Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Gorgeous Kreischer Mansion Is Up For Grabs

Here is some exciting news. Issac Yomtovian, owner of our favorite Staten Island Mansion, plans to donate it to a charitable organization. I do hope that The Staten Island Museum takes it. They need more space for their archives.
From The Staten Island advance:
The owner of the Kreischer Mansion has delayed plans to build an active-adult community on the site in Staten Island’s Charleston neighborhood until the market stabilizes, but is accepting proposals to donate the 19th century brick magnate’s home to a charitable organization.

Turning over the landmark hilltop mansion to charity has been part of Ohio-based developer Isaac Yomtovian’s master plan since he purchased the five-acre estate in 1999 for $1.4 million.

He just expected to do it after breaking ground on Kreischerville, an upscale, maintenance-free condominium development for adults 55 and over.

“I am not waiting until the market is 100 percent recovered to begin construction, but I have to see some stabilizing factor,” Yomtovian said. “Either way, I don’t want to delay the donation process any longer.”

The criteria for interested organizations is two-fold: They must be in good standing with the financial wherewithal to maintain the 10-room home, and their mission must be compatible with the Kreischerville project — such as a museum, art gallery, religious organization or a college.

Proposals will be vetted by Jack Stern, Yomtovian’s attorney, and Ronald Victorio, the architect who oversaw the renovation of the mansion. The proposals will then be brought before elected officials and Community Board 3.

The selected organization will have full use of the property until construction on the housing begins. The mansion will also serve as a clubhouse for Kreischerville residents.

The Kreischer Mansion was built in 1885 on Arthur Kill Road by wealthy brick manufacturer Balthasar Kreischer for his son, Charles. It was one of two identical homes overlooking a neighborhood that was then called Kreisherville. The second house, built for his son, Edward, was demolished.

The existing property was landmarked in 1968.

In 1997, the home became the site of a failed Victorian restaurant.

It fell into disrepair until Yomtovian purchased the property with the vision of creating the “Kreischer Senior Corridor” — several private pay senior communities modeled on baby boomer developments built in other states.

Yomtovian won several difficult approvals from the Landmarks Preservation Commission and City Planning to construct his housing project, a four-story, L-shaped building with between 124 and 130 units, an underground heating garage, pool, fitness center and some commercial office space.

More recently, the mansion made headlines as the scene of a grisly murder of a Bonanno crime family associate. The Bonanno hitman found guilty of murder last month was a caretaker hired by Yomtovian.

Despite the difficulties he faced since purchasing the property, Yomtovian is looking forward.

Since word has gotten out that he has decided to go ahead with donating the mansion, he has received several phone inquiries from interested organizations. He said he also contacted the Staten Island Institute for Arts and Sciences — one of the condominium project’s earliest boosters — which has diaries, business records, photographs and family portraits of the Kreischer family.

But Yomtovian wants to make it an open process.

“I feel it’s not fair if we don’t give a chance to every charitable organization who meets the qualifications,” he said.

Brief proposals outlining an organization’s mission, how they intend to use the property, how they will maintain it and how they are compatible with the Kreischerville project can be sent to Jack Stern at 1189 Forest Ave., Staten Island, N.Y., 10310; or Ronald Victorio, 694 Forest Ave., Staten Island, N.Y., 10310.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Howard Avenue Mansion To Become Italian Cultural Center

Photo by Robin George, The Staten Island Advance

Staten Island needs more people like Gina Biancardi-Rammairone. Ms. Biancardi-Rammairone and her husband, Luciano, purchased the glorious Great Gatsby-like mansion and surrounding land on Howard Avenue and plan to make it into an Italian Cultural Center. In a Staten Island Advance article (click on the headline above to read the full story) Ms. Biancardi-Rammairone states that she frequently drove by the mansion and always admired it. We here at Prodigal Borough can relate to that. Our three Staten Island favorite mansions are Kreischer Mansion, The Pavilion, and this Howard Avenue home. (The Pavilion is still available for sale and would also make a great cultural center or museum).

"We're not going to live here," explained Mrs. Rammairone, who grew up in The Bronx and holds a master's degree in business administration from New York University. "I want to turn it into a not-for-profit. I want it to be a place about Italian history and culture, art and fashion, with classes in cooking and wine tasting. Make it a tourist destination. My life-long passion has been to educate young people about the positive aspects of being Italian. Sometimes there seems to be a disconnect, with people identifying being Italian with 'The Sopranos.' That's a negative stereotype. My dream is a big dream, a grand vision, but I feel the Staten Island community will embrace it."

WE do embrace it. Bring it on.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

CITYTropics: Paintings by Mary Bullock

November 14 - December 19, 2008

Opening Friday, November 14, 6-10pm
Gallery Talk Sunday, November 16, 3-5pm

This exhibition is made possible (in part) by a Premier Grant from the Council on the Arts & Humanities for Staten Island, with public funding from the New York State Council on the Arts.

SHOW Gallery Studio and Theater
156 Stuyvesant Place
Staten Island, NY 10301
across from Borough Hall and up the Borough Hall stairs from the Staten Island Ferry

Hours of Operation:
Tues–Sat 11 am–7 pm


Also on exhibit (see the post below for more information):




The Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef: Sept. 27-Dec. 20, 2008
Coral reefs the world over are dying out at a rate faster than rainforests. In addition to global warming and pollutants, marine life is threatened by a tsunami of plastic that is flooding into our oceans. The handmade reefs on display here are a wooly testimony to the disappearing wonder of actual reefs that now engages women around the globe. The project also celebrates the strange hyperbolic geometry of the ocean realm, which is reflected in the crochet techniques.

This unique work consists of a collossal reef created by hundreds of artists from New York and another by artists from Chicago. The assembled work is continually growing and evolving since it moved to SHOW from the World Financial Center in Manhattan. Each of the hundreds of pieces is a work of beauty in itself created by a different artist. Their placement in this particular reef formation creates a spectacular riot of form and color that can be appreciated in awe from a distance, or approached to reveal more and different forms from a more microscopic view.

SHOW'S windows contain the Chicago Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef, all by Chicago area artists, and the mind-boggling seascape of yarn and plastic inside is the New York Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef, among whose 100+ creators are over 30 Staten Islanders. Unlike the dwindling coral reefs under the seas, the source of our food chain, the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef is constantly growing. In displaying it we hope, as the artists did in creating it, to bring attention to the fact that as with all that strikes us in nature, its physical beauty is a call to its protection.

2008 is the International Year of the Reef.

Created by Margaret Wertheim and Christine Wertheim, with hundreds of contributing artists.
Presented in association with the New York Institute for the Humanities and the Steinhardt School at NYU.

BEYOND: Visions of the Interplanetary Probes by Michael Benson: Sept. 27 – Dec. 20, 2008
Possibly the most expensive pictures ever created, and the most mind-expanding. Michael Benson has taken photographs of planets, their moons and other parts of our solar system shot by robots on spacecraft over an area of 3 billion miles, and created clear and spectacular images of vistas never seen by human eyes. Through complex digital manipulation, and in some cases, creation of mosaics from many smaller images, he shows us the fascinating corners of "space" that people have dreamed of seeing since they could look up. They turn out to be more spectacular than we could have imagined.

Sur Terre: Photos by Herve d'Eglise: Sept. 27 – Nov. 14, 2008
Swiss-born photographer Hervé d’Eglise, who lives in Belgium, has taken photographs of earth formations in Normandie that, in closeup, could be on other planets. "I’ve always loved traveling and finding myself in places that I imagine being the first to discover. Whether it’s a natural cave or an abandoned factory, no one has seen them before me! I shoot my photographs in this spirit." Though the photos are taken in well-travelled area of Europe, the unusual corners found and portrayed by d’Eglise are not discernible as France, or even Earth. Patterns of nature, in all their fascinating complexity and simplicity, are visible here on the land to anyone who will visit Normandie, or explore their backyard, and the resulting photographs look as exotic as if d'Eglise were, as he imagines, the first person ever to see them. The natural patterns under the seas of Earth's surviving coral reefs, are seen by those with the luxury of scuba diving in faraway seas, and are imagined in the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef, and, as seen in Michael Benson’s images made with the help of a robot's eye, in many ways as “exotic” as scapes of other planets and in space.

SHOW Gallery Studio and Theater

156 Stuyvesant Place
Staten Island, NY 10301
across from Borough Hall and up the Borough Hall stairs from the Staten Island Ferry

Hours of Operation:
Tues–Sat 11 am–7 pm


Sunday, October 5, 2008

Prodigal House Pick: The Parsonage, $825,000

This large, stately Arts and Craft style home is located in the heart of the Stapleton Heights Preservation District. The picturesque home was built in 1922 as a church parsonage. This property features thirteen rooms, a third of an acre yard, a separate garage, and a water view. The beautiful, gothic style Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church is across the street from the home.

In 1907, the German Evangelical Lutheran Church called as its pastor the Rev. Dr. Frederic Sutter (1876-1971). Under his leadership, the church's membership grew rapidly and the need for a new building became apparent. In 1909, the church used a recent bequest from Charles Zentgraf, one of the founders of the DeJonge paper works, to purchase additional lots on St. Paul's Avenue. By 1913, work was begun on a new neo-Gothic church and parish house that were designed by the architectural firm of Upjohn & Conable...

The parsonage, designed by architect Henry G. Otto and built in 1922, is located across the street at 332 St. Paul's Avenue. The church was renamed Trinity Lutheran Church in 1928 to distinguish it from other German Lutheran churches on Staten Island and perhaps to acknowledge that an English-speaking generation was making up an increasing part of its membership. At the time it had the largest Protestant congregation on Staten Island. The church's interior was renovated in 1941-42 by the architectural form Cherry & Matz. The church continued to hold German language services until 1975. Reverend Frederic Sutter, who served as the church's pastor from 1907 to 1964, played an instrumental role in bringing Wagner College to Staten Island from Rochester, New York. His son, the Rev. Dr. Carl J. Sutter, succeeded him as pastor in 1964 and was responsible for building the school next door...

Henry G. Otto's finest house of the period, the parsonage of the German Evangelical Lutheran Church at 332 St. Paul's Avenue, was built in 1922. Designed in the Arts & Crafts style, this two-and-one-half-story building is constructed of terra-cotta blocks faced with stucco with brick accents and is capped by a complex slate-covered hipped-and-gabled roof with wide
overhanging bracketed eaves. The asymmetrically composed facades feature a variety of arched and trabeated window openings. Half-timbered gables, wrought-iron balconies on brackets, paneled and louvered wood shutters, copper gutters, leaders, and flashing contribute to the picturesque effect.

Click on the headline to go to the real estate listing. MLS #: 1042836. Contact: Sari Kingsley Real Estate, Ltd. Phone: (718) 667-1800

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Hip Staten Island Spots For The Under Seven Set

By Winsome Beatrice Jacobs, Jack Gallo and Jonathan Rice. Illustrations by Uma, Matt, Caitlin, and Jill.

My Name is Winsome. I am seven years old. I live in the Livingston neighborhood of Staten Island now, which is great because I like gardens and going to Walker Park where they have sliding boards. I am learning to ride my bike around the park, which is a big square. For Halloween we have a big spooky parade and everyone dresses up and goes to the Haunted House. I scream and scream but eat treats at the end. I like living here because it is quiet and pretty. I am an artist like my mom, and we do nature walks to get ideas. I like to sit on my front steps and watch nature. Last year there was a bird nest in the tree and I peeked at it every day. What I want to do is camp out in a tent. My mom might say o.k. I think camp time is the best because I go to Goodhue Center and have fun. I visit the museums and the zoo too. My brother and I also walk to play baseball at Snug Harbor. I may want to be a pop star, so I like to go the St. George Theatre and The Unitarian Church where there are shows and music.” - Winsome Beatrice Jacobs (Dictated to her mom, Diane Matyas)

Walker Park and The Halloween Costume Parade: Delafield Place and Davis Avenue.
Nature Walks: The Staten Island Museum, offers Weekend Ecology Walks at Staten Island Parks.
Goodhue Center: 304 Prospect Avenue, (718) 447-2630,
The Staten Island Museum: 75 Stuyvesant Place, (718) 727-1135,
The Staten Island Zoo: 614 Broadway, (718) 442-3100,
Snug Harbor Cultural Center: 1000 Richmond Terrace, (718) 448-2500,
St. George Theater: 35 Hyatt Street, (718) 442-2900,
The Unitarian Church: 312 Fillmore Street, (718) 447-2204,

My name is Jack Gallo and I am five years old. I live in St. George, Staten Island. Staten Island is fun and I love to go to places in Staten Island. One of my favorite things to do is ride my bike at the bike path at Silver Lake Park on the weekends. My mom rides her bike with me, and we just got a new bike for daddy so he can ride too. I love to go to playgrounds - and my favorite playground is Skyline, except for the monkey bars because they hurt my hands. But soon I'll be tall enough to jump up to them myself. We like to go swimming at Faber Pool because they serve free lunch, and the water is warm. It's right on the harbor too, so you can watch the enormous steamships going back and forth. Snug Harbor is cool to go to because there are tunnels under the trees and you can run around in circles and catch each other in the flower gardens. There is a secret maze and castle that is really fun to get lost in and you can sit on benches and have lunch when you are hot and tired from running.” – Jack Gallo (Dictated to his mom, Martha Gallo)

Silver Lake Park: Forest Avenue and Victory Boulevard
Skyline Playground: Arnold Street & Prospect Ave (Between Harvard Avenue & Clyde Place)
Faber Swimming Pool: 2175 Richmond Terrace, (718) 816-5259
Snug Harbor Cultural Center: 1000 Richmond Terrace, (718) 448-2500,

Hi, my name is Jonathan and I live in St. George, Staten Island. I love my neighborhood because I can walk with my mommy to Lt. Lia Playground and play with lots of other toddlers. We can also walk to see the colorful fish tanks in the ferry terminal. In the summer we go to the baseball games at our minor league stadium next door to the ferry. On Saturdays we go to the Children's Museum in Snug Harbor. There I can wear a fireman's hat and sit in the full size fire-truck. The open play area is fun and educational and so are the toddler classes. My mom loves the gardens of Snug Harbor where I can run around the tree peonies and the butterfly garden. We recently started going to the boardwalk along Midland Beach where my mom pushes me in the jogging stroller and I can watch the people fish off of the fishing pier. There are so many parks to visit. In the summer, we are planning to go to Heron Park in Tottenville to learn about nature. In May we are go to the season opening of the Carousel at Willoughbrook Park within The Staten Island Greenbelt. I can't wait to ride one of the 52 hand crafted horses and animals on the carousel. Summer is fun in Staten Island. Hope to see you there!” – Jonathan Rice (Dictated to his mom, Tina Rice)

Lt. Lia Playground: Wall Street, St. Marks Place and Belmont Place
The Staten Island Ferry: 1 Bay Street, (718) 876-8441,
The Staten Island Yankees Baseball Stadium: 75 Richmond Terrace, (718) 273-0187,
The Staten Island Children’s Museum (at Snug Harbor): 1000 Richmond Terrace, (718) 273-2060,
The Staten Island Botanical Garden (at Snug Harbor): 1000 Richmond Terrace, (718) 273-8200
South Beach and Midland Beach, Boardwalk and Fishing Pier: Father Capadanno Boulevard and Sand Lane, (718) 816-6804,
Blue Heron Park Nature Center: 222 Poillon Avenue, (718) 967-3542,
The Carousel at Willoughbrook Park: Eton Place off Richmond Avenue (718) 667-2165,
The Greenbelt Nature Center: 700 Rockland Avenue (at the intersection with Brielle Avenue), (718) 351-3450

Picture credits:
A Bird’s Home by Uma
Creepy House by Matt
Bird Nest House by Caitlin
Yellow House by Jill

Monday, July 14, 2008

NY1 News Reporter Shawna Ryan's NYC Loves...Staten Island Web Vlog Posts

Shawna Ryan, a NY1 News reporter has a personal web vlog called NYC Loves... and this week she chose Staten Island. She informally reports on the new SHOW gallery and Art By The Ferry in an utterly charming style that would never be allowed on NY1.
Check it out here:

And here is another informal web vlog about Art By The Ferry:

Sunday, May 25, 2008


Tsunami by Lazarus Nazario

The new SHOW gallery sign will be officially illuminated on Friday night, June 13th before Art By The Ferry begins.

Saturday, June 14th, Sunday June15th, and Saturday, June 21st, from 11AM and 6PM

Enjoy art, music and performances against the backdrop of the NYC skyline in 15,000 sq. ft. of indoor exhibition and performance space and outdoors at The Lighthouse Museum Esplanade adjacent to the Ferry and venues from Fishs Eddy to the Staten Island Museum garden.

Over 125 visual artists will show at Fishs Eddy, 120 Stuyvesant Place and SHOW Gallery; three artists in restaurants ("Enoteca," "Cargo Café" and "Besso"); and five artists at the "Everything Goes Café." Over 100 musicians will be playing throughout the Festival in front of various restaurants, on Bay St. and in venues near the Greenmarket and the Staten Island Museum. Spoken word performances will be at the St. George Theater and the St. George library. The Festival will also include: Native American Dance, Drum and Storytelling; break dancers; a puppet workshop; a glass studio tour; African dancers; Ballroom dancers; Day De Dada street performers; hand made crafts and book sale; Greenmarket both Saturdays and nine restaurants. Cultural guides will hand out information on both sides of the Ferry as Bagpipers entice travelers off the Ferry.

SHOW will feature artwork by Lazarus Nazario and Cynthia von Buhler.

Workshops for the arts community will be run by COAHSI at 120 Stuyvesant. Times will be posted on the web site.

Sponsors: Staten Island Cultural Community, Staten Island Council on the Arts and Humanities, Art Lab, St. George Civic Association, Casandra Realty, Gateway Realty, SHOW Gallery.

Click on the headline to visit the Art By The Ferry website.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

New Vision For The St. George Waterfront

From The Staten Island Advance:

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- A sweeping new vision for the St. George waterfront that includes four 18-story apartment towers and townhouses where a parking lot now sits was unveiled at a high-powered economic development meeting in Sea View last night.

It will be years before the concept for the residential plan, dubbed the St. George Waterfront project, and a retail counterpart eyed for another nearby, approaches reality -- if ever.

Still, there was plenty of enthusiasm at the Staten Island Economic Development Corp.'s "pre-conference" held last night at the Joan and Alan Bernikow Jewish Community Center in Sea View.

"It's like driving toward a mountain; it doesn't seem to get any closer but if you keep driving toward it you'll get there," said R. Randy Lee, SIEDC chairman.

Last night was the first public showing of a development plan for the parking lots straddling the Richmond County Bank Ballpark, which a consultant called typical of the massive investment needed to jump-start the whole area.

On the parking lot to the west of the ballpark, urban planner Tom Jost envisions four 18-story apartment towers lining Richmond Terrace, followed by 12-, 8- and 6-story towers and townhouses, and ending with a redeveloped waterfront park, all above an underground parking garage.

Where the parking lot between the ballpark and the Ferry now lies, the concept calls for a pedestrian-centered shopping and retail area, anchored by an IMAX theater, an urban grocery store like a Whole Foods Market, and restaurants with a waterfront promenade.

"At this point we're still in development; you need to have a plan to show to the city and to get developers interested," said Jost, director of urban planning for the consulting group ARUP. "These two sites are the best economic development sites on Staten Island."

Yesterday was what organizers called "a teaser," and more details on the St. George concept and other development projects are expected to be unveiled at the development corporation's 10th annual SI Conference 2008, slated for the Hilton Garden Inn, Bloomfield, on Tuesday.

The SIEDC also threw its full support behind other business and retail projects already under way all over the Island.

They include:

The Waterfront Commons, a 1.3 million-square-foot, open-air retail and entertainment center to be built on the Tottenville waterfront directly south of the Outerbridge Crossing. Permits are still pending but the developer hopes to have it finished by 2010.

Prodigal House Pick: $1,700,000

Our favorite St. George, Staten Island waterfront mansion is for sale. It would make a glorious art gallery, museum, restaurant, catering hall, bed and breakfast, charter school, or a really incredible home. The views are to die for and you are practically across the street from the ferry terminal. We had heard that this place was being offered for much less so we suppose they will look at all reasonable offers. This building is landmarked so thankfully it is protected from the wrecking ball and greedy investors who wish to build a high-rise in its place. It has a large parking lot which would be great for any of the businesses listed above.
CONTACT: Robert Defalco Realty (click on the headline above to go to their website), MLS #: 1044007, Giacomo Montuori, 718-987-7900 X121, or cell 347-247-5785.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Downtown Drive-In Movies

For the past four years, the Downtown Staten Island Council (DSIC) has hosted its annual community event The Downtown Drive-In Movies. Beginning May 2, 2008, and running for four consecutive weekends, the "Downtown Drive-In Movies" will be held in the parking lot of the Richmond County Bank Ballpark, and will feature a selection of nine of the most popular movies in American cinematic history.

The intent of the Downtown Staten Island Drive-In Movies is to create an event the whole family can enjoy, while simultaneously exposing islanders and off-islanders to the downtown Staten Island area. Ticket prices are kept at a modest amount of $25 per car to encourage families and couples to spend a night out without worrying about the affordability. In 2007, The Downtown Drive-In Movies was a huge success, drawing over 7,500 attendees.

National Grid, (formerly known as KeySpan Energy Services) and NYS Senator Diane Savino are the event's title sponsors. Councilman Domenic Recchia, Assemblyman Matt Titone, Bay Harbor Motors and Muss Development are also major participating sponsors for the event.

"While our event is primarily seen as entertainment, The Downtown Drive-In Movies seeks to change the perceptions of our district and highlight our community's uniqueness" explains DSIC's executive director, Kamillah Hanks. "It gives our local businesses an opportunity to benefit from the high volume of people that come down to the area to attend our event. The younger generation are used to the multiplex, digital sound and stadium seating, but you still get the folks who love drive-in experience!" Hanks said.

For more information, visit the Downtown Staten Island Council website by clicking on the headline above.

May 2: E.T. The Extra Terrestrial 8:30 pm
May 3: Transformers 8:30 pm
May 9: Shrek the Third 8:30 pm
May 10: Titanic 8:30 pm
May 16: Grease 8:30 pm
May 17:* Young Frankenstein 8:30 pm/Rocky Horror Picture Show - 12:00 am
May 23: Wizard of Oz 8:30 pm
May 24: Dreamgirls 8:30 pm
*Double Feature

Fee: $25 per car

Monday, April 7, 2008

Downtown Staten Island Urban Design Plan Released

I was able to take a sneak peek at this exciting plan before it was released. It is great to see all my friends and neighbors working to make the North Shore a better place to live and work. Tevah Platts's article from The Staten Island Advance explains the details of the plan below. She writes "creative suggestions such as a kayaking boathouse (next to Joseph Lyons Park, Tompkinsville), a bike-sharing program and an outdoor ice-skating rink (near the St. George ballpark) are scattered throughout the proposal like hidden candy." Let's find the candy!

A new beginning for the North Shore
The Staten Island Advance
Sunday April 06, 2008, 7:21 PM

A new plan for the redevelopment of Staten Island's North Shore focuses on an energized arts scene, tall condo buildings, architectural restorations and an unbroken retail corridor along the waterfront.

This latest proposal from the Downtown Staten Island Council is the brainchild of St. George architect Pablo Vengoechea, a team of urban planners and a six-member local advisory committee.
It suggests concentrating revitalization efforts within four areas anchored by Bay Street and Richmond Terrace along the shoreline, close to existing rail stations in St. George, Tompkinsville, Stapleton and Clifton.

The 64-page Downtown Staten Island Urban Design Plan outlines an ambitious vision for a roughly 2-mile stretch of the North Shore.

The plan includes opportunities for housing, retail and arts spaces; new parks and civic plazas; transportation improvements, including a downtown trolley; new and widened streets with improved signage; incentives for restoring old buildings and fostering local arts and culture; high-rises clustered to maintain waterfront access and area views; environmentally friendly building requirements, and aesthetic suggestions that could brighten some the area's uglier corners.

"I think this is a really great beginning toward taking ownership of our neighborhood," said Kamillah Hanks, executive director of the Downtown Council. "We have to get people excited about what the downtown area could be."

Other proposals, old and new, have already charted the area's untapped potential; the Urban Design Plan represents just one vision of the area's future. But Ms. Hanks contends this proposal is significant and unique in its comprehensive detail, its vision of neighborhood continuity, and usefulness as a resource to developers and neighborhood stakeholders she believes should have first say in their own city's future.

While rumors that the North Shore is poised for renewal are decades old, the winds of change have been blowing harder as of late -- and from so many directions, they can be difficult to assess. Along with projects planned, completed or under way-- including the proposed development of the Stapleton home port, new initiatives are afoot, including a not-yet-public rezoning plan for St. George and Tompkinsville in the works at City Planning; a forthcoming waterfront study by the American Institute of Architects and the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce, and capital projects from the Staten Island Economic Development Corp. (SIEDC) to be introduced at its SI Conference on April 22.

Thus far, this Urban Design Plan is one of the more thorough visions put forward.

As Downtown Council chairman Michael Behar said at the members-only unveiling of the plan at the Staaten, West Brighton, project leaders seized on the opportunity to create a cohesive, ambitious blueprint they hope will "leave a legacy for our children."

Members of the Council ratified the plan and its definition of North Shore flaws that stand to be rectified.

"Much more work needs to be done," according to the proposal. "Tourists still do not leave the ferry terminal nor can they easily find local attractions; the area still has too many sectors that are neglected and deteriorated; the SIR stations are unattractive and unsafe; the existing zoning is inadequate to the task of contributing the to rebirth of the area; ... the pedestrian experience is marred by unappealing streetscapes and public places, and cultural activity needs to be made a center piece of this revival."

Creative suggestions such as a kayaking boathouse (next to Joseph Lyons Park, Tompkinsville), a bike-sharing program and an outdoor ice-skating rink (near the St. George ballpark) are scattered throughout the proposal like hidden candy.

More likely to prove contentious are designs for buildings of unprecedented height on Staten Island -- mixed-use structures on which neighbors could pin hopes for improved retail along with fears of blocked views, crowded schools or insufficient parking.

In each district, the planners aimed to strike a balance between preserving historic character while fostering density to achieve the critical mass needed to stimulate local economies.

"Skyscrapers and a bustling metropolis won't be created overnight," said Dan Marotta, real estate attorney and chair of the design plan advisory committee, "but the area is ready to pop."

In addition to Marotta, five members of the plan's advisory committee contributed ideas and opinions about how the coming "pop" could happen. They were James Prendamano of Casandra Properties; architect Kevin Rice; entrepreneur Kevin Barry, and artist-slash-community-leaders Theo Dorian and Cynthia Mailman.

The proposal's designation of each neighborhood as a cultural or arts district underlines what could be an auspicious marriage of real estate interests with the North Shore's art scene. As the designers point out, linking community development to nourishing artists and cultural institutions has been fruitful in revitalizing other urban centers, including Baltimore, Providence, Pittsburgh and Tucson.

In addition to providing housing and work spaces for artists, the Urban Plan calls for the installation of a Staten Island Museum of Contemporary Art (SIMOCA) in St. George, a new High School of Art and Design and a multimedia center for the arts in an area of Clifton they would dub the Alice Austen Cultural District.

Not included in the proposal are zoning specifics and funding sources, but the authors sought to put forward a vision that might be used and elaborated by policy makers in the future.

In conjunction with the plan, the Council will launch an Adopt-a-Town-Center initiative next year that will seek support from civic and business leaders to bring action to the proposal's big ideas. Plans to enact a streetscape improvement initiative are already under way, said Marotta, and the Council is seeking political partnerships to begin improvements at and around the Ferry.

"Once you've shown the pubic that there is something coming, and you've shown developers the reasoning behind it, it's going to be a tremendous catalyst," said Marotta.

---- Tevah Platt

Monday, March 17, 2008

Long Live The Ferry's Fish Tanks...and Fish

I love the new fish tanks at the ferry. I can see why people are missing their boats (see the article below). The fish are mesmerizing. The "Lookdown Fish" appear to be staring at you. They are my favorite fish in the tank. There has been some complaining about the money spent but if you watch the normally grumpy and hurried people stop, stare and smile you will realize that they are worth every penny. They are making people happy. I have posted a few of my cell phone pictures here.- CvB
From The Staten Island Advance
Sunday March 16, 2008, 8:49 PM
Tales from Staten Island's premiere fish tanks by Maura Yates

Two complaints have been filed so far against the two saltwater fish tanks installed last month in the St. George Ferry Terminal.

But though some have derided Borough President James Molinaro's $750,000 capital expenditure as a "boondoggle," the latest remarks weren't what you might think.

Instead, two ferry riders expressed their annoyance that they missed their ride because they were too busy admiring the fish and didn't hear the announcements the boat was boarding.

And, Molinaro said, fish aficionados will be getting even more distractions when four computers are installed at the tanks to aid in species identification. The units are expected to be up and running by the end of April.

But while countless kids, and some adults, have pressed their faces up to the glass looking for "Nemo," other more morose tank observers have launched a "death watch," to document the unfortunate ends for the aquarium inhabitants.

The first victim, a silver and alienlike Lookdown Fish, was spotted just moments after the ceremonial unveiling late last month. The fish's body, largely obscured by a piece of plastic coral, had already provided lunch for its tankmates.

As many as three others have since gone belly up, amounting to a one percent loss among the total population of 400 fish divided between the two tanks.

A number that low for tanks that large with water chemistry that delicate is "unheard of," said Brett Raymer of Acrylic Tank Manufacturing, the Las Vegas-based company that custom-designed the terminal aquariums.

And there have been false alarms, Molinaro said.

"One fish lays on its side and looks like he's dead, but he's not really dead."

Twice when tank maintenance crews went over with a net, the fish got a second wind, he said.

And for those who worry that such an up-close view of death might traumatize children, don't forget, as any kid who has seen "The Lion King" can tell you, it's all about the circle of life.

"Even people die," Molinaro said. "What can you do?"

"You're going to have casualties," Raymer said. "The key is having as few as possible."

To keep the fish healthy, they are placed in quarantine tanks in the state-of-the-art pump room built below the terminal floor. Once the fish appear to have no signs of illness and are eating vigorously, they are gradually introduced into the tanks in the waiting room.

Fish can die from old age, of course, but stress and poor water condition are also factors that can cause an untimely demise. To prevent fish loss, ATM employees are on duty at the terminal every day to monitor the health of the fish, and ensure the different species are eating, but are not overfed.

And since each fish was caught in the seas of the Caribbean, instead of hatched in a tank "you can never really tell how old the fish is." But, Raymer said, he's seen young fish live as long as 10 years, while the average life expectancy of an aquarium fish is usually between two and five.

When a fish goes belly-up, the workers wait until nighttime, when the waiting room empties, to scoop the body out with a net, so as to avoid creating a spectacle and upsetting children. "You're not just going to bust out a ladder and get that fish out as the ferry's coming in," Raymer said.

Saltwater fish are particularly difficult to breed in captivity, requiring replacements to be caught in the wild. There is room to store back-up fish in the pump room to replace the stock as fish die off.

The Artists Are Coming: NBC News Interviews Staten Island Artists

Theo Dorian and I (Cynthia von Buhler) were interviewed by NBC's Gabe Pressman about being artists on Staten Island and how more artists are finding out that Staten Island is a unique place to live and work. Theo, a photographer, came awhile back, and I am a painter/sculptor who arrived more recently. In this short clip Theo and I talk about SHOW, an art space near the ferry terminal that we are opening soon. A couple of my paintings will be featured in the clip. Gallery 6 and Staten Island painter Jenny Tango were also featured and interviewed. This clip focused on the artists who were the first to come and have been here for a long time and how they paved the way for the new crop of younger artists and galleries.

The clip aired on the March 18th 11PM news, Channel 4 (Tri-state area: NY, CT, NJ). It will also appear on some digital affiliates.

Other recent press about artists coming to Staten Island can be found in the following posts on this site. You can find them using the "Search Prodigal Borough" box to the right:

Bohemia by the Bay: New York Times Feature
Hipsters on Staten Island: A New York Times video feature
Staten Island Seeks Artists: NY1 News
House call, Animal Kingdom: Time Out New York
A Quest for a Castle, New York Times slideshow feature
Looking for a House and a Turret, The New York Times

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Ferry Goes Green

I'm really happy to hear of this news (see The Daily News article below). I like to sit at the back of the ferry and the diesel occasionally bothers me. I have also been informed that the Staten island ferry terminal fish tanks are now up and running. I'll try to get a photograph for Prodigal Borough soon. --CvB
Staten Island ferries to use clean fuel
Monday, February 18th 2008, 4:00 AM

Even the orange boats of the Staten Island ferry are going "green."

And just to make sure they do, the City Council has passed a bill mandating that the city-run ferries - which make some 33,000 trips yearly between Staten Island and Manhattan - switch to less-polluting, ultralow-sulfur diesel fuel by July 1.
The bill, which is expected to be signed into law soon by Mayor Bloomberg, also requires the Staten Island ferry to make other environmentally friendly upgrades in coming years.

Total costs of the required improvements have been estimated at $15.4 million, of which $3.8million would come out of the city treasury. The rest is to be funded by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey as part of its obligation to do environmental mitigation work.

Also, because ultralow-sulfur diesel fuel is more costly than regular marine diesel, officials estimate the cleaner fuel will add $249,400 more a year to the ferries' fuel costs.

The greening of the Staten Island ferry is long overdue, according to Councilman Alan Gerson, a Democrat whose lower Manhattan district includes the Whitehall Ferry Terminal, where the ferries dock before their 5.2-mile trip to the St. George Terminal on Staten Island.

"The Staten Island ferry has been one of our city's worst polluters," Gerson said Wednesday before the Council voted 50-0 for the bill.

"With this bill, gone will be the odors, and more importantly gone will be the poisons which got into our lungs, both while we're on the ferry and when we're on land," Gerson added.

The bill, which does not apply to private ferry services, also requires the Staten Island ferry to meet other current and future federal anti-pollution standards for marine vessels - either by installing diesel oxidation catalysts on ferry exhausts, making engine upgrades or buying new boats - which can cost upward of $40 million each. A deadline schedule is in the bill.
Staten Island ferry officials said they were already well underway in making such upgrades. They said none of their current eight boats are in immediate danger of having to be mothballed because of the mandates.

That includes the John F. Kennedy, the granddaddy of the Staten Island ferry fleet, which went into service in 1965. But any ferry older than 30 years will have to be scrapped if it doesn't meet tougher federal standards by 2011.

The Kennedy began using ultralow-sulfur diesel in mid-2007, and the remaining boats are expected to be in compliance by the July 1 deadline.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Staten Island Commute

The New York Times has a new column for the month of January called New Stops. It features New York City commutes and is written by Billie Cohen. To read the one on about the ferry commute go HERE. Prodigal Borough also featured two of our own personal Staten Island to Manhattan commutes with pictures and time stamps. To see the Staten Island to West Village commute go HERE. To see the Staten Island to Times Square commute go HERE.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Staten Island Wonderland

Photograph courtesy of Forgotten NY

Forgotten NY features fantastic tours of little-known New York City neighborhoods. Our friend Kevin Walsh, at Forgotten NY, has another Staten Island post up on his site. This time he is featuring Hamilton Park. Click "HERE" for the article and pictures.

Did you know that we found Staten Island through his site? I had never been to Staten Island before I read about it on Forgotten NY about three years ago. We almost bought a building we saw on his site, in Vinegar Hill, but the foundation was badly eaten by termites. So, we methodically visited every Forgotten NY neighborhood before deciding that St. George was the one for us.

The Prodigal Borough was almost named The Forgotten Borough (if you type in you arrive at our site) but we decided that the name was too similar to Kevin's site name. But you never know, we might still use it someday or maybe we should share it and make a page that features all of Kevin's Staten Island Forgotten NY tours. Get busy Kevin! Kevin grew up on Staten Island. Buy Kevin's book, Forgotten NY "HERE. "

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Please Move To Tompkinsville: Another North Shore Neighborhood in the Press

At the Everything Goes Bookstore and Cafe, in Tompkinsville, the performers Christoph and Trish sing their song "Please Move To Tompkinsville"

Excerpt from The New York Times
By Carole Braden
Published: December 9, 2007
For the full article and pictures click on the headline above.

During the morning rush, commuters from the rest of Staten Island, bound for offices in Manhattan and elsewhere, exit the Staten Island Railway at Tompkinsville, a stop before the ferry terminal in St. George, and head out to the street in droves.

It takes a local resident like James Boivin to know that these people aren’t alighting here out of any particular wish to visit the neighborhood, but to duck Staten Island’s sole bank of MetroCard turnstiles at the ferry stop. “They avoid the fare by getting off at Tompkinsville,” said Mr. Boivin, “and walking the rest of the way to the ferry terminal.”

Deirdre Parker, a spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, explained that because a majority of Staten Island Railway riders are commuters to Manhattan and beyond, the authority had decided against the expense of installing turnstiles anywhere else along the line. Thus Tompkinsville, which is wedged between the better-established North Shore neighborhoods of St. George and Stapleton, has become the hop-off point for fare dodgers who get on at points south.

Mr. Boivin, a community activist who works as a freelance garden designer and real estate broker, has lived in the area for more than 20 years. He moved into his current home in Tompkinsville in 1999 after a stint in Europe, and runs a bed-and-breakfast out of his two-floor rental in a 1910 brownstone on Montgomery Avenue, for which he originally paid $500 a month (he would not reveal his current rent). He described the area as one of the most “robust, diverse” ones in the city, pointing to the mix in the local school playgrounds as proof. (School data cite a student population speaking 37 languages.)

Census figures from 2000 show a general neighborhood population of about 4,300, roughly 60 percent nonwhite, though more recent estimates suggest the numbers have climbed. Boroughwide, the overall population has jumped 7 percent since 2000, while the minority population has increased 25 percent.

The accurate figure for Tompkinsville, of course, depends on pinning down exact neighborhood boundaries, which proves an elusive task. The heart of the community, about a quarter-mile square and surrounding a vest-pocket triangle called Tompkinsville Park, is not at issue. It spans from New York Harbor on the east to St. Paul’s Avenue on the west, from Victory Boulevard to the north to Grant Street on the south.

It’s once you wander farther that the debates begin about this area named for an early 19th-century state governor, Daniel D. Tompkins. Many residents declare it larger, stretching it north to Benziger Avenue and beyond (an area that others consider part of St. George), or south to surround Clinton and Baltic Streets (more often claimed by Stapleton). Many also maintain that Tompkinsville encompasses Ward Hill, a grander area bound by St. Paul’s and Cebra Avenues and Victory Boulevard.

“You can’t be wrong” when it comes to boundaries on Staten Island, said Thomas W. Matteo, the borough historian — leaving unstated the obvious corollary that you can’t be right either.

One border that nobody argues about is the one that the harbor’s edge enforces — the area that stands to bring in more house hunters someday, residents and real estate brokers say. One condominium building and two midrise co-ops, both former warehouses, overlook the water from Bay Street Landing, a dead end at the northern tip of this neighborhood’s largely undeveloped waterfront (or the southern tip of St. George’s). This area is to be part of the St. George Esplanade in coming years.

Developers like Leib Puretz, who owns 130 Bay Street Landing, are angling to get in on the action with residential properties, near the water and farther inland.

Zoning rules don’t allow new construction exceeding five or six stories, said Joseph Carroll, the district manager of Community Board 1, but he acknowledged that the zoning could change. “Most people agree that there is a need for height here,” Mr. Carroll said. Upward construction would greatly increase the housing opportunities in the area, and its cachet. Or so local brokers hope.

What You’ll Find

Tompkinsville is a grab bag, offering everything from Victorians, colonials and Federal-style structures to 21st-century conversions. There are town houses, co-ops, condos, rentals and, for would-be landlords, multiunit buildings.

On Tompkins Circle and Ward Avenue, on the Ward Hill edge, houses are more luxurious; on St. Paul’s Avenue, they are slightly more modest, though often with water views.

“There isn’t a house here that you couldn’t make into a wonder,” said Norma Sue Wolfe, a sales associate for Gateway Arms Realty. Streets including Swan, Grant and Van Duzer are an odd mix: original clapboard facades and aging brick buildings, side by side with vinyl-clad homes and other surprises.

Closer to the bustle of Victory Boulevard are a number of lavishly redone buildings. Because Staten Island over all is “just not a sexy place,” said Kevin Barry, who owns 15 buildings in the borough, he is doing his bit toward changing that, with sleek rentals marketed to younger buyers priced out of Manhattan and Brooklyn. He describes his three-story 11-unit building at Victory Boulevard and St. Marks Place as having a “young dorm feel.”

Beyond the foot of Victory Boulevard, near the waterfront, stand the condos, co-ops and town houses of Bay Street Landing. It was the views that brought Linda Daller here. A 28-year resident of Suffolk County on Long Island, Ms. Daller spent eight years on South Shore Staten Island before finding and closing on a 910-square-foot unit at 10 Bay Street Landing. “I thought about Manhattan for a while,” she said, “but it’s 10 times the price.”

What You’ll Pay

There are deals, but many of them need updating. Still, those in sticker shock from other areas will find this one refreshingly affordable.

For one thing, the borough has not proved as slump-proof as Manhattan. “Prices in this area are down at least 13 percent from last year,” said Adele Sammarco, a spokeswoman for the Staten Island Board of Realtors.

According to the board, the median price in Tompkinsville this year was $442,500. At the moment inventory is not huge, judging from a Multiple Listing Service search that yielded 31 properties. These ranged in price from $239,900, for a 1910 two-family colonial with 1,700 square feet of living space, to $999,000, for a 4,500-square-foot Ward Hill five-bedroom with harbor views. A 1930 single-family attached home with an Art Deco facade, listed at $335,000, has an accepted offer. Dimas Lespier of Exit Realty Solutions recently sold a three-bedroom, three-bath town house on Margo Loop for $360,000.

New construction includes a condo, The Pointe, at Victory Boulevard and Bay Street. The broker, Casandra Properties, says the 57-unit complex is half sold.

Rentals seem strong. George Christo, a developer, hopes to get as much as $2,500 for the 800-square-foot penthouse of his as-yet-unnamed new building, and $2,200 for the units below it.

Nick Purpura, who moved from SoHo two months ago to a two-bedroom in a former firehouse at Hannah and Van Duzer Streets, said he pays “Manhattan rent,” but gets “way more space.”

What to Do

The Every Thing Goes Book Cafe and Neighborhood Stage, on Bay Street, draws a varied crowd with organic espresso, local cider, art exhibitions and music nights. But Tompkinsville has yet to nurture the upscale restaurants and bars found nearby in both St. George and Stapleton. Still, its restaurants offer Mexican, Dominican, Honduran, Jamaican and Sri Lankan food. Residents tend to wish aloud for a grocery like Whole Foods, but for now they make do with bodegas, as well as a Western Beef supermarket nearby.

The George Cromwell Recreation Center at Pier No. 6 offers sports from boxing to basketball, and the Joseph H. Lyons Pool is a summer wonderland. (Adult membership is a total of $75 a year for both facilities.)

The Commute

Commuters favor the 25-minute free ride on the Staten Island Ferry to Battery Park. The walk to the terminal takes about 10 minutes.
Everything Goes Bookstore and Cafe in Tompkinsville is currently displaying paintings by Mary Bullock.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Christmas on the Ferry

New York Times writers, Ken Belson and Nate Schweber, took a ride on the ferry on Christmas day and interviewed a few people for the December 26, 2007 issue. Click on the headline above to read the full article.