Tuesday, December 26, 2006
On December 24, 2006, The Advance listed a few Staten Island houses known for their over-the-top holiday lights. Prodigal Borough set out with our holiday guests, Michelle Auerbach and Aaron Morris, on Christmas eve in search of these and other extravagantly lit homes. When it comes to Christmas lights it doesn't matter if your home is a small brick contemporary, MacMansion or an antique victorian. This is the time of year to make your house stand head and shoulders above the rest purely based upon your creativity and willingness to pay Con Ed some extra cash. We were not disappointed. By far the most remarkable street was Philip Avenue, a small dead end street that you'd probably never venture down. However, when we spied Santa's sleigh and reindeer flying across the street in mid air we decided this street needed closer examination. These pictures do not do these houses justice. One house had even removed their huge front door and placed plexiglass over it so you could view a bizarre Christmas tableaux. Even their large second floor window was a huge diarama. There were more animatronics on this street than in a Macy's window display. The house with the reindeer flying towards it had a frightening singing Santa and Snowman with a large repertoire of holiday songs. They were on motion sensors so we had to drive back and forth to make them go on. Take our word for it and go see these for yourself. Hopefully, they will still be lit through the new year. The houses the Advance chose were nice but nothing in comparison to our first prize winning street, Philip Avenue. Second prize goes to the house with about 50 lifesize angels in the yard. (Does anyone have the address for this one?) It was hard to photograph those due to their high fence but in person it was exceedingly tasteful and pretty. There were are some strangeness while we drove around including houses with dozens of reindeer and some yard nativities. At one house on Forest Avenue visitors to the front door must duck under an enormous lit wisemen procession to enter. We put up a lone animatronic deer on our second floor tower balcony which cast a fine antler shadow and could be seen from blocks away. However, we were shamed by Staten Island holiday light creativity so we'll have to do better next year.
Saturday, October 28, 2006
One day while at home in our little castle on Staten Island I heard a ding dong sound similar to an icecream truck. I looked out my window and I saw a bright, lipstick red, truck with knives and blades carefully painted on it. I thought, "What the hell is this??!!" I tried to get a photo but the truck took off around the corner. The next time it came by my husband went out to investigate. It was a knife sharpening truck. How many neighborhoods can boast having one of these? Recently, I spoke to the truck owner, an elderly Italian fellow, and told him that my husband surely had some knives to be sharpened if he came by on the weekend. He promised to come by on a Saturday sometime before Thanksgiving. Keep your ears peeled!
Thursday, October 12, 2006
It seems like the New York press are starting to recognize our lovely little island. First, last week New York Magazine (October 2, 2006 issue, page 46 and 47) listed Staten Island as a "Neighborhood Value" in their cover feature "How To Navigate The Finally Turning, But Wacky & Confusing, (Upside Down) Real-Estate Market". Our stomping ground, the North Shore, is finally getting its due. This week New York Magazine asks why there are no plans for a first-class museum going up in Staten Island (see the blog post below this one). Today, Time Out NY, ranks two of our favorite Staten Island blocks as "The Top 50 Best Blocks in New York." Stapleton received the same score as St. George in the transportation category which we disagree with. St. George is closer to the ferry terminal and that was the clincher for us in choosing St. George over Stapleton, but we love both neighborhoods.
New York Magazine:
Staten IslandTime Out NY:
First-time homebuyers have helped to keep the low end active, while the recent end of tax abatements has made buying new high-end construction a less attractive option than it was a year ago. As a result, the borough's more suburban South Shore - where the bulk of pricey houses have gone up - is due for a slump. The island's North Shore, with its more diverse, urban stock, is better suited to weather the storm. Best Buy: The St. George neighborhood around the ferry terminal is just starting to be discovered. you can even find artist lofts, and we'll take the S.I. Yankees' waterfront stadium over the Cyclones' any day.
#17, St. Pauls Avenue between Beach and Clinton Streets, Stapleton, Staten IslandTime Out NY:
Those rambling Victorian homes definitely give St. Pauls Avenue and this historic district a lot of style. And when you want some decent alternatives to the tranquility, nearby Van Duzer Street offers plenty of good food, drink and live music.
#41, St. Marks Place between Hyatt Street and Victory Boulevard, St. George, Staten Island
St. Marks Place is conviently close to the ferry, but a farmers' market on your doorstep and a fabulous array of perfectly kept homes make for pristine departure from downtown Staten Island.
The fact that they used the words "Forgotten" and "Staten Island" in the same sentence tells me that Kevin Walsh's top-secret subliminal messaging plan to make everyone aware of the forgotten borough (NY's words, not mine) may actually be working. It's worked on us, at any rate.
Sunday, October 8, 2006
openhousenewyork hosts year-round educational programs celebrating New York City’s built-environment, culminating in America’s largest architecture and design event, the Annual openhousenewyork Weekend. Check out their website to see what is still available to view today. Some of Prodigal Borough's picks are the cellphone tour of the High Line in the Meatpacking District, Seguine Mansion, Gowanus Canal Canoe Tour, Horse Trails to Subway Rails, Ellis Island's South Side, Governor's Island, Last Exit to Brooklyn: Red Hook, and Tom Otterness's art studio.
On Staten Island you can visit:
The Attic at the Staten Island Museum, which boasts one of the largest collection of cicadas in North America, artifacts of the first Staten Islanders, birds, preserved frogs and more.
The Alice Austen House Museum, where visitors can see an exhibit of more than 40 Dutch 17th-century paintings, furniture and household objects, in addition to the biographical artifacts of Alice Austen.
Jacob Crocheron House, considered the finest Federal-period architecture of the lower Hudson Valley, in prototypical American "Dutch Colonial" form incorporating precise Georgian symmetry. The house was moved to Historic Richmond Town in 1987 and is being restored.
Moravian Cemetery, which was founded in 1740. It has two freshwater lakes on 114 acres, and serves as an outdoor museum for sculpture.
The Noble Maritime Collection, a maritime museum focusing on the work of American lithographer John A. Noble, featuring his houseboat studio and the history of Sailor's Snug Harbor, with re-creations of the original features of the sailors' retirement home.
St. George Theatre, which originally opened in 1929 as a showcase for vaudeville and motion pictures. The interior of the theater is a combination of Spanish and Italian baroque design and features ornate windows, grand staircases and oversized paintings.
The Seguine Mansion, a Greek Revival structure that faces Prince's Bay. It was built in 1838 by Joseph H. Seguine.
For more information on OHNY, visit http://www.ohny.org or call 212-991-OHNY.
Especially now that the temperature is dropping and the leaves are falling from the numerous trees around town, we've started to see some architecture we'd forgotten about over the summer. Our friend Kevin Walsh, of Forgotten New York fame pointed out this rustic and beautiful 18th century home to me the other day -- you can read all about it in this recent New York Magazine article. We've seen this house a hundred times while going past on a somewhat industrial part of Richmond Terrace, and had no idea it was such a gem.
And speaking of Kevin Walsh, I was thrilled to finally get my pre-ordered Amazon copy of Kevin's book, Forgotten New York: Views of a Lost Metropolis in the mail the other day. It's a beautiful book, and the ultimate guide for tourists of history. Since meeting Kevin, I've already witnessed the destruction of a few of my favorite New York places -- most recently a row of beautiful but neglected townhouses on 45th Street that used to house my favorite lunch place. Three were flattened this week to make room for a eurochic super-hotel, surely the answer to a question that nobody asked.
Wednesday, September 6, 2006
This exhibit has been extended. There is an opening reception on Thursday, September 7th from 6-8PM and there will be Saturday visiting hours from 1-6PM.
Friday, September 1, 2006
I found this stately, historic district 1865 victorian, two family mansion on Craig's List. It certainly looks appealing in the pictures on the owner's website. The house features a three car garage, water view, glass winterized solarium, and has a new roof. The mansard roof, stone fence, and front door make me want to view the interior. There are some pictures of the foyer which is quite beautiful but I'd like to see the interior rooms. The price is a bit high for this neighborhood but it is a very large two family so half the house could be rented out to help pay the mortgage. If you view the interior, please report back and post to let us know what you think. Contact: Mr. Iliev, 718-784-9528 (sold by owner).
Do you want to be our neighbor? Yes, this Prodigal Pick is on our street, believe it or not. Fort Hill Circle is among the prettiest streets in Saint George; it circles a hill which was a British fort before and during the Revolutionary war. The house is a charming tudor, pleasingly set back from the street and surrounded by greenery. We took a tour recently and can confirm that, although some parts need work, it has cozy tudor details, a charming front office/library nook, and a brick fireplace in the entrance den that are rather inviting. The kitchen looks relatively new as well. The house is surrounded by a pleasant backyard with a big old tree, and flanked by 2 decent-sized side yards. An ample and verdant front yard sits over the garage, although it's looked upon by the kitchen window of the house next door. There is an underground batcave-like tunnel entrance to the basement we thought could be fun. It is going to need a new roof soon, and the gutters had weeds growing out of them, but this is an excellent buy for a unique house on what is arguably one of St. George's best blocks. Contact: Norma Sue at Gateway Arms, 718-273-3800.
Saturday, August 26, 2006
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
By Maureen Seaberg
I know what you've heard about Staten Island - I've heard it, too - from the L.A. publicist who told me "there's no there there" to the tourists from Madrid who saw me reading the papers on the ferry one day and declared me "como la esposa de Antonio Banderas" (like Melanie Griffith) - a real-life Working Girl. They never guessed I not only read them but help write them nor that a Staten Island woman may have once lived in Madrid and understood them perfectly.
There's a grain of truth to every stereotype you've heard - (insert stereotype here so I don't have to perpetuate them myself). But increasingly, there's a newer, more interesting Staten Island emerging as immigrants from every quarter find our green spaces, historic architecture and relatively good schools a draw. We've got mango lassi on Staten Island now and how are you going to keep them down at the Mall after they've tasted that?
I'm a native - God help me. But I'm not one of "those" people - and you know who I mean - the ones who call the Verrazano Bridge "the guinea gangplank" and who lament the fact that Staten Island hasn't remained farmland. I've never known a Staten Island without that amazing span completed by the genius of a Swedish immigrant named Othmar Amann. One of my parents' first dates was to cross it. I've never known Staten Island was NOT diverse, having grown up next to a Syrian-Nicaraguan family in Castleton Corners....
Not only does Staten Island have a bright future - it has a vibrant past. We have legacies that rival any of the other boroughs. It is shameful that more people, for example, know that Mafia Godfather Paul Castellano once lived in Dongan Hills and don't know that a good American-Italian, Leon Panetta, once lived on Ward Hill.
How many people know that Anna Leonowens landed here after learning from the King in the Court of Siam and ran a private school? Or that Mexican General Santa Ana holed up here after The Alamo? Other famous figures include revolutionaries Gorki, Kossuth and Garibaldi. This is where the Vanderbilts played during the Age of Innocence and where Bobby Darin and the family of Carolyn Bessette Kennedy summered in the 1950s.
Country legend Roy Clark told me he got his start playing aboard the Staten Island Ferry while his dad worked the old B & O Railroad. George Burns also practiced his vaudeville act aboard the floating orange boat with its captive audience.
Martin Sheen told me that he worked in the St. George Car Wash before theater legend Joe Papp (buried in Baron Hirsch Cemetery) gave him his break. Eric Bogosian, Meryl Streep, Sheen and others would return this borough to bury him. While living here, Sheen said his son, Emilio Estevez, was born on the living room floor of their apartment in the Ambassador building in St. George.
Chris Noth ("Mr. Big") said he lied about his age and went to work at the Willowbrook State School at 15. He still has nightmares about the horrible conditions there. Walter Cronkite said that he used to love to put his yacht in at Great Kills Harbor. Donald Trump did his own apprenticeship here in the borough, shadowing his dad, Fred Trump, around the Grymes Hill and New Dorp properties they once owned.
Dentist John Lavinio can tell you about the recent day King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia showed up for care at his South Shore office. Movie producer Julius Nasso talks about hosting everyone from Dodi Fayed, to Steven Seagal, Kelly LeBrock and Gianni Versace here. Mandolin Brothers on Forest Avenue has served two of four Beatles in their amazing music sales and repairs business. Dr. Gil Lederman treated not only George Harrison but Kennedy cousin Anthony Radziwill here and hosts parties that include Dan Meridor of the Israeli Knesset and Golda Maier's grandson.
Staten Island has an image problem - and like many cities around the nation, it actually needs a public relations specialist to get the word out about the many positives of life here - and the many interesting people who continue to pass through. It also needs many writers from many perspectives actively observing and documenting it, warts and all, so that progress may be achieved. Blog on!
Ms. Seaberg, of Ward Hill, has done work for the Daily News, the New York Times and ESPN the Magazine. She was a researcher and source for the upcoming JFK Jr. biography by C. David Heymann, "Triumph and Tragedy" due out July 2007 (Simon & Schuster). She is the former editor-in-chief of http://www.virtualindia.com/
Saturday, August 19, 2006
Late in the spring, this pair of cardinals (bright red male, top, and dusty-rose colored female, bottom) took up residence in the tree in front of our house. I snapped these pictures one morning out the front window of our bedroom after I learned to whistle their call convincingly enough to get their attention. In the photos, they have their heads cocked towards me in recognition. What do they ask in return for this adorable entertainment? Lots of birdseed and the occasional walnut.
Monday, August 14, 2006
Cynthia von Buhler, author of "The Cat Who Wouldn't Come Inside," will be appearing at the Staten Island Barnes & Noble Bookstore for a book signing and storytime event. Wednesday, October 4th, 2006 at 7PM. Barnes & Noble, 2245 Richmond Avenue, Staten Island, 10314, 718-982-6983.
View the elaborate website for this book.
Visit the author's blog to get up-to-date news and appearances.
Sunday, August 13, 2006
Forget Alaska, there's a new destination for extreme travellers looking for a mix of David Lynchesque surrealism and undiscovered territory without the jet lag: Staten Island. The Times's own Andy Newman took a week-long hike around the circumference of the island and tells the tale in today's Sunday paper. Don't have time to read the article? Watch the video instead.
Although we thought Newman ran across more rural weirdness than we tend to encounter on most days, the article and its insights reinforced for us why we love it here. Check out the article and then say five times fast: "This is New York City. This is New York City. This is New York City..." Plus, the article made us feel a little better about our mosquito problem.
Wednesday, August 2, 2006
One day, while walking around Staten Island, about a year ago, a very familiar looking stranger approached me and said "Cindy? It's Timothy, Timothy Mutzel." I couldn't place him (and nobody calls me Cindy anymore) then I remembered him from our art school days in Boston. Timothy moved to New York City ten years ago, five years before me. He now lives in Saint George on Staten Island and I'm pleased to announce his exhibit of paintings at my gallery in Manhattan, CVB Space. Fellow Staten Islanders should take the ferry on over to Manhattan in support of Timothy, and his exceptional paintings.
MAKING SENSE OF THE UNIVERSE
Paintings by Timothy Mutzel
"semialuminous and kettle-bottom the cake, the cherished cake, was gone. 'my only comfort,' dock spike she said biestings to levering knive obscurum per obscurius unchildlike." -Russian Spammer, 2005
Hours: Wed-Sat 1-6
Opening Reception: Thurs. August 3rd 6-9pm
EXTENDED THROUGH UNTIL SEPTEMBER 10TH
CLOSING RECEPTION: THURSDAY, SEPT 7TH, 6-9PM
407 West 13th Street (B'twn. 9th Ave. and Washington St.)
Subway: A, C, E, and L to 14th Street at 8th Avenue
New York, NY 10014
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
A gorgeous historic building but there is good news and bad news. I'll start with the good news: The building is across the street from the water and at the edge of the waterfront park with a very short walk to the ferry. Offers views of the water. Large backyard. I'm told that details are still intact but I have not viewed the interior. It is a 3-family so you can rent out 2 apartments and live in the other until you have more money. (Rent roll is about $1000 per apartment - not great but it helps.) Westervelt is a very up-and-coming street with lots of young professionals moving in. And the bad news: You only get half the building (I hate when they do that). Behind the building there are projects. Westervelt Ave. at Richmond Terrace. Contact: Anthony at Island Wide Realty, 718-909-7940 or 718-447-2100.
Saturday, July 15, 2006
Here is your chance to own a handsome Victorian house in Staten Island for less than a tiny studio in Manhattan. This stately 1870's Victorian 4-bedroom, one-family building features many original details such as double front doors, clapboard siding, 4 marble fireplace mantels, pocket doors, wide pine plank flooring, walnut newel post balustrade with a front yard and a substantial rear garden. New York Bay and Verazzano Bridge views are visible from the bedroom. The house also has 2 porches and is located on a tree-lined street within walking distance to the ferry. This house with "great bones" could use some updating but is in move-in condition. (Sherman Ave. at Benziger Ave.) For sale by owner. Principals only. E-mail: email@example.com or call 646-391-1706. Note: There is an Open House on Sunday, July 16, 1-5 pm.
Monday, June 5, 2006
In hindsight, unfortunately, I can see that New York was being kind. Their chiding was tame compared with what's been going around in the city's papers since the Jeff Gross shooting. Last time I checked, "open relationships" or even blatant wife swapping (if that were even going on there) didn't qualify as kinky. Perhaps I'm a libertine, but I'd reserve "kinky" for anything sexual involving fecal material, asphyxiation, or electrocution.
What a surprise that the New York Post was morally wounded by what they called the Ganasian lifestyle of "pill-popping and wacky sex sessions," (airing the views of one crazy accused murderer and another disgruntled former member as though they were fact). Who is the Post kidding? This from the newspaper that can't resist running a story about a story about how "stall-sex" isn't just for homosexuals anymore as though it were a news item.
The Staten Island Advance has been pretty fair, actually, perhaps out of superior journalistic ethics, or perhaps because of a home-borough protectiveness. My guess is that it's because, like most of us who live here, they've had some contact with members of Ganas (turns out we're friends with the spouse of a prominent member) and found them to be perfectly normal people who happen to participate in an unorthodox economical and social arrangement.
The New York Times, we're not surprised, was above name calling. Aside from one matter-of-fact reference to "wife-swapping", they told it like it was at Ganas: "The bloodshed has brought unwanted attention to a group of people who have long struggled to show outsiders that they are a civic-minded, environmentally friendly collective of lawyers, doctors, teachers and real estate brokers, not some zany cult of vestigial hippies living on the fringes of the city." Otherwise, they stuck to the attempted murder.
The New York Daily News has fallen somewhere in between, using the word "kinky" but portraying at least a sympathetic portrait of Gross, sensationalizing the murder rather than the commune (fine by us). Oddly, though, the News story is the one that's been taken and rebroadcast all over the Internet by conservative and religious news sites, bloggers, and even a pro gun website. All this attention has meant that Ganas has closed its weekly public meeting, which in turn means Ganas is less like Ganas than it used to be. We have no personal stake in their community, but we do have a major stake in the community as a whole, and as such we find this all very sad.
Among the evening's highlights: Russell asked the Borough President, James Molinaro, if it had been he who sponsored the fireworks; "Yeah," was Molinaro's reply. "And for $12,000 they better be good." At one point, we happened upon a three-foot-square pile of crabmeat flanked by crackers. All in all it was a fun party and we thank Wilder Selzer and his wife, Ann Marie, for inviting us.