Monday, October 15, 2007
Channel 13 to give an “Island Tour” in early December
By TEVAH PLATT
ADVANCE STAFF WRITER
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.