The Secret Isle: Discovering Staten Island’s rich history

New York City’s fifth borough - Staten Island - has many opportunities for fun in the sun, with a side of history and culture too.

Written by Divya A | New Delhi | Published: May 18, 2016 8:03:49 pm

Staten Island Ferry_759 Getting off the ferry, one can walk to the Richmond County Bank Ballpark, where fans can enjoy a game of baseball along with post-game fireworks on Friday and Saturday nights.

In one episode of Sex and the City, the four girls from Manhattan take a ferry to Staten Island, where Carrie is on the jury for the New York Fire Department’s annual male calendar finalists selection. On their way home, Charlotte announces to the world, “I’m getting married this year!” The 25-minute boat ride from Staten Island to Manhattan that ensues, gives great views of lower Manhattan. The best part: the ride is free for everyone. With its miles of sandy beaches and nature trails, free summer concerts on the beach and historic homes, the borough is New York City’s hidden secret.

Getting off the ferry, one can walk to the Richmond County Bank Ballpark, where fans can enjoy a game of baseball along with post-game fireworks on Friday and Saturday nights. For outdoor family fun, the Staten Island Greenbelt is the borough’s system of connected parkland and nature preserves throughout the middle of the island, complete with bike paths and hiking trails.

Known as NYC’s “biggest little zoo,” the Staten Island Zoo features one of the country’s largest collections of venomous snakes and is also home to NYC’s most famous groundhog, Staten Island Chuck. One can enjoy the surf and sand at Midland Beach and South Beach on the East Shore, strolling along the Franklin D Roosevelt Boardwalk with its picturesque views of the Atlantic Ocean and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

Staten Island’s rich history can be traced at its museums and historic sites. One can discover the borough’s history and contributions to NYC’s art and culture at the Staten Island Museum. The museum has two locations: one is outside the St. George Ferry Terminal and the other is a brand-new building at Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden. Snug Harbor was once a sailor’s retirement village. Today, it is the location of the New York Chinese Scholar’s Garden, one of two authentic Chinese gardens in the country. Right up the street is one of the neighbourhood’s beloved cultural spots, the St George Theatre, which has seen the likes of Al Jolson, Diana Ross and Jerry Seinfeld perform on its stage.

StatenIslandMuseum, Photo by Bruce Damonte, 2015 One can discover the borough’s history and contributions to NYC’s art and culture at the Staten Island Museum. (Source: Bruce Damonte)

The former residence of one of America’s earliest groundbreaking female photographers, the Alice Austen House Museum in Rosebank pays homage to Alice Austen with a permanent collection of her documentary work and other photographic exhibitions. Situated not too far away is Fort Wadsworth — one of the oldest military installations in the country — which guarded New York Harbor during the Revolutionary War.

After exploring these cultural institutions on the North Shore, one can hop on the Staten Island Railway to Tottenville for a tour of The Conference House, which is the site of the Revolutionary Peace Conference of 1776 held between John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and other significant figures in American history. In Historic Richmond Town, visitors can take a walk back in time through restored homes and a museum that depict how Americans lived in the early 1700s.

Alice Austen House The Alice Austen House Museum in Rosebank pays homage to Alice Austen with a permanent collection of her documentary work and other photographic exhibitions.

And what’s visiting Staten Island without grabbing a slice of pizza? From Joe & Pat’s specialty slices in Castleton Corners to historic Denino’s Pizzeria & Tavern in Port Richmond, there are many a mouthwatering slice. Conveniently located near the St. George Ferry Terminal, Enoteca Maria in St George takes homemade cooking to a new level, featuring old-school “nonnas” who create authentic dishes. Not too far away, in Tompkinsville, home to one of the largest Sri Lankan communities in the country, New Asha offers blistered rotis, mutton curry and coconut broth soups.

The Staten Island Ferry runs every half hour—and every 15 minutes during rush hour—24/7, 365 days a year. The Staten Island Railway, which is free to access except at the St George and Tompkinsville stations, is another option for getting around the borough.
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