Staten Island’s North Shore is a rich and varied urban landscape – the villages, with their unique and authentic vibrancy; the waterfront, where you can go all the way to the shoreline and feel immersed in the marine air and sounds; the layered history, still visible in the beautifully scaled old buildings; and the communities, filled with different traditions and nationalities and home to remarkably many artists, craftspeople, and civic activists.
All of these unique qualities make up the culture of the North Shore, and our job as the Future Culture project team has been to weave its many threads into a cohesive vision for the future.
While we want to define the North Shore as a destination and home, we do not seek to homogenize it. When looking at the environments along Bay Street, we are interested less in underscoring the idea of a unified Bay Street Corridor and more in amplifying the diverse nodes and creating enriched connections.
The proximity of St. George and Tompkinsville to the Ferry and coming attractions such as The New York Wheel and Empire Outlets suggests that there could be one defined urban corridor and streetscape that grades from the magnificent Borough Hall building and Paulo Park to the more finegrained Tompkinsville neighborhood—a retail and entertainment corridor that one could easily walk on a day trip.
The broad swath of boxy retail and industry along Bay Street between Tompkinsville and Stapleton—much of it fronted by parking lots—could be conceived as starkly different from the St. George-Tompkinsville stretch. This area could become a green ribbon of diverse plantings that would manage stormwater, provide much needed shade, and create breathing space between nodes—bringing the forested character of the Greenbelt and other natural areas on Staten Island down to the waterfront.
The upland communities of the North Shore have in the past been separated from the waterfront. Stronger connections from the villages and Bay Street to the waterfront could be encouraged by using arts and culture to enliven the many fenced-off blocks and the elevated train. Elevated stretches of Bay Street and Richmond Terrace offer some of the island’s best views of the Harbor, the Lower Manhattan skyline, and the Verrazano Bridge and could be similarly enhanced to allow people to walk or bike safely, rest in shade, and take in the views.
The North Shore waterfront is one of the gems of New York City, with many places where you can get right down to the water. It is a prized place for passive enjoyment and respite, with people regularly wading out onto the large outcrops of concrete at the bottom of Front Street, fishing off of Alice Austen Park and other quiet spots, or watching the boats near Miller’s Launch. It has the feel of old New York—when the waterfront was busy but austere, not overbuilt and overdesigned—and you can feel the powerful presence of the water.
We hope to encourage those businesses, organizations, and agencies charged with improving the landscape to retain these qualities, both in the new developments that emerge along the waterfront, and in new or renovated open spaces.
Staten Island is a place where you feel like you can get away from the city, but still be in a vital urban community. Our work is to provide guidelines and incentives to help the North Shore move into the future while safeguarding and enhancing the qualities that make it distinct and unique.
Click here to read more in the second edition of our Future Culture Newspaper. Stay tuned for the next edition.