boulevard, the neighborhood is distant from the bustle of the city, aided in part by several curvy roads and slight hills that break the line of sight — it sits on a high point in Staten Island — and by old and large trees that punctuate the yards and shadow the streets. Gardens are well maintained, and in early October, outdoor Halloween decorations were ubiquitous.

    The boundaries depend on whom you ask. You’ll never get exactly the same answer twice, though most residents and brokers agree that Castleton Corners is shaped like a mirrored “L.”

    In general, the southern portion runs along the sliver of space north of the expressway and south of Victory Boulevard, between Slosson Avenue and as far west as Woolley Avenue. The northern portion has boundaries of Slosson Avenue to the east, Maine Avenue to the north and Westcott Boulevard to the west.

    About 14,000 live in the neighborhood, according to Onboard Informatics, a company that provides data to the real estate industry. Residents and brokers say that the population, traditionally Irish- and Italian-American, has diversified in the last decade, though it remains mostly white.

    Single-family homes predominate; the vast majority of them are detached and have garages. Colonials outnumber Tudors and ranches, and many have at least some brick on the exterior and date back before World War II. A small number of town houses are scattered through the neighborhood, too.


    Of the 15 properties currently listed, the average price is $462,000, according to a recent check by Pat Pappalardo, who has sold real estate in Castleton Corners for 32 years and whose company, Century 21 Papp Realty, has its offices in the neighborhood.

    As in much of Staten Island, sale prices have dropped about 15 percent from their peak, Mr. Pappalardo said. But he added that the price drop might be explained in part by the fact that many residents have delayed moving until housing prices rise. That has left the more desperate sellers on the market, he said, and they are more eager to make a quick deal than get the highest price. “These properties remain desirable,” Mr. Pappalardo said. “There’s a stream of interest whenever one comes up for sale.”

    Kathleen O’Leary, a sales manager at Appleseed Realty GMAC Real Estate in Staten Island, says that a detached house with three bedrooms and two baths can be had for $400,000 to $500,000. Homes along Westcott Boulevard can fetch significantly more — some upward of $800,000 — while town houses sell for roughly $300,000. And although the housing is predominantly owner-occupied, there are some rentals. According to Mr. Pappalardo, the going monthly rate for a one-bedroom is roughly $900; for a two-bedroom, $1,100.


    Residents have large yards by New York City standards — lots are generally about 40 feet by 100 feet — but those looking for even more green space head to nearby Clove Lakes Park. At nearly 200 acres, the park provides lakes for paddling and fishing, fields for baseball and paths for jogging.

    Victory Boulevard is the primary destination for shopping and dining; thus, effectively, most of what the neighborhood has to offer is within walking distance. In addition to the branches of several national banks, the anchors of this commercial strip are Reiman’s hardware and a Met Foods. There are also offerings like flower shops and a Lee Sims Chocolates.

    “Ever since I turned 17, I stopped walking” and drove everywhere, Mr. Carbone said. Now he is sometimes opting to walk the few blocks to the hardware store. “It’s good to know that I don’t have to get in the car.”
    For dining, local favorites include Bagel Bistro, which is spacious enough that you’ll find a free table even on a weekend morning, and Joe and Pat’s Pizzeria, a local institution.


    Generations have attended St. Teresa’s, a Catholic school for prekindergarten through Grade 8, affiliated with its church on Victory Boulevard. Diagonally across the street is Public School 29, Bardwell School, which serves prekindergarten through Grade 5. Last year, 78 percent of its fourth graders met standards in reading and 98 percent in math, versus 69 and 85 citywide.

    Intermediate School 27, Anning S. Prall, and I.S. 51, Edwin Markham, both serve Grades 6 to 8. At the former, 52 percent of eighth graders met state standards in reading and 60 in math, versus 57 and 71 citywide. At the latter, the percentages were 53 and 59.

    Susan E. Wagner High School, on Manor Road just outside the neighborhood, has more than 3,200 students. This year, SAT averages were 466 in reading, 470 in math and 461 in writing, versus 502, 515 and 494 statewide.


    The drive to Midtown, taking 30 to 90 minutes depending on the traffic, is aided by easy access to the Staten Island Parkway and the Verrazano.
    Because of the parkway, many express buses traverse the area. The X10 and X11 both travel to Lower and Midtown Manhattan, leaving about every 10 minutes during the morning rush hours. The trip to Lower Manhattan takes 25 minutes or more. Multiple local buses travel to the Staten Island Ferry.


    One of Staten Island’s first schools, a traditional red schoolhouse, opened in Castleton Corners as far back as 1784, according to “Morris’s Memorial History of Staten Island, New York, Volume II” by Ira K. Morris.
    Nearly two decades before that, the area had a popular hotel, Bodine’s Inn, whose business was helped by a well out front. It attracted thirsty people and animals to its oak bucket.

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    Oct 2002


    Lighthouse Hill, Staten Island


    Crimson Beech, the only house built by Frank Lloyd Wright in New York City.

    slide show

    CHARLES DeSTEFANO’S childhood memories of a certain Staten Island neighborhood were of quiet and beauty. So when he decided to move there nearly 40 years later, he was glad, and a bit shocked, to find that nothing had changed.

    The neighborhood is Lighthouse Hill, a woodsy, residential segment of Staten Island that abuts the Greenbelt, the expanse of parkland occupying the borough’s midsection. When Mr. DeStefano’s family moved to the Island from Park Slope, Brooklyn, in 1972, he and his friends enjoyed exploring its lush, beckoning terrain. If they were daring, they would climb the steep hill that led to the Staten Island Lighthouse, the 90-foot-high yellow-brick structure whose signal has been guiding ships into New York Harbor since 1912.

    The neighborhood’s charm stayed with him. Years later, a second date with his future wife, Ana, involved a hike that ended at the lighthouse. In 2007 the couple, who have two young sons, paid $810,000 for a four-bedroom three-bath modern saltbox house on Edinboro Road.

    “It’s kind of a romantic thing to have a lighthouse on your block,” said Mr. DeStefano, a 49-year-old lawyer. “It beams every night.”

    Lighthouse Hill is bounded to the east by Rockland Avenue, to the south by Richmond Road and to the north and west by LaTourette Park and Golf Course. The neighborhood, which was home to almost 1,800 people at the time of the 2000 census, occupies less than a square mile, much of it dense with tall trees that overhang narrow and winding streets. The general lack of sidewalks intensifies the suburban ambience, and walking along some streets it is possible to gaze over the roofs of houses built into the steep hill and see across Staten Island to New York Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean.

    The rustic beauty and relative seclusion that have drawn many of today’s Lighthouse Hill residents — often from Brooklyn and other Staten Island neighborhoods — are hardly new selling points. In the early 1900s, while the lighthouse was still under construction, one of the area’s early developers, William Platt, boasted of “a country of unimagined possibilities; a land of paradise,” according to a brochure at the Staten Island Historical Society. “Have you the desire to be your own Landlord, to own your home on a grand picturesque plateau with the most magnificent view of the Ocean and Bay?”


    Lighthouse Hill is first and foremost known as the site of the Crimson Beech, the only house built by Frank Lloyd Wright in New York City. The house’s presence, however glamorous, has been known to divert attention from the expansiveness and architectural variety of the neighborhood as a whole.

    On the wide, well-spaced lots sit Cape Cods, ranches, angular contemporaries, cottages built into steep hills and the occasional large new house.

    One particularly intriguing specimen is at 190 Meisner Avenue. Built in the 1850s and crowned by a widow’s walk, it was accorded landmark status in 2007. A sign in its front window reads “Haunted House for Sale,” and a doormat tells visitors: “The house was clean last week. Sorry you missed it.” The yard, which contains a horse roundabout and a carriage house, has stone statues of lions, jockeys and a monkey reading a book.

    “All the houses are different,” said Sari Kingsley, a neighborhood resident for more than 40 years and the owner of Sari Kingsley Real Estate. “We don’t have cookie-cutter houses.”

    This was part of the appeal for Laurie Crawford. Last August, she and her husband, Allyn, moved to Lighthouse Hill from Westerleigh, the Staten Island neighborhood where he grew up. With their daughter entering high school and one son entering college, they felt prepared to sell their renovated Victorian and buy a smaller home in the neighborhood that Mr. Crawford, as a native Staten Islander, had always considered “one of the nicer places one could live.”

    The move meant forfeiting some conveniences. For example, in Westerleigh they had a deli around the corner. “Now we have to get into the car for everything,” said Ms. Crawford, who is originally from Midwood, Brooklyn. “But that’s the tradeoff for country living within the city.”

    They paid $680,000 for their three-bedroom two-bath ranch on Kent Street. The price, Mr. Crawford said, reflected the fact that the house needed some work. Since moving in, they have renovated the cinder-block basement into a livable space accommodating a laundry room, a full bath and a media room.

    The kitchen is a bit outdated — Ms. Crawford described the house’s aesthetic as “very 1960s” — but remodeling plans were temporarily shelved in March, after a windstorm brought two blue spruce trees down on their house, causing about $15,000 worth of damage.

    Some residents compare Lighthouse Hill favorably to the Island’s other “Hills”: Emerson Hill and Todt Hill. A renovated four-bedroom house In Todt Hill might command close to $2 million, whereas the same house in Lighthouse Hill might bring $1.1 million to $1.3 million, said Laird Klein, a broker for Vitale Sunshine Realtors.
    “You can live in Lighthouse Hill on a very grand scale,” he said, “and also on a simple scale.”


    The variety of housing types and states of renovation mean a wide price spectrum. About half a dozen houses are for sale, at prices ranging from about $725,000 to $1.175 million, Mr. Klein said.

    According to Ms. Kingsley, the average sale price in Lighthouse Hill was $954,000 last year and $715,000 in 2008. Factors affecting price include lot size and the quality of the view, she said.

    Mr. Klein summed up the market this way: “You have smaller, very cottagey Capes that have not been renovated, and they typically go in the $600,000s and $700,000s. And you have bigger homes that have been redone that go well over $1 million.” But he said the recession had been felt in fewer $1 million-and-over sales.

    Houses are staying on the market for about four months, versus six months or more a year ago, Mr. Klein said. According to Ms. Kingsley, houses sold in 2009 averaged 178 days on the market.

    Still, there is not a lot of turnover. Mr. DeStefano, the lawyer who lives near the lighthouse, put it this way: “They say that people who live in this neighborhood are very incestuous, in the sense that one person will move from one end of the block to another. People don’t like to leave here. They move from one house to the next.”


    Lighthouse Hill is adjacent to Historic Richmond Town, a museum and village with activities for children. Just across LaTourette Park at 435 Richmond Hill Road is Decker Farm, which has been a working farm since 1810, according to Ed Wiseman, Richmond Town’s executive director. The farm stand, open Saturday mornings, sells a variety of produce, as well as eggs, breads and cheeses.

    The Staten Island Mall, also just across the park, is a short drive away, as are shops along New Dorp Lane.

    At the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art, at 338 Lighthouse Avenue, most of the permanent collection once belonged to the museum’s founder and namesake, who died in 1948 and had never visited Tibet. “She moved up here because of the view, and because of the remoteness, back in 1921,” said Meg Ventrudo, the museum’s executive director.

    Admission is $5, and tai chi and meditation classes are among the offerings. The Dalai Lama has visited.


    Elementary schools nearby include Public School 23, on Natick Street, for prekindergarten through Grade 5. Last year 85.5 percent of fourth graders met standards in English and 92.8 percent in math, versus 68.9 and 84.9 citywide.

    Among nearby middle schools is Intermediate School 72 Rocco Laurie, on Ferndale Avenue, for Grades 6 through 8. In 2009, 60.7 percent of eighth graders met standards in English, 78.1 percent in math, versus 57 and 71.3 citywide.

    Staten Island Technical High School, on Clawson Street, serves Grades 9 through 12. SAT averages last year were 623 in reading, 657 in math and 627 in writing, versus 435, 459 and 432 citywide.


    Buses ply Richmond Road, the southern border. Via the 74 bus, the Staten Island Ferry is about 20 minutes away.

    The neighborhood is closest to the New Dorp stop on the Staten Island Railway, which is a 19-minute ride to the ferry.


    William Platt, the early 1900s developer, marketed the area as Hampton Court. The name changed after the lighthouse’s completion in 1912; today the automated light is operated by the United States Coast Guard.

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    Prince’s Bay, Staten Island


    slide show

    IN real estate, as in romance, leaving your first love can be hard to do. For John Rosas Jr., who lived most of his first 38 years in Bensonhurst, choosing to buy a home outside of Brooklyn was not accomplished without emotion. But in 2008, after a brief rental in the Oakwood section of Staten Island, Mr. Rosas and his wife, Nikki, packed up their three children and moved to Prince’s Bay, on the south shore.

    “I was born and raised in Brooklyn,” Mr. Rosas said. “I love it and thought I’d never leave, but I’m glad I did, because of what I can get here.”

    What he got was space, and lots of it, particularly by Brooklyn standards: a spiffy new 3,500-square-foot two-family colonial with five bedrooms and a pool on a 6,200-square-foot lot. Mr. Rosas uses the house’s one-bedroom apartment as an office for the overhead-door-servicing company he owns, and the property’s eight parking spaces generously accommodate his five vehicles.

    Contemporary looks were just as important to his family as elbow room. “We wanted new construction, and we got newer than new,” Mr. Rosas said. “We bought this before it was built.”

    That allowed Mrs. Rosas to tailor elements to her liking, repositioning doorways and choosing vanities for the five bathrooms. The result was a customized interior with that new-house smell.

    New and newish housing stock abounds in Prince’s Bay, whose remoteness from the Staten Island Ferry and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, gateways to Manhattan and Brooklyn respectively, helped keep it sparsely developed until the 1980s.

    “It’s a much more modern community than most of Staten Island,” said Anthony Licciardello, an associate with Robert DeFalco Realty, who blogs at “Much of it was developed in the last 25 or 30 years.”

    The resulting aesthetic consistency, Mr. Licciardello said, appeals to many buyers of contemporary luxury homes, who are sometimes turned off by neighborhoods they see as having a jarring hodgepodge of old and new.

    “People don’t think that the modern contemporary colonial feel exists on Staten Island,” he added. “They look more toward New Jersey for that suburban character, but it does exist here in Prince’s Bay.” The most luxurious new houses don’t come cheap: an 11-room colonial with an indoor basketball court, which appeared on the MTV show “Teen Cribs,” sold for $1.73 million last summer. But more modest homes can be had for a lot less.

    For $740,000, Mr. Rosas bought not only the roomiest house he had ever lived in, but also peace of mind.

    “The most important thing for me was how I bring my kids up, a safe environment with plenty of space,” he said. Like many in Prince’s Bay, he spoke glowingly of his neighbors and the area schools. “A lot of those fears you have about schools when you don’t really know the other parents,” he said, “you don’t have that here, because a lot of people do what I do, which is work for themselves.” And although he occasionally misses the pizza and the liveliness of Brooklyn, he confided that his only true regret was the dearth of worthy basketball opponents.

    “In Brooklyn, any time of day or night you can get a good game,” Mr. Rosas, who is 6 feet 4, said wistfully. “Here, I’m lucky if anyone else is in the park.”


    Prince’s Bay is a lush and quiet seaside community of about two square miles, not far from either Staten Island’s southern tip or the Outerbridge Crossing to New Jersey. Its boundaries are sometimes a subject of disagreement; The Staten Island Advance defines them as the waterfront to the south; Wieland Avenue and Woodrow Road to the north; Woodvale, Maguire and Lenevar Avenues to the west; and, to the east, a jigsaw line running along Cornelia Avenue, the eastern edge of Wolfe’s Pond Park, and Vernon and Marcy Avenues.

    There is an embarrassment of parkland. Wolfe’s Pond Park, one of the island’s largest, has a sand beach along Raritan Bay and mountain biking trails that wind past ponds. Bloomingdale Park, renovated in 2004, offers handsome playing fields and a modernized playground. And Lemon Creek, which gives its name to the surrounding park, meanders through a salt marsh frequented by egrets before reaching a serene marina where pleasure boats bob.

    Residents are fiercely proud of their neighborhood’s abundant greenery; the community was consequently a development battleground during the last building boom. When the dust settled, the forces of traditional character had won out, with large swaths of Prince’s Bay and neighboring communities rezoned by the city to prevent further construction of town houses and other cheek-by-jowl development.

    “We achieved a lower density by limiting building types to single- and two-family detached homes on a 3,800-square-foot lot,” said Dennis Dell’Angelo, a longtime former president of the local civic association. “No town houses, no duplexes, no apartment buildings.” In one western part of Prince’s Bay the zoning now requires that each new home be built on a lot of at least 5,700 square feet.

    Generous lot sizes were a major draw for June Buonomo. Her daughter, April, lives in a Tudor on Excelsior Avenue with her husband and their 4-year-old twins, and last month, Mrs. Buonomo, who is 58, and her husband, Vincent, swooped in and paid $482,000 for a Cape Cod on Finlay Avenue. On the market only two days, the house stands on a grassy expanse of 11,719 square feet.

    “We bought the property, not the house,” Mrs. Buonomo said. “We’re going to make it into a Victorian. I want that Georgian look, with a wraparound porch where I can sit in my rocking chair and see my grandchildren approach me. Who wouldn’t want that?”


    Although the bulk of the housing is relatively modern, the area does offer a variety of options, with high ranches, waterfront town houses and even a smattering of older homes. There are roughly 100 properties on the market.

    The overall median sale price was $542,500 in the last year, Mr. Licciardello said. Below Hylan Boulevard, where a chemical dependency treatment facility has rankled neighbors, values can vary.

    According to Dianne Pistor, an area resident and broker-owner of Dianne Pistor Realty, the median sale price for one-family detached homes was $687,000 in the last six months. Two-family semiattached houses are selling for $480,000 to $580,000, said Yolanda Amatrudo, a sales agent with Neuhaus Realty.

    Among the town houses on the market are in the seaside development of Captain’s Quarters, Ms. Amatrudo said. “We’re getting a big range on them,” she added, “from the high $300,000s to the low $600,000s.” Farther west, the second phase of a waterfront development called St. Edwards Pointe is under construction. Four-bedroom homes are being marketed for $865,000 and up.


    The Seguine Mansion, overlooking the water, is an 1838 Greek Revival that looks like something out of “Gone With the Wind.” Operated as a museum and known for its peacocks, it is open to the public during periodic tours or by appointment.

    Next door, the Seguine Equestrian Center keeps a 14-horse stable and gives riding lessons. Horse owners can board there and ride onto the beach and into Wolfe’s Pond Park.

    The Princess Bay Boatmen’s Association, which has spelled its name in this alternative fashion since 1934, operates most of the marina in Lemon Creek Park under an accord with the city. It rents about 160 slips to the public.


    Lower Manhattan is an hour away via the Staten Island Railway and the Staten Island Ferry.

    Via the X23 bus, Midtown Manhattan is about an hour and 10 minutes away, according to the schedule. But it can take longer.


    The public elementary school nearest to the neighborhood is Public School 3, on South Goff Avenue, for prekindergarten through fifth grade. In 2010, 88.2 percent of fifth-graders were found to be proficient in math and 64 in English, versus 59.7 and 46.2 citywide.

    Middle schools nearby include Intermediate School 7, in neighboring Huguenot, and Intermediate School 34, in Tottenville, both of which received A’s on their 2009 city progress reports.

    At Tottenville High School on Luten Avenue, SAT averages in 2009 were 462 in reading, 491 in math, and 463 in writing, versus 434, 458, and 432 citywide.


    It is often surmised that Prince’s Bay was named for William, Prince of Orange, who became king of England in 1689. In the 19th century, the area was home to a thriving oyster-planting industry, as oystermen seeded the sands offshore with partially grown mollusks. Prince’s Bay oysters were sought out by discerning diners as far away as London, according to a Landmarks Preservation Commission report.

  6. #6
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    Oct 2002


    Exalted Views, Down-to-Earth Prices


    Vistas like this one, from the window of a house for sale on Ward Avenue,
    come with the real estate territory in Ward Hill.

    AS Fitzgerald might have said, people who live on hills are different from you and me. From Murray Hill to Carnegie Hill in Manhattan, from Brooklyn Heights to Park Slope in Brooklyn, New Yorkers with cash to spend have long sought the high ground. In Staten Island, Todt Hill is a coveted area, as are Grymes Hill and Dongan Hills Colony. But for all its elevation, Ward Hill, on the island’s north shore, has managed to remain below the radar.

    “It’s a very secret enclave,” said Estelle Karp, a sales agent with Coldwell Banker Hometime Realty, who has lived on the island for 33 years. “Very few people on Staten Island have ever been there or even heard of it.”

    One Staten Islander who made the ascent, and was suitably impressed by the panoramic views she found there, was Muthoo Neravanda, who manages the Brooklyn office of her physician husband, Medappa.

    In the late 1980s, the Neravandas, who lived in Dongan Hills, attended a dinner party at a friend’s home on Nixon Avenue in Ward Hill.

    “It was awe-inspiring,” Ms. Neravanda said of the vista of Lower Manhattan and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge out her friend’s window. “It was, ‘Oh my God.’ The house was built into the hill, so as you enter you see the expanse of the bridge, and New York City, too.”

    The image never left her, and over the next decade and a half, whenever Ms. Neravanda was in the area, she would drive up Ward Hill to admire the views and, she said, “just dream.”
    Finally, in 2004, after both their children had grown up, the Neravandas bought a two-bedroom midcentury cottage on Tompkins Circle in Ward Hill, with sweeping views of the Staten Island and Brooklyn waterfronts and the serene blue band of water in between, from the lower part of Upper New York Bay, past the majestic span of the Verrazano and out to the open sea.

    They didn’t move in until just this month, having provided the house as a home for their grown daughter and niece for several years.

    Now the home has been thoroughly renovated, and the elder Neravandas have the daily pleasure of watching the languorous parade of ships making their way into New York Harbor in what, from this tranquil overlook, seems slow motion.

    “Each day it’s different,” Ms. Neravanda said of the view. “One day the whole Narrows was full of mist and the whole bridge was missing, so it was the way it must have looked before the bridge was built, eerie but beautiful.”

    As with many houses in Ward Hill, a large proportion of which date to the early decades of the last century, little work had been done on the Neravandas’ home since its construction. It seemed due for a face-lift.

    On the outside, the couple transformed it into an angular contemporary. On the inside they added a bedroom to accommodate visiting children and grandchildren.
    Although Ms. Neravanda would not disclose the cost of the house or its renovation, real estate records show that a renovated five-bedroom house next door sold last month for $725,000.


    Many homes have remained in the same families for decades, but as longtime residents either retire away or pass away, Ward Hill has been enjoying an infusion of new residents from all walks of life.

    “It’s a real eclectic mix of people, with a lot of artsy people moving in,” said Jody Scaravella, a restaurateur who lives in a renovated Dutch colonial down the block from the Neravandas. “It’s not a boring, homogeneous zone.”

    In a terraced garden behind his house, Mr. Scaravella grows produce for Enoteca Maria, the Italian restaurant he owns in nearby St. George. While tending his zucchini in the summer, he said, he is occasionally able to hear live rock music being performed by talented bands at the homes of neighbors who work in the music industry. At other times he hears only the singing of birds.

    “Urban bucolic” is how Joseph Carroll, the district manager of Community Board 1, described the area, adding that “it’s economically singular but ethnically diverse.” The Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, based on samples from 2005 to 2009, estimated that residents in the area of Ward Hill and adjacent streets were 41 percent Hispanic, 29 percent white, 12 percent Asian and 8 percent black.

    The neighborhood was named for Caleb T. Ward, who around 1835 built a monumental porticoed mansion on the crest of a hill 200 feet above sea level. The house, according to its city landmark designation report, is one of the finest examples of Greek Revival architecture in the five boroughs and one of the last great houses remaining from a time when Staten Island’s north shore was a resort for wealthy New Yorkers.

    Ward Hill, hidden in plain sight above low-rise buildings on Victory Boulevard, defines a neighborhood just a few blocks long and a few wide. Its boundaries, while not universally accepted, are generally considered to be: Cebra Avenue to the south; Victory Boulevard running northeast from Cebra; Fiedler Avenue and Tompkins Circle to the north; and Tompkins Circle and Ward and Nixon Avenues to the east.

    The area’s signature views are best obtained from Nixon Avenue, Tompkins Circle and Ward Avenue. Those streets are lined with well-maintained single-family homes, representing a mix of styles: colonials, Tudors, even a ranch or two. But because so many are of older vintage, these prime streets nonetheless have a cozy, cohesive feel.
    Nixon Avenue has a manicured aspect that Ms. Karp, the Coldwell Banker agent, likened to the Long Island enclave of Garden City. On the crest of Ward Avenue stand stately if not elaborate houses, with more modest homes mixed in as the hill slopes down in either direction.

    “They have something that can never be removed,” Mr. Carroll, the district manager, said of Ward Hill residents. “The people on the perimeter have the views, and the houses on the interior have the serenity.”


    Compared with neighboring Grymes Hill, its higher-profile neighbor, Ward Hill has relatively down-to-earth prices. While a three- or four-bedroom home with prime water views in Grymes Hill can easily cost more than $1 million, Ms. Karp said, a comparable house with optimal views can be had in Ward Hill for $625,000 to $725,000.

    There are seven houses on the market in Ward Hill. Theresa Ferrara, a sales agent with Coldwell Banker Hometime Realty, said that 16 had sold in the last year. According to an analysis by Anthony Licciardello, a sales associate with Robert DeFalco Realty, single-family homes sold for an average of $530,000, after 153 days on the market. Two three-bedroom semidetached houses on Tompkins Circle, both with New York Harbor views, sold for $395,000 each.

    The average sale price for houses over the past 12 months has climbed to $411,808 from $278,961 the previous year, with homes remaining on the market an average of 118 days, half as long as the year before.


    For those with an adventurous palate, there is a rich variety of local mom-and-pop restaurants in the less-rarefied area below the hill. A 129-step “stair street” runs from Tompkins Circle down to Victory Boulevard, providing a short cut to Sri Lankan, Mexican, Polish and Caribbean menus. “These are authentic restaurants, people expressing their culture and trying to eke out a living,” said Mr. Scaravella, the restaurateur.

    The Cargo Café, on Bay Street in nearby St. George, hosts rock, jazz and big-band acts. The Every Thing Goes Book Cafe and Neighborhood Stage, also on Bay Street, presents music, poetry and theater. Richmond County Bank Ballpark, home of the single-A Staten Island Yankees, is a five-minute drive. Nearby Silver Lake Park has a public golf course and tennis courts.


    Elementary students are zoned to attend Public School 16 in neighboring Tompkinsville, which serves prekindergarten through fifth grade. Intermediate School 61 in nearby Randall Manor covers Grades 6 through 8. Each received a C on its most recent city progress report.

    High schools nearby include two in St. George: the Ralph R. McKee Career and Technical Education High School and Curtis High School. SAT averages at McKee last year were 411 in reading, 429 in math and 386 in writing; at Curtis, they were 439, 441 and 430. Citywide averages were 439, 462 and 434.


    Lower Manhattan is half an hour away, via a five-minute drive and a ride on the Staten Island Ferry. The ferry is so close that some residents make the 10- to 15-minute walk instead. The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, a gateway to Brooklyn, is about a 10-minute drive.


    Ward Hill has been popular with public figures. Lewis Nixon, whose wife, Sally Lewis Wood Nixon, bought the Ward Mansion in 1904, was head of Tammany Hall. Joseph Marotta, a former chairman of the local community board, lived on Tompkins Circle until his death in 2008. At a ceremony in May, Nixon Avenue was given the additional name of Hon. John J. Marchi Way, after the longtime state senator and Ward Hill resident who died last year.

  7. #7
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    Oct 2002



    Above-ground power lines (still ) not so wow.

    Status Island: Why Stapleton could be NYC's next great neighborhood

    By Jason Sheftell

    For the past 50 years, Staten *Island has sat quietly in the background as the forgotten borough, watching other New York neighborhoods skyrocket in possibility and real estate value. Finally, due to city investment, committed developers, the right mix of urban growth ingredients and one of the prettiest streets in New York, a Staten Island neighborhood is making a bid to become the next great place to live in the five boroughs.

    Stapleton, a sleepy North Shore waterfront hamlet with small-town roots and big-city feel, has all it takes to attract artists, downtown types who like the water, and young locals taking advantage of the proximity to lower Manhattan. It has a housing infrastructure where perfectly restored historic homes on still-bucolic streets go for $359,000.

    Even if we're five years too early, this neighborhood could be the safest real estate bet going, presenting the top housing value of anywhere within eyesight of Manhattan. It's cheaper than Red Hook, has an easier commute than Clinton Hill and beats Sunnyside on rent and house prices by almost 50%. Before you think I'm crazy, take a look at what you'll find in this neighborhood on the verge of reinvention.

    A sculpture garden is one of the features of this house on Harrison St. (Nicholas Fevelo)

    Harrison St.

    Tucked behind Broad St. near Tompkins St., Harrison St. is undoubtedly the most attractive residential block that you have never heard of or stepped foot on. Built by wealthy merchants through the 1800s, the street is filled with single-family homes of varying architecture and a few brick apartment houses standing tall behind dogwood and cherry trees, which swirl pink petals in the air in springtime when the wind picks up. All have front lawns and backyards. From the top of a few, you can see the Wall Street skyline and harbor.

    Real estate developer and broker Frank Rizzo owns Cornerstone Realty Partners, a company committed to the North Shore. He recently bought two homes on the street that he refurbished.

    A British woman who often entertained owned both houses, which are next to each other. She used the double-wide backyard, commercial kitchen and parlor room with a bay window for weekend parties and weeknight art salons.

    Tappen Park gives Stapleton a small-town feel.

    "Hardly anyone moves away. It is different from anything else around, and it competes architecturally with the top streets in Brooklyn or Manhattan. It kills them when it comes to value and price."

    One of the three-bedroom homes refurbished by Rizzo sold within three weeks on the market to an artist and college professor moving from Brooklyn. It was listed for $359,000. The other home was just put on the market for $349,000. Both could be undervalued. Apartment rentals go for $1,200 for a one-bedroom basement apartment and $2,500 for three bedrooms on or near the street.

    Harrison St. is now inhabited by artists who left Manhattan for a better lifestyle, Albanian families who all seem to be related, and other Staten Islanders who keep to themselves. One house, a Greek Revival mansion, has an iron gate and a sculpture garden with a bronze-cast winged horse. A Queen Anne down the street looks regal. A towering home with restored brick has a mansard roof in perfect condition. Three Federal-style brick houses bookend the street.

    Nicoko Jerome, 73, has lived here for more than 70 years. He sits on his porch watching the world go by. If he sees a morsel of garbage, he picks it up. He's even been known to pretty the flowers in someone else's yard.

    "It's what you do when you live here all your life," says Jerome, a former bricklayer. "The next block over isn't like this. They don't care like we do. You should have seen this street in the '40s. It was more beautiful then."

    Tulips and cacti line front steps across the street at the home of Jeffrey Kolafinski. His parlor room is open and white, like an art gallery. The marble fireplace mantels are original to the home. The kitchen, built and designed by Kolafinski, has views of the garden and nooks filled with heirlooms. He moved here in 1989 after visiting friends and falling more in love with the street each time he came.

    "This street, this house — it's a historic treasure," says the former East Villager, who has worked for the block's preservation. "A woman came by once and knocked on my door. She was very old and she was very sweet. She said she was born in this house. We had tea. It was like seeing a real ghost. Leaving Manhattan was the best thing I ever did. I could never have this house or life there."

    Bay St. Retail Corridor

    Broker and developer Rizzo drives Bay St. every day, checking "for rent" and "for sale" signs. Right now, music bars, a tattoo parlor, Chinese takeout shops, 99-cent shops and tired storefronts characterize the street. A Harley-Davidson dealership kicks off the stretch. A 100-unit rental building is in construction near an abandoned 1950s movie theater that cries out for rebirth as an art film house.

    "Couldn't you see this coming alive?" asks Rizzo, who with investors owns a few small buildings on the street that he plans to convert to rentals. "A wine shop over there, a pet shop here, and apartments above it all. This place could hop."

    Nearby Tappen Park looks more Missouri town center than New York green space. A fountain and brick park building meet near intersecting pathways leading to a stone edifice that houses the Staten Island Savings Bank. A public library is getting a multimillion-dollar renovation. Retail opportunity surrounds the green, where a popular Mexican restaurant, liquor store and beauty parlor hold sway.

    Just two blocks from the harbor, this park and retail corridor has the potential to become as crucial to Stapleton as Bedford Ave. is to Williamsburg, Franklin St. is to Greenpoint, and Vernon Blvd. is to Long Island City.


    Spearheaded by Ironstate Development, the *Hoboken-based company responsible for waterfront successes Port Liberte in *Jersey City, Pier Village in Long Branch, N.J., and Shipyard in *Hoboken, Homeport Phase 1 will be an 800-unit-plus rental complex with more up to 40,000 square feet of retail space on the Stapleton coastline. Taking over land occupied by a naval base, the City will create a waterfront esplanade and roadways with over $33 million allocated through the NYC Economic Development Corp. Phase 1 should be completed in 2013.

    Even on a cloudy day, Harrison St.'s homes are things of historic beauty.

    An investment secured by the Staten Island borough president will improve Stapleton's Staten Island Railway station, where residents can get to the ferry in four minutes. The commute from the new development will be less than 30 minutes from the front door to the Manhattan ferry terminal. David Barry, who runs Ironstate with brother Michael, is gung-ho about adding something iconic to the New York waterfront and rebuilding the neighborhood image.

    "A few things amazed us about the area right off the bat," says Barry, whose interest in the North Shore was piqued when Staten Island visitors to Long Branch kept telling him there was nothing like it on their home turf. "Little to no access to the waterfront, not a lot of great retail, and no desirable housing geared to the area's young population. When we met with the borough president [James Molinaro], that concerned him, too, as they want to keep their young population at home as well as attract people from all over the city."

    The opportunity was up Ironstate's alley. In Hoboken and Long Branch, the company has used retail and housing to jump-start derelict city sections.

    "Stapleton has everything you need for urban revitalization," says Barry. "Bay St. was once a huge retail stretch. The little park is beautiful, transportation to the ferry and lower Manhattan is minutes away, and it has the urban fabric and affordable housing to further development. The municipal leadership is also strong. It's the perfect storm for neighborhood growth."

    City officials are equally excited about Staten Island's future, and have been securing millions in waterfront investment.

    "The city's contribution to the Stapleton Waterfront Development is an investment in the future of Staten Island," says NYC Economic Development Corp. president Seth W. Pinsky. "This project will be a catalyst for the further revitalization of the immediate neighborhood and other surrounding North Shore communities."

    The Sri Lankan effect

    There is a quirk, too. Staten Island is home to the largest Sri Lankan community in the Western Hemisphere. More than 5,000 Sri Lankan immigrants live in the area, giving it a colorful ethnic mix focused on food, culture and education.

    Lakruwana Wijesinghe recently opened the newest restaurant on Bay St., after owning Manhattan's first Sri Lankan eatery, which he launched in the 1990s. Named Lakruwana after his first name, the restaurant's dining experience mimics a meal in a Sri Lankan home. Jayantha, his wife, runs the kitchen.

    Everything in the restaurant was imported from Sri Lanka, including bamboo walls, wooden chairs and menus served in traditional wooden masks. Some meals, like the popular native dish lamprie, are served on banana leaves. The experience is as fine a neighborhood gem as a meal in Chinatown or having Polish food in Ridgewood. They even sell home goods like bowls and statues.

    "A few families came here, one after the other," says Wijesinghe. "Now we have a big community who help each other. I hope this restaurant is a little bit of paradise."

    So what's holding the neighborhood back?

    Reputation and neighborhood stereotypes are the main obstacles to Stapleton's success. Most people who criticize the area have never seen it, and might enjoy the ferry ride, local beaches, affordable housing prices and sea air.

    Also, the notion that the North Shore is too far is absurd for anyone working near Wall St. Stapleton is closer to the Financial District than are Harlem, central Brooklyn or Astoria.

    This home on St. Pauls Ave. was recently commandeered as a location for HBO's "Boardwalk Empire."

    One of the mansions on St. Pauls Ave. leading to Van Duzer St. has become a primary location for the HBO hit "Boardwalk Empire." Loft buildings are being converted to living spaces. Wine and coffee shops in Stapleton Heights attract an easygoing island crowd living in St. George. Bay Street's reputation as dangerous could end soon, returning the area to historic prominence and a time when it was home to five working breweries.

    Public schools need improvement, but that could happen as the area upgrades. Public housing projects slightly inland are less tough than they seem, with streets branching out to Victorian homes. Crime is normally relegated to certain thoroughfares. Still, such stereotypes present a problem for rapid improvement.

    "People say New York is so diverse, and yet most of the people who live in the city don't even see Staten Island as part of New York," says Cornerstone's Rizzo. "It makes no sense. This is a great part of New York with amazing streets and lifestyle. Yeah, we have some hodgepodge building, and our aesthetic isn't as pretty as Brooklyn, but I'm trying to change that. It's a challenge, but the people who come here now are going to get a big bargain on price. There is no reason we shouldn't compete with Long Island City or Williamsburg. Soon we will."

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    Low Prices, Slow Traffic, Copious Sand


    WHEN Lina Shuster takes portraits of clients for her photography business, she often uses the beach as a backdrop. Luckily for her, that means going just a few blocks from home.

    Not many New Yorkers can lay claim to that pleasure. But it is one advantage of living in Midland Beach, a small and quiet neighborhood on the eastern shore of Staten Island.

    More than anything else, Ms. Shuster says, it is location that gives the place its appeal. “We are in walking distance to the beach and public transportation,” including an express bus to Manhattan that her husband takes, Ms. Shuster said. “So it works out perfectly.”

    For seven years, Ms. Shuster has run her company, Lasting Memories, out of the three-bedroom semidetached home where she and her husband, Alex, live with their two children.

    The area — popular for decades as a part-time summer refuge and even, a century ago, home to an amusement park — was not always so popular as a permanent residence.

    But since the 1930s, things have evolved. Mimi Neuhaus, who owns Neuhaus Realty and has sold homes in Staten Island since 1969, says the enclave has gradually become a year-round home for people who like its beachfront calm at relatively inexpensive prices.

    It was made all the more desirable starting in the mid-1990s, when a multimillion-dollar restoration got under way for the beach and its boardwalk.

    The 2.5-mile Franklin D. Roosevelt boardwalk has a healthy share of cyclists and joggers. And in 2003, the city completed construction of an 835-foot fishing pier, where anglers on a recent day had some luck catching sea robin and striped bass.

    But about a week ago, beachgoers got a rude reminder that although Midland Beach may at times seem a peaceful natural refuge, it is also very much a part of New York City. After a fire at the North River Wastewater Treatment Plant in Manhattan caused the release of untreated sewage into the Hudson and Harlem Rivers over a period of three days. As of late last week the city was still advising visitors to Midland Beach (among other shoreline neighborhoods) to stay out of the water.

    It was in the 1990s, as renovations to the beach were taking place, that the neighborhood’s residential streets were also changing. Scott Setaro, the vice president for operations of Appleseed Homes, said it was at this point that developers tore down many of the area’s characteristic bungalows. In many cases, they were replaced with much larger semidetached homes, like the one owned by Ms. Shuster, which was built a few years before her family moved in.

    Even with this larger share of pumped-up property, however, the neighborhood remains relatively free of traffic and feels far removed from the bustle of other boroughs.

    Perhaps the most bucolic area is on the wetlands area on the north side, with its homes surrounded by grasses more than eight feet high.

    The wetlands, along New Creek, are part of the Staten Island Bluebelt, a storm-water management system for much of the borough. Stretches are still being developed, but the New Creek Bluebelt, which covers 2,200 acres, is already in service in Midland Beach.

    Fiorella Raimondi has lived next to the wetlands for 15 years, in a detached three-bedroom one-bath ranch that she bought for $120,000 and lives in with her 9-year-old daughter.

    She loves the neighborhood, she said, but the maintenance of her yard, which at 60 by 95 feet is on the larger side for Midland Beach, is getting to be too expensive and time-consuming. So she is now trying to sell the house; it has been listed for about six months at $367,500.

    She doesn’t plan to go far; she’d like to stay in Staten Island, but maybe live in a condo. It’s “peaceful and serene” in Midland Beach, she said. “You don’t hear any noises except for crickets.”


    The boundaries of Midland Beach, which is shaped roughly like an arrowhead, can be subject to disagreement, but according to most sources the eastern border runs along Father Capodanno Boulevard to about Graham Boulevard. The line follows Graham west before moving in a zigzag fashion to the southwest, eventually reaching Boundary Avenue, its westernmost line. Miller Field, a military airfield turned park, marks the southern border.

    Under a square mile in area, the area has roughly 6,000 people, the vast majority of them white. It rises uphill from the water, and the many dead-end streets seem to help discourage fast traffic.
    For many decades, Italian- and Irish-Americans were the predominant group in the area. But Russian immigrants have recently increased in number.

    Two types of housing stock predominate: small one-story bungalows, often with just one bedroom and built decades ago, and two-story brick semidetached homes or town houses built much more recently, many in the last 10 years.
    These two groups of housing are found side by side throughout the area, small homes perched next to large new buildings with two or more units.

    The lots in the area, said Laura B. Vallone, an agent for Vitale Sunshine Realty, are generally on the smaller side for Staten Island, some of them just 25 feet by 60 feet, which helps limit building size.

    Midland Avenue, which cuts through the center of things, is the main commercial strip. It has some stores, but shopping is more profitably pursued nearby, along Hylan Boulevard, which for several miles is lined with retail of all kinds.

    Joe LaRocca helps run LaRocca’s Italian Ices and Pizzeria, a business that has spent 25 years along Midland Avenue. In his view, the new residential construction has changed the neighborhood for the better. “It has grown by leaps and bounds,” he said. “It’s become a place to be.”


    Ms. Vallone of Vitale Sunshine says that prices in the area, as in Staten Island generally, are down as much as 15 percent from their peak a few years ago. Even so, she added, the sales pace has picked up in recent months.

    According to Ms. Neuhaus, prices are often slightly lower than in South Beach, the beachfront community just to the northeast. But, as in South Beach, proximity to the beach is the key pricing factor. One-story bungalows, Ms. Vallone said, generally cost $200,000 or more, while town houses and semidetached homes start at $300,000 and larger detached single-family homes often run $500,000 or more. A recent search found more than 50 properties for sale, including 17 detached houses and 17 single-family semidetached properties.

    Although much of the area is owner-occupied, Ms. Neuhaus says one-bedroom bungalows are available for rent for about $1,000 a month, semidetached homes for $1,600 or more.


    The beach is the recreational watchword. And after working up an appetite there, you might stop up the hill at La Rocca’s. For just a couple of dollars, customers can get one of their more than 100 flavors of ices, including rainbow cookie, a popular choice.

    For green space there is Miller Field, just to the south. Its 187 acres have sports fields and picnic areas.


    Options include Public School 38, which has about 380 students enrolled in kindergarten through fifth grade. Last year, 55 percent of fourth graders met standards in reading and 75 percent in math.

    Intermediate School 2, which has about 930 students in sixth through eighth grade, is not far away. Last year, 35 percent of eighth graders met standards in reading and 39 in math.

    There is no high school within neighborhood boundaries. Among the possibilities nearby is New Dorp High School, just to the south. Its graduation rate in 2010 was 74 percent, 13 points above the city’s average. SAT averages last year were 446 in math, 431 in reading and 434 in writing, versus 462, 439 and 434 citywide.

    St. Margaret Mary’s School, which serves students in kindergarten through eighth grade, is also in the neighborhood.


    Many commuters rely on cars. The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge is nearby, and getting to Lower Manhattan can take as little as 30 minutes — or much longer, depending on traffic.

    Several express buses are available, among them the X1, X2, X3, X4, X5, X6, X7, X8 and X9. They travel to Manhattan, taking 40 minutes or more to arrive in Midtown.

    The S51 and the S81, which has limited stops, also run through the neighborhood, taking riders to the Grant City stop of the Staten Island Railway. The train takes commuters to the Staten Island Ferry, which takes about 30 minutes to cross the water.


    In September 1900, visitors to Midland Beach witnessed an unexpected show. Beach employees had built a fence to separate the area from Woodland Beach, a resort to the immediate south, to shut off passage between the two. About 15 people on the Woodland side took offense and took axes to the fence in broad daylight. “There was some blood shed,” according to an article in The New York Times, “but that was before the police arrived.”

  9. #9
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    Oct 2002


    Peek At the Remains of Staten Island's Abandoned Expressway

    by Kelsey Keith

    (more pics Nathan Kensinger)

    ...abandoned Robert Moses-era highway interchange above the Staten Island Expressway. The "one mile of twisting concrete paths" called The Richmond Parkway has been abandoned for 45 years and was originally intended to stretch the 9.5 miles between southern Staten Island and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, also overseen by Moses and finished in 1964.

    Incidentally, the Staten Island expressway is undergoing a big ole $140 million facelift; the groundbreaking was one year ago in September and the projected completion date is in 2013.

    Richmond Parkway Interchange [Nathan Kensinger]
    Map of the revamped Staten Island Expressway (PDF) [SI Live]

  10. #10


    Thanks Merry. No Expressway I have ever been on needs an upgrade quite like the SI Expressway does.

  11. #11
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    Oct 2002


    A Layer Cake, Topographically and Otherwise

    By C. J. HUGHES

    Mary DiBiase Blaich for The New York Times
    Overlook Avenue in Dongan Hills reveals what inspired local place names.
    Houses ranging widely in both age and price are similarly perched, and water views are prized.

    More Photos »

    THE idea that there could be mean streets on the Upper East Side may seem, to some New Yorkers, akin to the suggestion that alligators swim in the sewers. But crime was in fact a problem on the streets of Yorkville in the early 1960s, according to Steven Zboinski, whose parents would whisk him away each summer to the sparsely settled and comparatively wholesome East Shore of Staten Island.

    “It was to make sure you were being brought up the right way,” he said.

    Not that the area, which arcs below the Verrazano Bridge, was perfect. Pollution forced the closure of some beaches over the years, and a boardwalk along the shore fell apart.

    All the same, young Steven became forever charmed by its hushed streets, carefree vibe and sea air. So it was obvious where he would move, once old enough to make his own decisions: the East Shore, and in particular Dongan Hills, a two-and-a-half-square-mile enclave (population about 25,000) that sweeps from Lower New York Bay to the base of Todt Hill.

    His timing has shown him to be in sync with the currents of real estate change. Over the last few decades, the waterside section of Dongan Hills, where Mr. Zboinski so often spent July as a child, has transitioned from a second-home getaway to a year-round community.

    So he was far from the only new arrival in 1989, when he bought a two-bedroom vinyl-sided wood-frame house in an area where most properties are separated by narrow alleys. The home, which cost him $125,000, was appraised in 2007 for $410,000, though the recession has since further changed things, with the value dropping to $265,000 last year.

    Even so, it is clear to Mr. Zboinski, who works as a building painter for the College of Staten Island, that Dongan Hills is at the moment enjoying an upswing. City projects to revitalize the beach area and the adjacent wetlands will continue to improve property values, said Mr. Zboinski, who believes that magical feeling the landscape stirred in him as a child can be recaptured. “It feels great, fabulous to see it all come back,” he said.

    Longtime ties to the community have also bred loyalty in Jerry Ruggiero, a retired electrician for the Staten Island Railway who lives in a 1960s brick ranch, near the train station to which he used to walk to work.

    Mr. Ruggiero, the second person ever to own his three-bedroom property, paid $60,000 for it in 1981 and estimates it could sell for $400,000 today. Yet if his family history is any indication, he’s not going anywhere. His mother and father live one street over, on the block where both grew up.

    Suggesting the gentleness of the ebbs and flows of life here, the agenda of the 40-member Dongan Hills United Civic Association, of which Mr. Ruggiero is president, is usually light.

    There are some worries about wild turkeys on lawns; potholes are also discussed. And heavy traffic on the commercial arteries of Richmond Road and Hylan Boulevard persistently generates complaints. But residents say the traffic has been a nuisance since 1964, when the Verrazano opened, uniting Staten Island and Brooklyn.

    Still, the group didn’t oppose the Muslim American Society of Staten Island when it sought to open a mosque in a former Hindu temple on Burgher Avenue, after it was fiercely rebuffed next door in Midland Beach.

    Dongan Hills may be set in its ways, Mr. Ruggiero said, but that doesn’t mean new faces aren’t welcome.


    Dongan Hills has three sections, layered and stacked in a kind of cake.

    Attention-seeking multimillion-dollar mansions are found in the icing, in the Dongan Hills Colony, which is terraced above Richmond Road. But tucked amid these stucco-sided houses with bulging bay windows are more modest two-families, like the high ranch “regular house” that belongs to Carol Bruzzese, who lives three blocks from where she grew up. She said she had been “determined to stay in the neighborhood,” which offers views of the Manhattan skyline.

    There are two-family homes throughout Dongan Hills, but absentee landlords do not predominate, according to census figures; two-thirds of all residents own their homes.

    In the middle layer, in the zone between Richmond and Hylan, streets like North Railroad Avenue are shaded by trees whose limbs meet in the middle. New houses, invariably bigger than their predecessors, turn up here, too. On Alter Avenue, a row of semidetached two-families, with porticos perched on tall columns, stare down at 1920s colonials.

    The bottom layer stretches south of Hylan to Father Capodanno Boulevard, or “Father Cap,” named for a Navy chaplain from Staten Island who died in the Vietnam War. Though closest to the beach, this area has the most affordable real estate: mostly peak-roofed one-story bungalows abutting lush wetlands.

    The lower values could reflect the fact that some of this area sits below sea level, so that flooding has been a problem. But the city and state have undertaken an ambitious effort, buying up undeveloped parcels in hopes of keeping them wild. The idea is that by replanting trees and keeping areas unpaved, they can provide a way to soak up rainwater and keep it from pooling on roads.
    Two-family homes have sprouted here, though they have older company. Along Slater Boulevard, named for L. Roy Slater, an early developer, older houses have front doors of different colors side by side, creating almost a Mutt-and-Jeff look.

    Condominiums are few and found in one of two types of building: small two-unit houses put up in the last several years, and larger complexes, like the seven-story structure at 175 Zoe Street, which went up in the 1980s.

    The area is largely white and mostly Italian — residents of Little Italys in Manhattan and the Bronx used to summer here. Russian and Chinese immigrants have relocated from Brooklyn in recent years, brokers say.


    In mid-June there were 72 single-family houses for sale, at an average of $677,565, according to data from the Staten Island Multiple Listing Service.

    They ranged from a three-bedroom Cape on Hancock Street, close to the Dongan Hills station of the Staten Island Railway, listed at $260,000, to an eight-bathroom mansion in the Colony with an entryway aquarium, listed at $3.8 million.

    Since the recession, prices in all categories have slipped. In 2007, at the peak of the market, there were 84 single-family sales, at an average of $489,000, according to the listing service. In 2011 there were 66 sales, at an average of $437,000, for a decline of 11 percent.

    Two-family homes fell about the same amount. In 2007 there were 39 sales, at an average of $608,000; in 2011 there were 33, at an average of $550,000, or a decline of 10 percent.

    The main reason prices haven’t dropped 20 percent, as in other Staten Island neighborhoods, said Joseph Tsomik, an associate broker with Homes-R-Us Realty of New York, is proximity to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. “Most people who are moving here are from Brooklyn, and work in Manhattan, and they want easy access,” he said.


    The well-kept Franklin D. Roosevelt boardwalk, which west of Seaview Avenue becomes a concrete promenade, has people out strolling at all hours. The seafood restaurant Toto’s, nearby on Father Cap, hosts horseshoes games on Wednesday nights in the summer.

    Improvements to the area include the ongoing construction of a 2,500-seat field house for track and field on Father Cap, and an expanded pavilion area at the end of Seaview Avenue, which is to be the new home of the Victory Diner, a local landmark.

    Hylan, which has a jumble of strip malls, is for national chains — banks, restaurants and pharmacies — as the few mom-and-pop shops appear to be either recently closed or not yet open.


    A public school that serves the area is No. 52, the John C. Thompson School. In 2011, 58 percent of fifth-graders met standards in English, 72 percent in math. Citywide, those percentages were 49 and 63.

    A middle school is the George L. Egbert on Midland Avenue. And at New Dorp High School, which enrolls about 2,600, SAT averages last year were 418 in reading, 433 in math and 411 in writing, versus 437, 460 and 432 citywide.

    Parochial options include St. Christopher’s, a coed Catholic school that goes through Grade 8. Tuition for a single child is $3,975 a year, plus fees.


    Seven Staten Island Railway trains leave from the Dongan Hills station between 7 and 9 a.m., arriving 14 minutes later at the St. George ferry terminal, where boats leave for Manhattan. Total commute time to Midtown is an hour and a half.

    Nine express buses reach Midtown through Brooklyn, but they take about as long.


    The area is named for Thomas Dongan, who in the late 1600s served as a governor of the Colonial province of New York. He had an estate in nearby Castleton.

  12. #12
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    Oct 2002

    Default Stapleton

    Historic-District Plan Puts Street at Odds


    Mark Abramson for The Wall Street Journal
    Owners on Harrison Street in Staten Island are divided about an historic district for the area.
    Linda Acevedo owns 64 Harrison, above, and opposes the district.

    In 2005, preservationists began asking the city to create a historic district on Harrison Street, a small block tucked away in the Staten Island neighborhood of Stapleton. The area comprises only 43 houses, includes well-preserved examples of many mid-19th- to early-20th-century architectural styles, such as Greek Revival, Second Empire and Queen Anne.

    Mark Abramson for The Wall Street Journal Linda Acevedo with husband Richard and daughter Ava.

    The wheels now are in motion for the designation of what would be Staten Island's fourth historic district. The Landmarks Preservation Commission has set Oct. 30 for a public hearing, the final step before the commission can decide whether to approve the district's designation. \
    But the move is divisive both among Harrison Street's residents and local politicians. Borough President James Molinaro is against the designation because he said it would impose an additional financial hardship on homeowners.

    Mark Abramson for The Wall Street Journal Cynthia Mailman owns 93-95 Harrison, above,
    with her husband and backs the designation plan.

    "If I own a house and it becomes a landmark, I should be rewarded, maybe with a tax break, because I may have to pay $6,000 to replace a window so it looks like the original style of the house," Mr. Molinaro said. "If someone wants to buy that house, they might not want to pay the $6,000, either."

    But City Council Member Debi Rose of Staten Island favors creation of the district. "I support preservation and this is a beautiful neighborhood that reflects the historic period that should be captured," Ms. Rose said in a statement. The designation "may create a financial burden" for some homeowners, she said, but she noted that funding is available to assist in such cases.
    The last historic district designated on Staten Island was in 2004, when the St. Paul's Avenue-Stapleton Heights district was created. While that district is also in Stapleton, it is known for grand houses first inhabited by captains of industry, whereas Harrison Street's first residents were predominantly middle class.

    Mark Abramson for The Wall Street Journal Cynthia Mailman

    Harrison Street is completely residential and about a 25-minute walk from the Staten Island Ferry. The main commercial drag nearby, Bay Street, is a few blocks away, and its retail includes a couple bank chains, some mom-and-pop shops and several vacant storefronts.

    Cynthia Mailman, a former president of a local preservation group that initially commissioned a study to designate Harrison Street a historic district in the mid-2000s, believes a historic district would bring financial stability—and likely add value—to properties on the block. It could also be a catalyst for changing the entire area, she said.

    "The majority of the people living around here are poor or working class," said Ms. Mailman, who lives 1½ blocks away from Harrison and owns a large house on the street that she and her husband rent to several tenants. The designation "could help lift up the area, which doesn't have great commercial activity," she said.

    But resident Lisa Acevedo has started an online petition against the proposed district. She said that while she isn't against historic districts in general, she is mainly concerned that her family wouldn't be able to afford some of the regulations that go along with landmarking.

    "There are months where we can barely make our mortgage payment," said Ms. Acevedo. "What if there's a hurricane and we need to replace the roof but we have to go through the city to do it and spend more money?"

    Staten Island State Sen. Diane J. Savino, whose district includes Stapleton, said she has been in talks with the block's homeowners and estimates they are almost evenly split. Still, she said residents appeared to be "narrowly in favor of" the proposed district.

    Ed Blomberg, who lives on the block with his wife, said the couple is undecided about the designation.

    "It's complicated, because we know there are benefits, but we're trying to think both short- and long-term," said Mr. Blomberg.

    "A lot of people on the block are getting caught up in the short term and thinking it's going to cost them a lot, but we're also trying to think about whether preservation is a better thing for our property in the long term," he said.

    The landmarks commission has stepped up activity on Staten Island in recent years, with about a third of all the borough's landmark buildings having been designated since 2003, according to commission spokeswoman Elisabeth de Bourbon. Staten Island's has the fewest historic districts in the city; the number in other boroughs ranges between 10 in the Bronx and 57 in Manhattan, excluding district extensions.

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    Oct 2002

    Default Mariners Harbor

    Coastal Perch; Varied Nests on Offer

    By C. J. HUGHES

    Ben Rosenzweig for The New York Times
    A view of Mariners Harbor from the Bayonne Bridge.

    More Photos »

    Ben Rosenzweig for The New York Times
    65 Van Pelt Avenue

    The city trend toward transforming decayed industrial shoreline into public space has not yet made landfall in the northwestern Staten Island neighborhood of Mariners Harbor. But José Marrero, betting that the tides of gentrification wash over every area eventually, moved here a decade ago from a two-bedroom rental in Coney Island.

    Mr. Marrero, a retired police officer who spent most of his career in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, watched as its once-ragtag river banks reinvented themselves with promenades and high-rise condominiums. Developer zeal may well prompt a similar land grab in Mariners Harbor. But, Mr. Marrero acknowledged, it will probably take so long to happen that his four young children will be the ones who benefit.

    Along Richmond Terrace, glimpses through fences topped with razor wire reveal sights seemingly from another era: barges jostling for space at piers; trucks loading furniture from factories with dirt-streaked windows; and, at an auto wrecker’s shop near Arlington Avenue, heaps of cars crushed like candy wrappers.

    And yet the state of the waterfront, which has at various times over the decades produced warships, varnish and fireworks, very likely explains why homes in the area stay so affordable, said Mr. Marrero, who described himself as having been poor as a child. Mariners Harbor is a place within city limits where a sizable house in good condition is within reach for a civil servant.
    “I never thought I would own a house, ever,” he said. “I never thought I would own anything.”

    But he does: a stucco house with three bedrooms, two and a half baths, and a backyard where he barbecues. The home cost $299,000 in 2003, he said; a recent assessment put its value at $368,000.

    The neighborhood, which spans one and a half square miles, has had issues on some blocks with drug-dealing and prostitution, but residents cite improvement. Mariners Harbor is in the 120th Precinct, which covers all the island’s northern shore, and crime has dropped notably across the board. Reported robberies, for instance, were 290 in 2012, versus 1,016 in 1993. And this year, the neighborhood will be folded into a new precinct, the 121st, to be carved out of the 120th and 122nd, and which will be patrolled out of a splashy new $66 million station on Richmond Avenue. Response times to crimes should be quicker now that officers don’t have to drive all the way across the island from the St. George neighborhood, where the 120th is based, residents say.

    The most direct evidence of a turnaround may be a growing population. According to census figures from 2000 to 2011, Mariners Harbor swelled to 31,000 from 27,000. Unlike residents of some overbuilt areas elsewhere, people here point appreciatively to the many town house complexes dating to the 2000s real estate boom.

    “They really helped clean up the neighborhood, said Jorge Sánchez, who drives limousines for a living. “Some of those lots were empty, and a lot of the old buildings were really run-down.”
    “You walk in any direction,” added Mr. Sánchez, who walks his Siberian husky, Lobo, about a mile every day, and “you see improvement — it’s a cycle.”

    What You’ll Find

    Mariners Harbor is bounded not only by factories but also by highways. To the south is the Staten Island Expressway, and to the east is the Martin Luther King Expressway.

    Suburbia seems to have influenced the area’s look. Houses are often set back behind neat carpet-size lawns, and mailboxes are propped up on posts along sidewalks, instead of hanging on outside walls. In the enclave of Arlington, near a former Bethlehem Steel complex that built ships, the less citified feel may be most evident. A line of homogeneous one-story hipped-roof ranches face Macormac Place. Another enclave, Graniteville, is named for a former quarry; its central component is Regal Walk, a 164-unit condo complex that went up on farmland in the late 1980s.

    Then there is Elm Park, a strip by the King Expressway and Morningstar Road, with older wood-frame houses set close together, as along John Street. It is expecting a development called Nicholas Estates, an 86-unit complex of two-family homes, on a parcel on Nicholas Avenue, though construction has been delayed by the discovery of barium in the soil. Across the street, under the Bayonne Bridge, is a site that during World War II briefly stored radioactive materials for the Manhattan Project.

    Often, old and new coexist. On South Avenue stands a red clapboard home with a stained-glass window by its enclosed porch. Next to it is a semidetached one-family, with beige brick and a concrete stoop, and satellite dishes on its roof. Late 1800s Second Empire homes, reportedly built by sea captains active in the oyster trade, are scattered about. Four loom along Van Pelt Avenue, with their mansard roofs a telltale sign despite major alterations. Along Brabant Street a 1950s-era housing project, Mariners Harbor, has 22 red-brick buildings.

    Like the housing stock, the population is diverse. According to the census, 25 percent of residents are white, 30 percent black, 34 percent Latino and 8 percent Asian, with recent arrivals from China, Pakistan and Nigeria.

    What You’ll Pay

    In early May there were 60 single-family houses for sale, at an average of $293,000, according to data from the Staten Island Multiple Listing Service prepared by Century 21 Papp Realty. The priciest was a new one-family colonial on Ronald Avenue, with three bedrooms and one and a half baths, listed at $499,900; the cheapest was a two-bedroom 1899 row house that a previous owner lost to foreclosure, at $142,900.

    In addition, 22 multifamily homes were for sale, asking an average of $372,000; there were also listings for 26 condos, at an average of $208,000.

    Prices have yet to recover from the recession. In 2008, 83 single-families sold, at an average of $287,000, the data show; in 2012, 54 sold at an average of $227,000. This spring “has been a little bit better than the last three or four years,” said Joseph Fedele, a Papp agent. “But that’s really more of a feeling than a reality.”

    Those who, like Mr. Sánchez, buy older houses are probably in for renovation expenses. He moved to Mariners Harbor almost 20 years ago, paying $129,000 for his 1898 wood-frame house with a breezy front porch, but repairs and improvements have been numerous, like the current project to replace its asphalt driveway with pebbles. It might sell for $300,000, he said, basing his estimate on nearby listings.

    What to Do

    A flurry of strip-mall redevelopment in recent years along Forest Avenue has added major retailers and chains like Lowe’s, Kohl’s, Little Caesars and White Castle. Groceries come from Western Beef, at a site where milk was bottled for most of the 20th century.

    The Schools

    Public School 22, on Forest Avenue, has about 1,000 students, some of whom sang at President Obama’s 2013 inauguration. The school got a C on its most recent city progress report. For Grades 6 through 8, an option is Intermediate School 72, nearby in New Springville, which has about 1,300 students. It, too, got a C last year.

    Susan E. Wagner High School in Todt Hill offers Spanish, Italian, French and Latin, and extracurriculars like a mock-trial team, according to its Web site. SAT averages last year were 455 in reading, 474 in math and 459 in writing, versus 434, 461 and 430 citywide.

    The Commute

    Buses are the sole form of public transportation. The X30 express to Manhattan runs down Forest Avenue to the Lincoln Tunnel and Midtown. It takes 40 minutes during rush hour; the fare is $6.

    The History

    Parts of the area became a middle-class vacation destination in the late 1800s, when the railroad baron Erastus Wiman, who called the area Erastina, hosted Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, according to the Parks Department. The two-hour spectacle was said to cost 50 cents and to draw 15,000 people a day.

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    Oct 2002

    Default Emerson Hill

    On Staten Island, Wilderness With Creature Comforts


    Kendall Waldman for The New York Times
    A bucolic hillside neighborhood with a link to a celebrated 19th-century poet offers privacy, big old trees and easy Verrazano Bridge access.

    22 Wilsonview Place
    A four-bedroom five-bath home with city skyline views, listed at $1.699 million.

    It’s not surprising that the 19th-century transcendentalists were attracted to Emerson Hill on Staten Island: The neighborhood still has a measure of the natural beauty of the wilderness that first attracted those poets and philosophers.

    Abounding in beeches and oaks of great height and age, the area is named for William Emerson, a former resident and a brother of the poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, who was a frequent visitor along with the likes of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry David Thoreau. Up a hill that has only two unassuming entrances, this neighborhood of just over 100 houses hidden in thickets has retained anonymity even by the standards of an island borough — a kind of side benefit of its geography.

    Before George Marchese bought his four-bedroom home here about a decade ago, he had never heard of Emerson Hill.

    “I lived on Staten Island for 10 years, 12 years, and I didn’t know it existed,” Mr. Marchese said. “I used to drive by it all the time, and one day there were balloons out there at the bottom of the hill, where it says ‘No Through Traffic,’ and it looks like a giant driveway. A sign said ‘Open House,’ and I said: ‘What the heck is this? You can go up this hill?’ ”

    Mr. Marchese did, and made an offer on the house as soon as he saw its tree-trimmed property and the sprawling views from its back deck.

    “To the left was the city, to the right was New Jersey, and right in dead center was the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge,” he said, “and it was so beautiful. The agent came out and said, ‘You want to see the rest of the house?’ And I said, ‘No, I just want to make an offer.’ ”

    The current estimate for that house, for which Mr. Marchese paid about $900,000 a decade ago, may be almost $1.2 million, he said; it has appreciated far less than he had originally hoped. But the value has been in enjoying the property, where sightings of deer, raccoons, opossums and birds are frequent, he said.

    “We’ve loved every minute of being here,” said Mr. Marchese, a tree consultant by trade, adding that the house, just minutes from the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, gives him easy access to all the boroughs for his work. “We have all the holidays here, and the kids love it. The grandchildren come and run around this house in the trees — it’s like a castle for them.”

    Mr. Marchese says that Emerson Hill reminds him of a rustic mountain town in Italy, and for good reason. Spread over about 150 acres, the neighborhood has winding streets that in some places are too narrow for two cars to pass. Many houses are on terraced properties and perched high above the street.

    Styles range from Swiss chalet, English Tudor and center-hall colonial to the more contemporary; many houses have pools. In that, the area is comparable to nearby Todt Hill, one of Staten Island’s most affluent neighborhoods. But Emerson Hill has a less manicured, cultivated feel.

    Residents can join a homeowner’s association; its fees maintain some of the landscape as well as street lamps and entrance gates at the foot of the hill. But the gates are always open, Mr. Marchese said.

    “There’s no guard or anything like that,” he said. “You can just drive right up. Everybody’s pretty nice here.”

    What You’ll Find

    The area is a haven for professionals, mostly doctors and lawyers, from different ethnic backgrounds, said Catherine McCarthy-Turer, an agent with Stribling & Associates who as a child often stayed with a close relative in Emerson Hill. “I spent the majority of my childhood there,” she said, “and it’s this incredibly bucolic setting that’s remained really unchanged for decades.”

    In area it is typically seen as bounded by Clove Road or the Staten Island Expressway to the north and Richmond Road to the east. Of the two entrances, one is on the north side at Emerson Drive, the other on the east side at Douglas Road. The neighborhood, consisting of those roads and several others that branch off, has about 105 families, according to Larry Lettera, a president of the Emerson Hill Civic Association.

    “Douglas Road is the main road,” Ms. McCarthy-Turer said, “and you have all these sort of small little roads that jut off of that, and some are hidden little treasures.”

    The neighborhood once consisted of several large estates; it didn’t formally come into being until the late 1920s and early 1930s, at the hands of a prominent Staten Island developer named Cornelius G. Kolff. Its history is still apparent in the layout of its streets. Ms. McCarthy-Turer said that Overlook Drive, where she stayed as a child, was once a lawn-bowling green for residents.

    “The original estates were really quite large,” she said, “and then over time some have been broken up. New houses have been developed slowly over time — and they’re quite large houses, ranging in size from 3,000 to 6,000 square feet.”

    What You’ll Pay

    The neighborhood consists solely of single-family homes, of which there are typically only a handful on the market at one time; in early November there were five. There has been limited development, in the form of teardowns of older, smaller houses to make way for larger ones.

    “It’s the kind of area where people come, and they stay,” said Traci Cangiano, the owner-broker of Cangiano Estates in Staten Island.

    Prices start at around $800,000 and top out at several million dollars, brokers say. Of the few sales so far in 2013, the highest price, $820,000, was paid for a 3,000-square-foot brick-and-stone colonial on an 11,000-square-foot lot on Douglas Road, Ms. Cangiano said.

    The Commute

    Emerson Hill, fairly centrally situated, is “extremely peaceful and secluded — a private oasis — yet it’s two minutes to access the Staten Island Expressway and five minutes to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and into Brooklyn,” Ms. McCarthy-Turer said.

    It takes about 20 minutes to drive into Lower Manhattan, and about 30 to reach Midtown. The Grasmere station of the Staten Island Railroad, which takes commuters to the ferry on the North Shore, is about a five-minute drive or a 20-minute walk; other commuters opt for the many express buses that stop at the foot of Emerson Hill, among them the X10, X14 and X15.

    What to Do

    Residents describe Emerson Hill as a retreat from the busy world where your yard is a park. But it isn’t as cut off from activities as that image might imply. Pastosa Ravioli, an Italian specialty food company, is a few blocks away on Richmond Road, as is Carol’s Cafe, which also serves as a culinary school. The Richmond Country Club in neighboring Todt Hill, a short drive away, has swimming, tennis, golf and dining.

    For more shopping options, Richmond Avenue is home to the Staten Island Mall, one of the largest on the island, about 15 minutes’ drive. Ms. Cangiano says residents will have easy access to the New York Wheel and Empire Outlets, the shopping center to open on the North Shore sometime in 2016.

    The Schools

    The area has several private schools, as well as a public school, No. 48 William C. Wilcox, in a new building on Richmond Road. The school currently serves prekindergarten through Grade 6 but will be adding Grades 7 and 8 in coming years. Chosen as a National Blue Ribbon School in 2011, Wilcox got a B on its latest city progress report, with 77.2 percent of tested students showing mastery in English and 87.3 percent in math, versus 47 and 60 citywide.

    Many children from Emerson Hill go to private schools like the all-girls’ St. Joseph Hill Academy and the Staten Island Academy. Both teach prekindergarten through Grade 12. Just north of the Expressway from Emerson Hill are the Staten Island branches of St. John’s University and Wagner College.

    The History

    Though sometimes described as being in Todt Hill, the two Longfellow Avenue Tudors used as the Corleone compound in the 1972 movie “The Godfather,” are considered by many to be neighborhood landmarks, said Constance B. Lane, a longtime resident.

  15. #15
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    Oct 2002

    Default Tottenville

    Living in Staten Island’s Tottenville Neighborhood

    FEB. 11, 2015
    By C. J. HUGHES

    Slide Show

    Tottenville, a self-contained enclave along Staten Island’s southwestern waterfront, can be rich in contrasts.

    Brightly painted wood-frame houses from the Civil War era sit near beige 21st-century stone mansions. Lines of cars snarl Amboy Road, but on wooded paths by Raritan Bay, a walker may have only cardinals for company.

    And on a recent afternoon, along the industrial Arthur Kill waterway, tugboats sat marooned in a dirt lot, while next door at La Bella Marketplace, shoppers browsed the Italian delicacies.

    “There is modern, there is old. There is large, there is small. But this is definitely a very quaint and quiet community,” said Mildred Merlucci, who relocated to Staten Island a few decades ago from Brooklyn in search of more light and space.

    Today, Ms. Merlucci, a former math teacher, owns a three-bedroom four-bath colonial in Tottenville that cost $360,000 in 1988 but could fetch twice that today, brokers say.

    Some of the side-by-side juxtapositions in the neighborhood, which is about 22 miles as the gull flies from Midtown Manhattan, stem from the twin forces that have shaped the place in recent years — aggressive development and an often parallel effort to keep things looking the same.

    770 CRAIG AVENUE A two-family 1980 house with five bedrooms and two and a half baths total, listed at $899,000.
    Bryan Anselm for The New York Times

    A former oystering port turned bedroom community, Tottenville has experienced intense growth in the last couple of decades. From 1970 to 1990, the area’s population increased by about 20 percent, or to 8,000 from 6,600 residents, according to the Social Explorer census website. Yet from 1990 to 2010, the population grew almost 90 percent, or to 15,000 from 8,000 residents.

    A backlash followed. Residents pushed for zoning changes to make it tougher to squeeze numerous residences onto lots.

    Similarly, a city plan in the 1990s to build soccer fields in the 265-acre Conference House Park prompted an outcry about crowds and sparked the formation of the Tottenville Civic Association, which successfully blocked the proposal. Today, the thick forest of walnut and hackberry trees inside the park may have the association to thank for its existence.

    “Our motto is to preserve a small-town quality of life, which is hard to do when you have unbridled growth,” said James Pistilli, the president of the 60-member group.

    Mr. Pistilli, a retired hospital administrator, has experienced development pressure firsthand. A few years ago, a builder offered to buy his house, which was built in 1865 in the French Second Empire style, in order to raze it to make way for several newer homes, Mr. Pistilli said.

    The sale never happened, but Mr. Pistilli might come out ahead anyway. The house, which cost $78,000 in 1980, could go for $575,000 today, based on a recent appraisal, he said.

    In recent years, a more immediate crisis gripped Tottenville: Hurricane Sandy, which flooded much of the area around Billop Avenue and claimed the lives of two residents.

    Still, many who live in Tottenville say the allure of being near the water outweighs the potential risks. “I think people are thinking that Sandy was the worst possible scenario of things coming together,” Ms. Merlucci said, “and the likelihood of that happening again is very, very small.”

    What You’ll Find

    Tottenville, occupying roughly the area covered by the 10307 ZIP code, is bordered mostly by water — the Arthur Kill and Raritan Bay — and also by Page Avenue and Richmond Valley Road, according to many residents, brokers and local officials. The neighborhood is often considered divided by Amboy Road into “old” and “new” sections, which refer to both the age of the housing stock and how long people have lived there.

    The older part has Italianate, Greek Revival and Carpenter Gothic homes, some from the mid-1800s, though sometimes they have been modified to a point where just a few architectural flourishes remain. And their residents were often born and raised in the area, brokers say. The newer section, especially south of Hylan Boulevard, usually has far more recent construction.

    “Older homes are sort of overplayed,” said Michael Orlando, a construction worker who moved in 2005 from Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, to the “new” side of Amboy, to a 1918 two-bedroom house that cost $414,000. But it was too small for his growing family, so he razed it and built a larger one, with four bedrooms. And this month, he said, major renovations are underway at four of the 15 older houses on his block.

    What You’ll Pay

    At the end of last month, there were 60 homes for sale listed at an average of $744,000, according to

    23 BRUNO LANE A 2004 four-bedroom three-and-half-bath house in a homeowners association, listed at $860,999
    Bryan Anselm for The New York Times

    At the high end in Tottenville, which has some of the priciest properties on Staten Island, was a contemporary with an indoor pool and Arthur Kill views, along exclusive Wards Point Avenue, at $3.25 million. The least expensive was a one-bedroom condo at $148,900.

    In 2014, 61 single-family homes sold at an average price of $531,000, according to data prepared by Neuhaus Realty, compared with 48 single-families at an average of $463,000 in 2013.
    As for condos, four sold in 2014, at an average of $265,000, versus five in 2013 at $184,000.

    Multifamilies have been a bit weaker, though, with 35 sales at an average of $694,000 in 2014, the Neuhaus data shows, compared with 46 sales in 2013 at $715,000 in 2013.

    What to Do

    Shopping options are abundant. Tottenville is checkered with strip malls containing drugstores, dry cleaners and groceries. And other centers nearby offer national brands like Target, Home Depot and Bed Bath & Beyond.

    Restaurants are also found in those settings, too, like Cabo, a Mexican place on Page Avenue that gets lively at night. Amboy Road has more casual mom-and-pop offerings, like pizzerias.

    182 FISHER AVENUE A bank-owned 1920 three-bedroom one-bath house needing renovation, listed at $339,900
    Bryan Anselm for The New York Times

    A huge converted warehouse on Richmond Valley Road offers the Fastbreak Basketball Center; Intoxx Fitness, with kickboxing and Pilates classes; and the RollerJam USA rink.

    The Schools

    Many students attend P.S. 1 the Tottenville School, with about 520 students from prekindergarten to fifth grade. On state tests last year, 49 percent of students met standards in English versus 30 percent citywide. In math, 47 percent met standards, versus 39 percent citywide, according to its Elementary School Quality Snapshot. The nearby Totten Intermediate School enrolls about 1,160 students for sixth to eighth grades and had a 93 percent attendance rate, its snapshot said.

    It sends most of its students to nearby Tottenville High School, which enrolls about 4,000, 85 percent of whom graduate in four years, according to its snapshot. Last year’s SAT averages there were 467 reading, 487 math and 468 writing, compared with 441, 463 and 436 citywide.

    The Commute

    The Staten Island Railway, which runs to the St. George ferry terminal, has three stations in the neighborhood: Nassau, Atlantic and Tottenville. The fare is a MetroCard swipe. From Tottenville, the fastest rush-hour trains, making limited stops, take 34 minutes; regular trains take 42 minutes. Ferries from St. George to Lower Manhattan are free and take about 25 minutes.

    But the lightly used Nassau and Atlantic stations will soon be combined into a new stop, Arthur Kill Station, located between them. The $15 million project is supposed to open late this year, with parking for 150 cars.

    Express buses ($6) include the X22 and X22A, which loop around Hyland and Amboy, then run through New Jersey and reach Manhattan in a little over an hour, according to the schedule.
    But cars still rule, and there are discounts for drivers using E-ZPass at bridges like the Verrazano-Narrows.

    The History

    Named for the Totten family, whose occupations included blacksmith, oysterman and sea captain, according to historical records, the area was renamed in the early 1900s by the post office to Bentley Manor. The decision was quickly reversed after opposition to the new name.

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