What do you guys think about Staten Island? I am a part-time resident. I split my living between my Mom’s house on Staten Island on the weekends, and my own home in New Jersey during the week, about forty minutes from the island. I know there are many issues people have with Staten Island, but I am actually from Brooklyn, and we moved to Staten Island when I was in third grade, just as I finally made friends with everyone, after years of agonizing shyness.
But once we moved, I made even more friends! When we moved to the island, Staten Island was still an oasis within New York City. Since that time, many old-timers have sought greener pastures in Florida, Texas, the Carolinas, New jersey, Pennsylvania. New neighbors took their place. Some are friendly, like the original people. Others are not. Most green spaces have been built on. We moved in 1975 (dating myself here—hey, don’t be an ageist!) and the island was a different place. For instance, we had horses at the end of my block. Now, it’s a deli and nail salon and pizzeria. Progress.
Most of the people I speak with in New Jersey think Staten Island is Long Island. Can I really understand the confusion? Staten Island News, co-workers, friends, and New jersey neighbors tell me, is all about organized crime happenings. That’s just not true. Nor is it true that the island is made of garbage. If it makes them feel like life is more exciting because Sheila spends her weekends on the island, I guess who am I to burst their bubbles? But the “Staten Italy” comments are too much. It’s just not funny. And jokes about Staten Island Italians’ skin being “orange” because of tanning salons make me almost puke! This IS my skin color. I’m 75% Italian, 25% Puerto Rican. I am dark, so deal with it without the comments. And, my Italian relatives are literally brown, my Mom’s Dad, from Puerto Rico, has blue eyes and is fair. Life is strange.
The truth is, Staten Island is a big place. It’s almost Brooklyn’s twin borough, in terms of size. Like seventy square miles or so. There are a half a million people here and so you can be sure it’s just another part of New York City, and not some place out of the movies, a hick-town of some sort. I would have bought a house on Staten Island, but the prices are so high that in New Jersey, where I ended up, I can get a house with 5 bedrooms, 4 and a half baths, a half acre of land, all for what you would probably think is a house made out of a box on Staten Island. Staten Island houses can be boxy. I mean, there are mansions that probably cost 100 million dollars, houses with acres of land up in the hills, but for the most part, the houses are either townhouses or detached homes that are somewhat modest. Yet costly. My New Jersey home is decidedly majestic. I mean, it’s even a unique design. On Staten Island, I’d be in a box.
As far as Staten Island news goes, there are plenty of different things happening, and no newspaper is going to get it all. The local paper, the Staten Island Advance, is very old. It’s like a hundred years old? I remember, as a kid, doing Current Events homework assignments, having to cut out an article from the Advance and summarize it and then present in front of the class. My family also got the New York Times and the Daily News. (My uncle had a truck route delivering the papers from the plant, and he always gave us free papers. He lived downstairs until he moved back to Italy in 1999.)
The news on Staten Island ranges from who is having a Sweet Sixteen to politics and everything in between. Staten Island is not a town. It’s a borough of New York City. And so, we have like 50 towns on the island! On the North Shore, where it’s urbanized, they’re called neighborhoods. But in the East and South Shores, where it’s more like suburbs on Long Island, we call them towns. Most towns have a station on the Staten Island Rapid Transit, now known as the Staten Island Railway. It’s not quite a suburb. Don’t get confused. It’s still NYC. But there are tons of parks, and that’s why we’re now known as the Borough of Parks.
There are a lot of Italian people on Staten Island. That rumor is true. As a result, the pizza really is the best in the world, and there are tons of choices for Italian food. There are also many salumerias and even places that make fresh cheese and pasta! Overall, it’s beautiful, but it isn’t for everyone. There is a lot of traffic. Tolls are $20 for the bridges. Yes. You read that right. And lastly, you have to be able to tolerate that NO ONE outside of Staten Island is ever going to do anything but laugh at your borough.
There’s a lot of culture here, too. Sailor’s Snug Harbor is amazing. It’s a sprawling cultural center built on the site of a home for retired sailors. I kid you not. I even went to school there in fifth grade every Friday, a program called “Across Four Bridges.” We learned all about New York City maritime history. It was fun not to be in actual school.
So when you think you’re going to make a witty joke about Staten Island news being all about mobsters and organized crime, think twice. To me, that’s just biased. There’s a whole lot more here than you could ever imagine. We actually like it that outsiders don’t come around! Staten Island is like a secret. If you don’t want in on it, that’s cool. More pizza, fresh mozzarella, and handmade ravioli for me!
I started contributing articles to local newspapers. I know I’m not the best writer, but I know grammar, and I can be passing entertaining. How much skill does it really take to be in the news business, anyway? And, for real, I’m just doing this for fun. My career is in marketing research and early childhood education. Well, twin careers.