Friday, October 19, 2007

A Brand New South Ferry Subway Station in 2008

Thanks to a Prodigal Borough blog post from Cid for alerting us to this fantastic news.

Excerpted from The Lower Manhattan Info Web Page:

A ride on the 1 train down to the end of the line is a one-of-a-kind New York subway experience. To exit the train at the South Ferry station, riders must be in the first five cars of the train, where they wait for retractable floor grates to close the gap between the doors and the sharply curved platform before heading up the stairs to use the station’s single exit.

This old-fashioned experience is about to become obsolete, as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority spends $450 million of the Federal Transit Administration’s post-9/11 funds to usher the original 1905 South Ferry station into the 21st century.

In August 2008, the South Ferry subway station -- now a small, curved platform -- will become a brighter, ADA-accessible terminal. The new station will accommodate 10-car trains and have multiple station entrances, including escalators and elevators.

Work on the revamped station began in late 2004, just as the finishing touches were being put on the neighboring Whitehall Ferry Terminal. The single greatest improvement of the new station is its new platform -- a standard, 10-car platform that’s as straight as an arrow and ADA-accessible. It will connect to the R and W trains at the Whitehall subway station and lead to three separate street exits: one near Whitehall, one at State Street, and one at the edge of Battery Park.

The first phase of construction is taking place in Peter Minuit Plaza, directly in front of the ferry terminal. The plaza is above the current subway station’s loop tracks (which enable the train to turn around), and there the MTA’s work crews are excavating the 50-foot-wide tunnel that will house the new station’s tracks.

In summer 2005, work began under the northeast section of Battery Park, where new tunnels are being opened and tracks laid. As part of the MTA’s commitment to the New York City Parks Department, trees and other foliage aboveground will be preserved and replanted at the end of the project -- along with other improvements the Parks Department had planned for Battery Park.

Throughout the project, the MTA is committed to keeping noise to a minimum, using dedicated truck routes, and running equipment with ultra-low-sulfur fuel. Ensuring access to area businesses and to the ferry terminal are also top priorities.

When South Ferry is completed in 2008, residents, commuters, and visitors will have a clean, new subway station and an open, pedestrian-friendly Peter Minuit Plaza that leads to the Staten Island Ferry, Battery Park, and the diverse Lower Manhattan community.

History in the Making at South Ferry

In the single most historically rich area of New York, it is no surprise that artifacts dating back to the early 18th century might crop up at construction sites. But no one was expecting four pre-revolutionary-era stone walls to stand, literally, in the way of South Ferry subway station progress.

Discovered by Metropolitan Transportation Authority crews during excavation for the $400 million terminal, the walls were revealed in sections along State Street at Battery Park. The first, uncovered in November 2005 near Battery Place, set off a flurry of archaeological activity by the New York State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), both eager to determine the wall's original function and construction date.

But before city and state officials could even really dig into analyzing the wall, another was found, then another, then another, along with thousands of smaller artifacts such as fragments of ceramic dishes, bottle glass, bones, and an intact 1744 British coin. It became clear that one crew's historical goldmine is another's construction excavation dilemma.

"We were expecting to find artifacts [at the site]. That's why we had archaeologists supervising the excavation," says Mysore Nagaraja, P.E., president of MTA Capital Construction. Planners went so far as to create a map overlay of the archaeological "hotspots" in the construction area, which proved to be spot-on. But of the walls themselves -- while significant to the history of Manhattan and the nation -- he says, "They are very much in the way."

Four Walls as One Fortification

The four walls, though unearthed in sections as far apart as 500 feet, appear to have been part of the same pre-Revolutionary War battery wall. Dating from the mid-1700s, SHPO archaeologists concluded that they represent "one of the oldest standing manmade structures in the United States, part of the first military fortifications during the colonial years by the British," according to a report by the MTA.

Click on the post headline for more information.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Just Announced: New Stapleton Branch of The New York Public Library

Council Member Michael E. McMahon Unveils Renovation Plans for Stapleton Branch of The New York Public Library

A State-of-the-art renovation will double the library’s size, add more than two dozen new computers, 11 laptop stations, wireless access, new areas for adults, teens and children and self-checkout stations

At a press conference today, Council Member Michael E. McMahon and officials from The New York Public Library announced a dramatic renovation and expansion of the library’s Stapleton Branch, located at 132 Canal St. The building will undergo a technology facelift, receiving 11 laptop plug-in stations, convenient self-checkout stations and free wireless Internet access. Public space will more than double, and a light, airy new building will be added to the historic structure, retaining its character and providing neighborhood residents a sleek, modern new library.

“I am delighted that I could help secure funding for the renovation and expansion of the Stapleton Branch Library,” said Council Member McMahon. “This project will provide the community with a beautiful new state-of-the-art library with access to countless resources – all free of charge.”

The renovation, designed by Andrew Berman Architect, will provide new areas for adults, teens and children, as well as a community room. The adjoining new building will feature 13-foot ceilings, attractive wood floors and a glass curtain wall to create light and space. Adult and teen reading areas will include cozy chairs for reading, and the children’s area will feature interactive educational games. The project is to include a new HVAC system and new electrical wiring.

"We are exceedingly thankful to Council Member McMahon, who provided over $5 million toward this project," said Mary Frances Cooper, Deputy Director for Public Services at The New York Public Library. We are also grateful to Mayor Bloomberg and Borough President Molinaro for making this significant contribution to the neighborhood a reality,” “The renovated Stapleton Branch Library will become a well of information and enrichment for the entire community.”

The renovation and expansion of the Stapleton Branch Library is generously funded by the City of New York: Michael R. Bloomberg, Mayor; Christine C. Quinn, City Council Speaker; James P. Molinaro, Staten Island Borough President, and Michael E. McMahon, City Council Member.

About the Stapleton Branch
The Stapleton Branch of The New York Public Library, which opened in 1907, is located on Canal Street, near the center of Stapleton Village and adjacent to Tappen Park and the Old Village Hall. The graceful, single story, brick and limestone building was constructed with funds provided by Andrew Carnegie. It was designed by Carrere and Hastings. Today the Stapleton Branch continues to be a center of community life. The branch serves its diverse neighborhood by presenting programs for all ages, providing access to computer technology and lending books, magazines and other media to inform, educate, and entertain. Programs include a book discussion group, picture book hours, preschool programs and arts & crafts programs for teens.

About The New York Public Library
The New York Public Library was created in 1895 with the consolidation of the private libraries of John Jacob Astor and James Lenox with the Samuel Jones Tilden Trust. The Library provides free and open access to its physical and electronic collections and information, as well as to its services. It comprises four research centers – The Humanities and Social Sciences Library; The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts; the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture; and the Science, Industry and Business Library – and 87 Branch Libraries in Manhattan, Staten Island, and the Bronx. Research and circulating collections combined total more than 50 million items. In addition, each year the Library presents thousands of exhibitions and public programs, which include classes in technology, literacy, and English as a second language. The New York Public Library serves over 15 million patrons who come through its doors annually and another 21 million users internationally, who access collections and services through its website, Click the headline to viist the NYPL website.

Note from CVB: Hmmm... new library, beautiful houses, great coffee shops, and restaurants. Last time I looked this gorgeous house in Stapleton was for sale along with another pretty white Victorian across the street:

Monday, October 15, 2007

Channel 13 to give an “Island Tour” in early December


STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — The history and culture of Staten Island — from Dutch settlement to Denino’s pizza — will be the subject of an hour-long Thirteen/WNET documentary to air during the station’s pledge drive in early December. Co-hosts David Hartman and historian Barry Lewis reunited for “A Walk Through Staten Island,” the latest in an acclaimed PBS series that has featured 10 other walking tours of various sections of New York and New Jersey over the past decade.

“This has been a wonderful immersion in Staten Island culture,” said Hartman, who is also well known as the first and longtime co-host of ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “It’s been a real education.”

Hartman and Lewis disembark to explore Borough Hall and the Richmond County Bank Ballpark at St. George; the Conference House in Tottenville; the Greenbelt; the Alice Austen House, Sandy Ground and the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum; the Sea View Hospital Historic District; the Seguine Mansion; the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art; Historic Richmond Town; the 9/11 “Postcards” Memorial; Fort Wadsworth, and Snug Harbor Cultural Center in Livingston.

“It will change a lot of perceptions,” said Cesar J. Claro, executive director of the Richmond County Savings Foundation, which recently approved a $50,000 grant that made the documentary possible. He referred to both newcomers and residents of Staten Island: “I would bet that more than half of Staten Islanders haven’t visited all of the borough’s cultural institutions,” he said.

For the documentary makers, it was a crash course in all things Staten Island, and they came away with astute observations about the borough’s — you know — Staten Islandness.

Hartman noted the difficulty of getting around on Staten Island by public transportation, and the abundance of good Italian food. He also noticed the degree to which Islanders coalesced around the tragedy of Sept. 11 — a remarkable thing, he said, for a town of a half-million people.

“Maybe the fact that it’s the most remote borough allowed it to develop at its own speed, in its own way,” he said at Snug Harbor yesterday. “And so it has a different feel from the other boroughs.”

Hartman also sensed a pride in independence among Staten Islanders.

“Staten Island has a multiple personality,” observed producer James Nicoloro. “It’s got a city feel and a country feel. … In a funny sort of way, it’s New York City but it’s not New York City.”

It’s also a borough with great stories: From the oystermen and strawberry farmers of Sandy Ground, the country’s oldest free black settlement, to the doctors who found a cure for tuberculosis at Sea View, the grounds of the former Farm Colony and once the largest tuberculosis hospital in the world.

“I came into this thing as an outsider and I was impressed with what I found,” said Nicoloro.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Bohemia By The Bay: The New York Times Features Staten Island

Cara Buckley from the New York Times first contacted me about this feature a few months ago. Supposedly she had heard my interview on NY1 or maybe she had heard Sara Valentine's interview on NPR. Either way, she got in touch with me first and she wanted to come to Staten Island and find out if it was becoming "hip". I introduced her to most of the people I know on Staten Island including Christoph and Trish who were just about perfect for this piece because of their witty songs about the island. Michelle Monteleone, from The Times, also came to the island and I gave her a little tour and interview. In her video, Adam Ferretti, makes a good point. Staten Island attracts "more actual artists" and not hipsters who desire to to be seen as cool. Many people were interviewed and things were left out due to space constraints. My main feelings about Staten Island were not included. This is how I feel: I live here because I want to, not because I have to. Staten Island's North Shore offers trees, gardens, unique people, diversity, large beautiful homes, safety, fog horns, water, marinas, really good Italian food, and it is IN New York City. Sure, it is cheaper than Manhattan but most places are. We looked everywhere (Ditmas Park, DUMBO, Vinegar Hill, City Island, Jersey City, Jersey City Heights, Kensington, Manhattan, The Bronx, Westchester, Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn Heights, Crown Heights, and so many more places) and we chose Staten Island because of this unique combination of all the things we wanted. Also, I'm so sick of ferry bashing. The ferry is the best thing about my day. It is so beautiful and relaxing to take a boat into the city. I can use my computer. I can stare at the water. I never get sick of it. And it is exotic to take a boat to work. I would take 22 minutes on the ferry over 22 minutes on the F or L trains in Brooklyn any day! Please! Let the hipsters stay where they are but bring on the real artists.

"Hipsters On Staten Island" video from The New York Times. Yours truly is featured in this but I'm NOT a hipster, sorry!

"Bohemia By The Bay" a feature article from The New York Times

And speaking of hipsters here is a YouTube video you MUST watch. The Hipster Olympics in Williamsburg:

Thank you to all of you came out to meet and talk to Cara and Michelle: Kamillah Hanks, Diane Matyas, Michelle Budenz, The Fort Hill Circle clan, Rispoli (who fed us delicous Italian ices), Leidy's, Everything Goes Cafe, The Downtown Staten Island Council (who didn't know that Cara was there at their party), The St. George Theater, Cargo, Sara Valentine, Gregor Scheer, Ann Marie and Wilder Selzer, Russell Farhang, the attic guys at The Staten Island Museum who gave us tours, and those of you who met Cara at Leidys. And thank you to Cara and Michelle for finding out more about us.

Please read the article and watch the video and post your thoughts on it below. Many people wrote to me (via e-mail and my "MySpace page" ) but it would be good to let others hear what you have to say as well.

Photographs from Cynthia von Buhler and Russell Farhang's party at their home to celebrate the closing of Show & Tell at The Staten Island Museum. Click on the pictures to enlarge them.

The Times sent a photographer to my recent Staten Island Museum closing party at our house but they only printed one photo (without a credit, it was of The Hungry March Band) so here are some photos, by Paul Weiner, from the party. It attracted a ton of people from Manhattan and also from Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Boston, New Jersey, and the island. And people of all different ages arrived, not just twenty-something hipsters (although there were plenty of those in attendance). So, things are a-changing here. Thanks to: The Hungry March Band for leading a parade from the museum up to our house, Christoph and Trish (and Russell) for entertaining us with songs about Staten Island, Al Gori and his fabulous merry-go-round (a big hit with children and adults), Miwa (our lovely bartender), Dalia (who helped me clean up and prepare the house for a Latina magazine photoshoot that happened the next day at 8AM), and all of you who took the ferry over (and loved the ride).