Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Gala*: A Unique Industrial-Chic Art & Dinner Party

A massive New York Container Terminal turns into a contemporary museum for a dinner and art party highlighting the work of ten borough artists.

The Council on the Arts & Humanities for Staten Island
Friday, October 2, 2009
7:00pm - 11:00pm

Warehouse 74/75, New York Container Terminal
241 Western Avenue
Staten Island, NY
Phone: 7184473329
Email: statenislandarts.org
The Council on the Arts & Humanities for Staten Island (COAHSI) will turn Staten Island’s massive New York Container Terminal into a contemporary museum for a special arts weekend highlighting the work of ten borough artists.

The exhibit, entitled “Mapping Staten Island,” explores these artists’ perceptions of their resident borough, through physical installations, video, light, and musical recordings, and will feature works by Nick Fevelo, John Foxell, Steven Lapcevic, Brendan Coyle, Paul Moakley, Robin Locke Monda, Mandy Morrison, Kala Pierson, Don Porcella, Mike Shane and Cynthia von Buhler.

The exhibit space – created by the newly established firm Archicorp -- will be a work of art in itself, as actual shipping pallets will be used to build walls, tables and other structures to display the artwork. After the exhibit, the pallets will be recycled and used for their original purpose of transporting consumer goods.

In “Mapping Staten Island,” the selected borough artists will play with ideas of psycho-geography, and other non-traditional ways of interpreting the theme. COAHSI Grants Director Ginger Shulick elaborates on the concept of “Mapping Staten Island”:

“The artists selected to participate in “Mapping Staten Island” are not only creating work that physically or conceptually represents the unique geography, history, or mythology of Staten Island, but they are also truly putting Staten Island ‘on the map’ artistically.”

The selection of the New York Container Terminal as the venue for the exhibit also builds on Staten Island’s specific geography and history. Each exhibition room will be constructed from shipping pallets and designed like a fort, 20x10 feet long. The pallets will literally be “branded” by hot iron brands, bearing the logo or tag line of each sponsor. Deconstructed after the gala, these branded pallets will then rejoin the flow of global trade, sharing with the world a small part of Staten Island. Artists will be on site both during the Gala and the public exhibit to discuss their installations with the public.

Gala tickets are available online at the COAHSI website: statenislandarts.org, starting at $125. A shuttle will be available to pick up attendees at the Staten Island ferry and transport them to the New York Container Terminal at 241 Western Avenue. For information about table sponsorships, please contact Frank Williams at COAHSI, 718-447-3329. BUY TICKETS HERE.

Artist Bios

Cynthia von Buhler

Von Buhler will recreate the old-timey historical boardwalk of Staten Island’s South Beach, combining contemporary art criticism with a carnival motif to add a modern element to her installation – including a number of her animated sculptures. Von Buhler will be costumed in traditional carnival garb, wielding a microphone that samples pretentious artists statements mixed with the words “Step Right Up”.

Cynthia von Buhler is an internationally exhibiting visual artist, performer, and author. In March 2006, Art & Antiques named von Buhler as “one of the top contemporary surrealists”, and has been linked to the Fluxus and Lowbrow movements.


Nick Fevelo

Fevelo will create a “Staten Island Water Museum” featuring a collection of water from around Staten Island, including purified rain water for drinking, found water bottles filled with urine from the Island’s shores, as well as images marking Staten Island’s nature and topography. Nick Fevelo is a multi-disciplinary photographer balancing journalism and conceptual artistic practice. He holds a BFA in Photography from the School of Visual Arts, and recently received the Society of Silurians Breaking News Photography award and the National Headliner Awards 3rd Place Breaking News Photography award.


John Foxell

John Foxell will recreate a room of his extraordinary house for the gala. Foxell is a poet whom resides in a historic house in Port Richmond, Staten Island. His home, built in the Saltbox style in 1848, houses many curiosities: skeletons, taxidermied animals, and numerous historical artifacts, including vintage radios from the 1940s and a letter from President Roosevelt to his wife Eleanor.

Steven Lapcevic and Brendan Coyle

Lapcevic and Coyle are collaborating to create a mixed-media installation, depicting the corner of Victory and Corson Avenues in St. George. Recorded sounds from the street will serve as the backdrop to Lapcevic’s animation – a digital window onto the world just outside 15 Corson Gallery/The Assembly Room.

Steven Lapcevic’s work addresses themes of volition, identity, and alienation within the framework of a darkly fictional world that strongly mirrors the more frightening characteristics of our own. It is through his work that he hopes to explore and shed light on the smaller, abstract and darkened corners of our collective experience.

Brendan Coyle works in various artistic media such as sculpture, comics, and performance art, practicing in variance and combination. Coyle also directs and curates The Assembly Room, a contemporary art gallery on the North Shore of Staten Island.


Paul Moakley

Moakley will show his film “Memory Loop”, filmed along the shoreline of Staten Island. During the editing process Moakley will incorporate ephemeral objects, family photos, archival film footage, and historical photography. This film will be displayed alongside large prints, and a reproduction of the bench outside the Alice Austen House Museum along the waterfront, wherein Moakley hopes to create a place for people to contemplate the shoreline and their own lives.

Paul Moakley is a photographer, curator, and editor who lives and works at the Alice Austen House Museum. Moakley was a senior photo editor at Newsweek (2002-2009) and previously served as the photo editor for PDN (Photo District News).


Robin Locke Monda

Locke Monda will create “Wave Circle,” an installation made entirely from old boom boxes set in a circle with their speakers facing toward the center, creating a dialogue. Each boom box will play a CD of Staten Island sounds, including urban, suburban, natural environments as well as Staten Islander’s voices, all recorded by Locke Monda.

Robin Locke Monda is a graphic designer, photographer, and writer working in both old and new media. She is especially interested in cultivating active listening among Staten Islanders, and has created an initiative called “Sounds Like Staten Island” to engage locals in sharing and initiating sound projects.


Mandy Morrison

Morrison will create a mixed-media performance titled “Initial Public Offering of Staten Island: We are Co-Dependent and Connected” regarding Staten Island’s sometimes problematic relationship with power and resource-sharing with other boroughs and the greater New York City.

Mandy Morrison is a video and performance artist whose work is an inquiry as to how we structure our lives through thought and action. Her work is an investigation that focuses on the outward manifestations of the self, whether as an individual or as part of a collective.


Kala Pierson

Pierson will create a “Tibetan Sand Mandala in Audio,” where over the course of the night, the audio will dissolve, starting with thick layers and ending with one layer and eventually silence. Once this happens, the sound will exist only in the memories of the people who were present.

Kala Pierson is a composer and sound/media artist. Pierson has studied at the Eastman School of Music where she held a George Eastman Scholarship, Bard College at Simon’s Rock where she won the Dean’s Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts, and Tanglewood Institute/BUTI.


Don Porcella

Porcella is creating a cave with figures that narrates his understanding of ancient artists as it relates to art history and early Staten Island people. “The Cave Painters” by Don Porcella intends to show the passion artists have for their craft, how artists have always lived on Staten Island, and how it is connected to our understanding of contemporary artistic practice.

Don Porcella, in his unique approach to encaustic painting, hopes to “reinforce the significance of life’s blunders by presenting a mysterious world: shamelessly awkward and unabashedly comical” (NY Times). The bulk of Porcella’s recent work has involved creating whimsical and subversive sculpture from pipe cleaners. Porcella transforms this “craft material” into a form of high art, as the content and structure of his sculptures play with our conceptions of consumerism, reality, and our own weird mortality.


Mike Shane

Shane will create a temporary mixed-media installation integrating at least 150 square feet of black and white photography and a monochromatic mix of brush paint, ink, and spray paint. The images will portray the emerging artist scene in Stapleton, where Shane resides.

Mike Shane is a photographer and a life-long Staten Islander. He holds a degree in Graphic Design and Illustration from Kingsborough Community College, and has independently studied photography for over a decade. Shane considers himself an artist, who chooses photography as his weapon of choice.


Vincent Appel

Vincent Appel is an architect, urbanist, industrial designer and artist. His professional experience includes work at Archi-tectonics in Manhattan, Koetter Kim Architects in Boston, Estudio Borelles in Barcelona and his own practice, Of Other Places. His work has received recognition, fellowship and awards from Judith Seinfeld, The Center for Architecture, and Syracuse University.

Paul Miller

Paul Miller holds the Bachelor of Architecture cum laude from Syracuse University’s School of Architecture. In May 2009, his thesis on the political underground of Washington DC won the James Britton Memorial Prize. Prior to co-founding Archicorp, Paul worked with PARA-Project in Syracuse and New York City and Chaintreuil Jensen Stark Architects in Rochester, New York.

Rob Daurio

Rob Daurio is an architect/urbanist and graphic designer. Previous to Archicorp, Rob Daurio worked with OMA/Rem Koolhaas in the Netherlands on a number of projects including: master plans in Italy, Belgium, and France, catwalks for the Milan Prada fashion shows, and a print for a Prada 2009 Spring/Summer dress. Rob Daurio is a graduate of Syracuse University.

About Archicorp:
Archicorp is a design research collaborative based in New York City. Archicorp operates in a methodology that is affirmatively social, and maintains an optimistic position about the role of design as a device for solving complex problems. The studio engages in a spectrum of work ranging from urban planning and building design to large scale public art, cultural analysis, industrial and fashion design.

The Council on the Arts & Humanities for Staten Island (COAHSI) works to foster, develop, and support the arts and humanities on Staten Island. We do this through professional development, technical assistance, and regrants to artists and arts organizations. COAHSI works hard to bring together artists, organizations, and the greater Staten Island community. For more information on the Council on the Arts & Humanities for Staten Island (COAHSI) visit www.statenislandarts.org.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Running On Staten Island

Brian Fidelman, The Roving Runner, tries Staten Island out for running in this New York Times article.

A Time Out NY Staffer Explains Why She Loves St. George, Staten Island

One of our favorite things about St. George is The Staten Island Museum.

Meredith Bodgas loves St. George, Staten Island and she picks her favorite haunts below. We also love the places she mentions, but there is so much more. Browse our site to find out about our lovely, quirky island. Click HERE to see a slideshow and read the article on TONY's website.

From Time Out NY:

“I grew up on the South Shore,” admits freelance writer Meredith Bodgas, “but St. George, on the North Shore, is what the cool ’hoods in Brooklyn were like before you couldn’t afford to live there. It’s a wonder that more Manhattanites don’t hang out here—especially in a recession. The very pleasant ferry ride (you can buy beer on the boat!) is free, and once you’re on the S.I. side, fun it’s cheap, too.”

Her favorite bars and restaurants

Enoteca Maria (27 Hyatt St between Central Ave and St. Marks Pl; 718-447-2777, enotecamaria.com) “What makes this Italian restaurant stand apart from the countless other ones on the island? The rotating grandma-chefs are actually from Italy—not Bay Ridge. As a result, the restaurant is more European with a menu that changes nightly based on what’s fresh. Rest assured, you can always order pasta.”

Beso (11 Schuyler St between Richmond Terr and Stuyvesant Pl; 718-816-8162, besonyc.com) “Meat and seafood lovers will like the choices at this cozy Spanish restaurant. Order mojitos or sangria, and split tapas, like fried goat cheese and coconut-crusted shrimp, with your friends. Dim lighting and brick walls make it a good date spot.”

Jimmy Steiny’s at Baker Square (2 Hyatt St between Central Ave and Stuyvesant Pl, 718-442-9526) “Though it’s not much to look at from the outside, the inside of this bar is sparkling—it has Blue Moon, Magic Hat and nine other beers on tap. Go after work when pints and well drinks are $3 or less and the jukebox is pumping.”

Her favorite places to visit

Richmond County Bank Ballpark (75 Richmond Terr at Wall St; 718-720-9265, siyanks.com) “Staten Island Yankees games are fun (Scooter the Holy Cow has been known to shoot T-shirts into the stands) and cheaper than the real Yankees. When the Major Leaguers get sent down for a few weeks, they often play here. I saw El Duque pitch a game from a $15 seat behind home plate!”

15 Corson Gallery: The Assembly Room (15 Corson Ave between Daniel Low Terr and Victory Blvd, second floor; 917-586-2325, myspace.com/assemblyroom) “This hipster-friendly gallery is a paradise for anyone who likes his art off the beaten path. Plus, you can catch lively music and comedy performances from local talent here.”

St. George Theatre (35 Hyatt St between Central Ave and St. Marks Pl; 718-442-2900, stgeorgetheatre.com) “You know the battle of the bands concert in School of Rock? That was shot here. Checking out a big-name act at this 1920s theater would be very cool, but I’d highly recommend a kitschy show with local acts, such as Staten Island’s Got Talent.”

Postcards (141 Richmond Terr between Hamilton Ave and Stuyvesant Pl, statenislandusa.com) “I got chills the first time I went to this September 11th memorial, and not just because my husband’s uncle is one of the victims whose profile is accurately depicted on the wall: The wings of the sculpture frame where the Twin Towers used to stand across the bay.”

Her favorite shops

Every Thing Goes Thrift & Vintage (140 Bay St between Central Ave and Victory Blvd; 718-273-7139, etgstores.com/clothing) “Staten Island is not really known for its shopping—the main retail draw is the mall, after all—but there are three floors of vintage threads at this store. It’s as great for everyday duds as it is for Halloween costumes.”

Every Thing Goes Book Cafe and Neighborhood Stage (208 Bay St between Minthorne St and Victory Blvd; 718-447-8256, etgstores.com/bookcafe) “Cater to your ADD with this used-book-and-record store/tea shop/art gallery/performance space/Internet café. The events are usually free, and you can even make a couple of bucks by selling your dusty paperbacks and vinyls.
One of our favorite things about St. George is the gorgeous, old houses.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Staten Island Advance Plugs Forgotten Borough (and its blogger)

Staten Island home owners: Cynthia von Buhler and Tevah Platt in front of Cynthia's house. Photo from an article about Staten Island's North Shore in Japion, a New York Japanese newspaper.

Thursday, September 03, 2009
Staten Island Advance
by Tevah Platt

Cynthia von Buhler, an artist with profoundly gothic sensibilities, was bound to fall under the spell of Staten Island's old, desolate and abandoned places.

House-hunting in 2005, she discovered the borough and snatched up an Iberian castle at the pinnacle of St. George.

Her "quest for a turret" made the New York Times' real estate section.

And ever since, Ms. von Buhler has been singing a siren song, luring New Yorkers willing to sail to the North Shore.

She's chatted with reporters with the Japanese weekly Japion, brought in adventurers from Forgotten NY, and, for the local and foreign crowd, maintains an elegant blog featuring Staten Island's cultural offerings: Forgottenborough.com.

In what was formerly titled the "Prodigal Borough" blog, Ms. von Buhler maintains the voice of an insider who is also an outsider, as in the tag line: "We took the ferry to Staten Island and decided to stay."

But notably, Staten Island has decided to stay with Ms. von Buhler.

Since buying a second home in pastoral Connecticut, she spends more time in New England than she does in New Amsterdam, yet she continues to blog and to tout Staten Island's North Shore.

Ms. von Buhler, who helped found St. George's SHOW Gallery, recently completed the children's book, "But Who Will Bell the Cats?" (Houghton Mifflin). She is among the artists to be featured at the upcoming Council on the Arts and Humanities for Staten Island (COAHSI) "Mapping Staten Island" Gala at the New York Container Terminal on Oct. 2, with a public exhibit Oct. 3.

Visit the blog at: forgottenborough.com and her new book's Web site: www.butwhowillbellthecats.com

Link to the article HERE.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Mick Rock at SHOW Gallery

Find out more about this exhibit HERE.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Across the Harbor, a Historic Gem by Cara Buckley

Photograph by Forgotten Borough.

It looks like Cara Buckley came back to Staten island for another visit recently. We gave her a tour of the area last time and I'm pleased to see that this time around she visited Enoteca Maria and Beso. They are Forgotten Borough's two favorite St. George restaurants.

Many visits to Staten Island go like this: Ride the ferry from Lower Manhattan. Catch a free glimpse of the Statue of Liberty. Disembark. Take the next ferry back.

But the tiny, historic neighborhood of St. George, where the ferry docks, is worth exploring, even if the bleak landscape just outside the terminal suggests otherwise. Get a map at the terminal’s passenger office, and after your amble in St. George, consider a four-minute ride on the S40 bus from the terminal to the Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden, at right, 1000 Richmond Terrace, (718) 448-2500. It is 83 acres of Greek Revival buildings and paradisiacal gardens that will make you feel like you stepped into an E. M. Forster novel.

10:30 A.M.Ride the 1, N, R or W train to South Ferry, and get on board. The ferry is free and leaves Manhattan and Staten Island every half-hour (with variations after 1 a.m., on weekends and during the weekday rush). If it’s a nice day, ride on the upper deck for the fresh air and panoramic views of New York Harbor, Lower Manhattan, Governors Island and the Brooklyn and Verrazano-Narrows Bridges.

11 A.M. As you disembark from the ferry, Staten Island’s stately Borough Hall, will be in front of you, a French Renaissance-style structure built between 1904 and 1906 and designed by Carrère and Hastings, the architectural firm behind the New York Public Library. Go left on Bay Street and walk five minutes to the Everything Goes Book Cafe & Neighborhood Stage, 208 Bay Street, (718) 447-8256, a cozy, welcoming used-book store and community gathering spot run by Ganas, a local commune (it’s closed on Mondays). Tasty, affordable coffee and organic baked goods are for sale, accompanied by live music weekend nights. Ganas also runs a nearby vintage shop, Everything Goes Clothing, 140 Bay Street, (718) 273-7139, closed Sunday and Monday, where one recent offering was a thick Pucci-like shift that felt like a bath towel and cost $14.

NOON Head to the Cargo Cafe, 120 Bay Street, (718) 876-0539, for cool ambience — exposed wood beams, peeling red walls, shabby chic chandeliers — and cheap lunch: $4.75 for a burger, fries and a soda; the weekend brunch starts at $7 and includes muffins and a cocktail or coffee (open Tuesday to Sunday at 11 a.m.; Monday at 5 p.m.).

1:30 P.M. Walk along Central Avenue to Hyatt Street, and visit the St. George Theater, 35 Hyatt Street, (718) 442-2900, an 80-year-old former vaudeville house that was recently restored to its over-the-top baroque glory. Cyndi Lauper and Rosie O’Donnell appeared there last week; Toni Orlando is scheduled for Sept. 10. Be sure to see the auditorium’s glorious, spotlighted dome ceiling.

2 P.M. Time to view some fancy local houses — from the outside; people live there. Map in hand, head up Hyatt Street, take a right on St. Mark’s Place, a quick left on Fort Place and then a right (stay with me) on Daniel Low Terrace to gaze at some very pretty Tudor-style mansions and well-kept flower gardens. Just off Daniel Low Terrace is Fort Hill Circle; check out No. 22, a castlelike house built in 1930.

2:30 P.M. Walk downhill to the Staten Island Museum, 75 Stuyvesant Place, (718) 727-1135, a tiny repository of local history, assorted animals preserved in jars, cool glow-in-the-dark rocks and a portrait of St. George’s namesake, George Law, who, as it turns out, wasn’t a saint at all. Admission: $2.

3 P.M. If you’re peckish again, or thirsty, try Beso, 11 Schuyler Street, (718) 816-8162, a tucked-away tapas bar that also serves Cuban pressed sandwiches for $7.95; glasses of wine start at $7. Or head to Enoteca Maria, 27 Hyatt Street, (718) 447-2777, a modern, authentic Italian restaurant, open Wednesday to Sunday, that has food critics and local folks swooning with its rotating cast of female chefs from assorted regions of Italy.

4 P.M. Take the ferry back to Manhattan. If you skipped the wine, the tapas and the Italian fare, the ferry snack bar sells pretzels and $3.50 domestic beer.

- New York Times

Make sure to take a look at the St. George slideshow.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

New York Daily News: Borough Bloggers Reveal Secret Gems of NYC Neighborhoods

Thursday, June 11th 2009, 4:00 AM

Read the whole article HERE.

Think you know everything cool to see in your city? These boro bloggers comb the streets of their nabes every day for new finds to chat about. And not surprisingly, they've got plenty of secret gems that, well, aren't a secret anymore!

Blogger: Cynthia von Buhler
Blog: www.prodigalborough.com
What she's blogging about: Prodigal Borough covers a variety of Staten Island interests including art, parks, the ferry, beaches, parks, real estate and preservation, and food.
Her gem: Staten Island is one big wonder full of eccentric oddities, and my favorite is the easiest to find. Take the scenic ferry ride, and then follow the neon sign to Theo Dorian's gallery SHOW. The current show at the gallery is “Lost & Found,” an exploration of earnestness in art, and in mid-June, the gallery will feature sculptures of hard, mundane forms like axes and logs cast in fine white porcelain by Victoria Munro. The gallery also offers workshops (like guitar lessons during an upcoming exhibit of photographs of glam rock icons by Mick Rock). While on the island, get directions to nearby wonders like the shrine built of found objects, the Chinese koi pond and gardens, and gorgeous Victorian houses. Address: SHOW, 156 Stuyvesant Place, Staten Island, www.showhownyc.com, 718-524-0855.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Art Recycle Opportunity with Day de Dada: Reduce – Reuse - Recreate

Art Recycle Opportunity with Day de Dada: Reduce – Reuse - Recreate

Do you have extra art that you're not using? Maybe you have some leftover concepts in the closet or cluttering up the basement of your mind.

Here's your chance to reduce, reuse, and recycle your extraneous art. Bring your leftover canvases, sculpture bits and unused creative ideas to "Van Duzer Days" on Saturday August 1st and work together with Artists from Day de Dada to create a masterpiece of repurposed art.

It will be live, it will be creative, it will be videotaped, it will be Dada!

Meet at "Van Duzer Days" on Saturday August 1st from 1:00 to 4:00 on Van Duzer Street between Wright and Beach Streets, Staten Island .

Van Duzer Days is part of Summer Streets NYC and is sponsored by Sicolab.

While at Van Duzer Days also check out "We-Cycle" - A community upcycling bike advocacy installation.

More info at www.daydedada.com

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Prodigal Borough's Name Has Changed

In homage to Forgotten NY, which first helped us find Staten Island, we are changing our name to Forgotten Borough. Forgotten NY features overlooked, ancient sites in New York City. Staten Island is the most overlooked borough in the city, and it has a plethora of ancient sites. We are here to make you more familiar with the most mysterious borough of New York City: Staten Island. Using the term "forgotten borough" to describe Staten Island isn't new; it was first coined in 1928 by The New York Times.

15 July 1928, New York Times, pg. RE1:
Urging Staten Island operators to be cautious about pricing their realty, W. Burke Harmon, President of the Harmon National Real Estate Corporation, yesterday declared that sudden price increases on properties at this time might well result in halting the normal development of what he calls "this forgotten borough that has suddenly stepped into the limelight."

19 October 1950, New York Times, pg. 35:
Speaking at a borough-wide rally last night in the Boulevard Hotel, Grant CIty, S. I., Mr. Corsi described Staten Island as the "forgotten borough" by the present Tammany administration at City Hall.
(Edward Corsi, Republican candidate for Mayor - ed.)

23 November 1958, New York Times, pg. R1:
Staten Island rates high as the possible scene of New York's next boom in industrial construction, according to city and Chamber of Commerce officials. The fact that the commerce group's members come largely from Richmond is not expected to lengthen the odds against "the forgotten borough," as some of them have named it.

I'm attaching a few of my pictures of Fort Wadsworth. Forgotten. Ancient. You see what I mean.

This site is undergoing a redesign. Check back in soon to see our stylish new look.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

New York Times: "A contender for most beautiful building in NYC"

In this New York Times Habitats column Constance Rosenblum visits the old Bechtel mansion on St. Pauls Avenue. I was quoted, but I wasn't given a credit. My film and photo location company which lists this property (The Arabesque Victorian) is CVB Spaces. Check that out if you want to see dozens of my pictures of it (you can see a few of my photographs here). Staten Island is filled with this type of wondrous home. -Cynthia von Buhler

For a Family, Elaborate Elbow Room
Published: June 26, 2009

IN 1888, a German-born beer baron named George Bechtel, who was said to be the richest man on Staten Island, gave his 21-year-old daughter Annie an extraordinary wedding present.

A Time Capsule
Annie was betrothed to a German-American named Leonard Weiderer, and the gift was a three-story, 24-room Victorian mansion in the Queen Anne style. The 4,500-square-foot showpiece, on the street known as Mud Lane (later rechristened St. Paul’s Avenue), was outfitted with eight bedrooms, two kitchens and six fireplaces, each of a different design.

Annie’s bridal home included virtually every detail of Victorian domestic architecture — hipped roofs, gables, fish-scale shingles, chimneys, bay windows, dormer windows, even a turret. Garlanding the exterior were a series of porches and balconies. Two dozen imported stained-glass windows, courtesy of the glass factory Mr. Weiderer owned, exploded with stars, sunbursts, crescent moons and floral designs pricked in luminous primary colors. Chestnut and oak paneling covered nearly every available inch of wall space.

But the couple’s time in the house was brief. Three years into the marriage, tuberculosis claimed Mr. Weiderer’s life. His young widow moved to Germany and married a second time, but just five years later, in 1899, she died also. She was 31.

Annie’s sister Agnes lived in the house until 1928, followed by the Teitelbaums (1928-48), the Fraziers (1948-88) and, from 1988 to 1999, a chef who painted the exterior what one paint consultant described, not intending to pay a compliment, as a “Lucille Ball shade” of pink.

Through all these incarnations, the house proved a hardy survivor, the undisputed but neglected star among nearly a hundred handsome Victorian dwellings in the Stapleton area. What it lacked was someone who valued its lustrous past.

That person turned out to be a soft-spoken Montana-born doctor named Ted Brown. Dr. Brown, 63, who is the director of the New York State Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Institute for Basic Research, and whose specialty is autism research, works out of offices on Staten Island.

At the time he began house-hunting on the island, he and his family were ensconced in a 200-year-old farmhouse in Port Washington, on Long Island, and he was developing a taste for living close to the past. When he was shown what a real estate agent modestly described as an “older house of character,” he was blown away.

“Maybe I was crazy, but I just thought it would be fun to live there,” Dr. Brown said in his understated way as he and his wife, Donna, sat side by side in what they call their formal parlor, an octagonal space framed by a sweeping archway.

Ms. Brown, a speech therapist who works with autistic schoolchildren (the couple met in 1985 at a genetics conference in Australia), viewed the situation differently.

“When I first saw the house,” she said, “I thought Ted had lost it.”

And remind us why she went along with the idea?

“Because I love him,” Ms. Brown said with an adoring smile.

When the couple bought the house in 1999 for $525,000, they set aside $250,000 for renovations, a figure that ballooned to $400,000. Before moving in, they worked for six months on the interior; once in residence, they tackled the exterior. Painting the facade — using sun-drenched colors like squash, copper, antique gold and seven others — took five months.

“The first couple of years, the house was really in sad shape,” Ms. Brown said. “We were really overwhelmed. Then we began to love it.”

But they know the work will never be finished, in part because the family, which includes the couple’s son, Hunter, 17; their daughter, Montana, 19; and two dogs, use all 24 rooms, amazing as that seems.

The room where the Browns were sitting on this day had the look of a perfectly appointed stage set for some forgotten Victorian-era drama. Furnishings include Persian carpets from Dr. Brown’s childhood home, an inlaid chessboard atop an inlaid table and a piano with Debussy on the music stand. (Dr. Brown, who in 1964 was a Montana state chess champion, plays both the game and the instrument.)

The mantel is almost hidden by an assortment of crystal — bells, goblets, paperweights, teardrop candlesticks. A velvet shawl with ivory fringe is draped over one chair, and needlepoint pillows nestle in the corners of the sofa.

The couple are justly proud of the grand staircase, which looks like a puzzle composed of intricately braided chestnut spindles and a matching woven screen, each tiny curl milled separately. At the base of the stairs, a pair of linked circlets have been carved into the wood. It is an emblem, Ms. Brown thinks, of the union of the young couple whose time in the house was so brief and so tragic.

The second floor is devoted to bedrooms, and the third, the onetime servants’ quarters, with its tiny rooms and low ceilings, is a teenage boy’s paradise; Hunter has his own bedroom, kitchen and video area.

The third floor is also the entrance to the little two-story room at the top of the turret. On a Web site that lists the Brown house as a location for filming and fashion shoots, the passageway to the turret is described as a “creepy, coffin-shaped tunnel.”

Creepy is the word.

“When we first moved in, the kids used to play there,” Dr. Brown said, “and someone was always being dragged in and locked away and had to be rescued.”

After he moved to Stapleton, Dr. Brown joined the Mud Lane Society, the preservation group that helped get 92 Victorians designated as city landmarks. The group’s president since 2007, he knows more than most people about what life in this part of the city was like a century ago. Along the staircase hang photographs giving a vivid picture of the brewers who were island royalty before Prohibition brought them low, and through eBay Dr. Brown has amassed a collection of old bottles from the Bechtel brewery.

He has discovered that living in such an over-the-top house was just as he thought it would be — fun. Total strangers stop and take pictures, in part thanks to www.forgotten-ny.com, a Web site that proclaims 387 St. Paul’s Avenue as “possibly the most gorgeous private dwelling on Staten Island and a contender for most beautiful building in NYC.” And at least for the Browns, who see themselves as caretakers of a piece of Staten Island history, the poignant history of the house only enhances its appeal.

“This was a wedding gift for a bride,” Ms. Brown pointed out. “Don’t you wish you could give your child such a gift?”

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The New York Time's Hunt Column Asks "So Where Are They Now"

A few years ago Joyce Cohen, from The New York Times, interviewed us (Cynthia von Buhler and Russell Farhang) about our house hunt and move to Staten Island. That article launched Prodigal Borough as she listed the blog url in the paper. We have been writing about Staten Island ever since. Cohen's Hunt column is celebrating its 5th year anniversary, so they called to ask us "where are you now?" We are living in both CT and Staten Island now, both places are lovely in their own way.

The original article can be found HERE.
There is also a multimedia slideshow.
Excerpt: And then, one day, they noticed Staten Island. "It was like we opened up a present we had forgotten about," Mr. Farhang said. So off they went.

They saw a few houses with Tina Sirico, an agent at Sari Kingsley Real Estate in New Dorp. The houses in Staten Island seemed beautiful and well-kept, and much cheaper than houses elsewhere. They were surprised and thrilled, especially when they visited a four-story, 2,500-square-foot Mediterranean-style villa, with a curved staircase inside and a lush garden outside. It looked like a castle. The house, in the St. George section, was listed at $659,000.

Trying to contain their excitement, they waited until that evening to place their bid. They bought the house for $655,000.

According to the sellers, Laura Drew Kelly and Michael Kelly, who moved to Dover, Del., the house was built around 1929 by a Spanish teacher from Spain, who wanted a home reminiscent of his country.

The new article can be found HERE
and a slideshow is HERE.

Excerpt: Three years ago, Russell Farhang and Cynthia von Buhler were married in the lush backyard of Fort Hill Castle, their turreted Staten Island home.

“I thought we would live there forever,” Mr. Farhang said, never imagining that he would come to think of the castle as a starter house.

Ms. von Buhler became active in the local arts scene. Mr. Farhang enjoyed the ferry commute with coffee, newspaper and friends...

Ms. von Buhler, who has an art studio in the house, has just finished her most recent children’s book, “But Who Will Bell the Cats?” (Houghton Mifflin). Not coincidentally, the setting for the book is a castle. Back in Staten Island, Fort Hill Castle is currently occupied by Ms. von Buhler’s sister.

Joyce Cohen is also a blogger. Visit her blog at: http://huntgrunt.blogspot.com

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Art By The Ferry 2009

The 2009 ART BY THE FERRY Festival highlights the wide variety of excellent visual arts, crafts, spoken word and performing arts on Staten Island in spaces provided by local real estate developers, restaurants, galleries and the Staten Island Museum. And it’s free!

Support two fundraising events for Art by the Ferry 2009;
Thursday May 28, 6pm-9pm at Killmeyer’s
Saturday May 30, 7pm - 10pm at Everything Goes Book Cafe & Neighborhood Stage

St. George, Staten Island, NYC

June 6,7 & 13,14, 2009
11am to 6pm

Staten Island Creative Community (SICC)*

“The artists are coming! The artists are coming!”
*More information about Staten Island Creative Community is on the News page - livepage.apple.com

Art ON the Ferry, sponsored by SIcoLab -- on the Staten Island ferries, Saturday June 6, from 11am to 2pm.

Performance Art Parade -- Saturday June 6, 2pm

Workshops for Arts Professionals, presented by COAHSI -- Saturday, June 6, 2009; 1pm, Sunday, June 7, 2009; 1pm, Staten Island Museum

Music, Performance -- all day, all four days, multiple venues

Children’s Workshops

Art Exhibits -- all day, all four days, multiple venues

Crafts -- all day, all four days, multiple venues

Spoken Word -- all four days at the Fish’s Eddy site

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Stairway To Heaven

Fort Hill is the highest hill in St. George. Fort Hill Castle, on Fort Hill, is the highest house on the hill. Does that make these the highest steps in St. George?

Staten Islander Dan Icolari has launched his own blog called "Walking Is Transportation." St. George (in the North Shore) is extremely hilly and "Walking Is Transportation" explores that in his post: "The Vertical Life, or Hill-Walking on Staten Island's North Shore." Check it out by clicking HERE.

A Google Earth map of New York City

The "stairway" article got me thinking about elevation in St. George. I knew that Todt Hill on Staten Island is the highest point in all five boroughs of New York (and the highest point on the eastern seaboard of the United States south of Maine). I also knew that Fort Hill, where my house is located, is the highest point in St. George, Staten Island. My house is the tallest house on Fort Hill - might it be the highest point in St. George? And, if we are talking about Staten Island having the highest elevations in all of New York City, my house is closer to heaven than most places in New York City. I checked out the elevations on Google Earth. You can see my calculations below. The height of the houses are approximate. I will look into that and report back with actual figures.

My house (Fort Hill Castle) elevation. Ground elevation: 166 feet, Tower elevation: 35 feet approximate, Total elevation: 215 approximate

Fort Hill Park (the highest point of Fort Hill): 207 feet, House elevation: 20 feet approximate, Total elevation: 227 approximate

Todt Hill Elevation: 410 feet

227 feet - 215 feet = 12 feet

My approximate calculations show that there is one other house at a slightly higher elevation on Fort Hill, however, our house is the tallest, therefore they even out a bit. I'm guessing house heights here, but it looks like my house is only about 12 feet from being the highest in St. George, and only about 215 feet lower than the highest point in all of New York City. We have been thinking about raising the height of our tower by about 24 feet so we can get a 360 degree view of the island; currently part of our house blocks some amazing views. Our house tower always seemed kind of squat compared to the rest of the house, so a couple of years ago, I spoke with an architect who said that we would be allowed to do this given the cities rules and regulations on building height. We are already higher than our neighbors so we wouldn't be blocking any other house views. If we do this, our house will easily clear the 12 feet or so difference and would be the highest house in St. George.

After (stretched image)

Van Duzers Visit Van Duzer Street

This is a cute video created by two brothers, Ethan and Ryan, whose last name is Van Duzer. I have always loved to say this street name: VAN DUZER. I only wish that they had walker further down the block as the street gets cooler once you hit Martini Red, The Muddy Cup, and the antique stores. The street is a bit homely and dull closer to the ferry where they were walking. The funny thing about Staten Island is that when you are walking around you discover wonderful little pockets of coolness and beauty.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Japion Newspaper Staten Island Cover Feature

New York's top Japanese newspaper did a cover feature about St. George, Staten Island. The photos here are from their website.
-To read Tomoko Inoue's article and interviews (in Japanese) with the Staten Islanders below go HERE.

Staten Islanders: John Leo and Shawn Bishop-Leo with Tomoko Inoue.

Staten Islanders: Cynthia von Buhler (her dog Miss Jenny Poodles) and Tevah Platt in front of Cynthia's house.

Monday, March 16, 2009

SHOW gallery presents: Lost & Found, An Exploration of Earnestness in Art

Art above by unknown artists

Under-appreciated works by recently discovered masters of sincerity
Curated by Theo Dorian

OPENING FRIDAY MARCH 20, 2008, 6 to 9 pm

Exhibition and Silent Auction
March 20 to May 23, 2009

Including works on loan from the collections of Roxanne Storms, Victoria Munro, Matt Jacobs, Kathy Osborn, Ed Atkeson, Cynthia von Buhler and Philip Rosen.

Gallery, Studio & Performance Space

156 Stuyvesant Place
St. George, Staten Island
right across the street and up the steps from the Staten Island Ferry!
Open Wednesday to Sunday, Noon to Seven

In April:
Lost&Found Films
at The Movie SHOW
Saturday Nights at 7:30pm

Staten Island Barbershop Against Da' Grain Has Teamed Up With Rappers Method Man and Redman To Give Free Haircuts To Kids

Against Da' Grain is a wildly popular St. George barbershop. The atmosphere there is more like a neighborhood party than a barbershop.

From The Hip Hop Cosign (click the headline to visit their web page):

The stylish team of ADG barbers at the 821 Castleton Avenue location in the West Brighten section of Staten Island will be on hand on a first come, first served basis to provide free hair cuts to children under 12 years of age, on Saturday April 11, 2009 between the hours of 10:00am to 6:00pm. Special guest appearances by Megatron, celebrated DJ and host of 106 & Park’s “What’s Good On The Streets” segment and other talented Staten Island artists will be will be on hand speaking to kids and learning how they prepare to look their Sunday best!

“We have wonderfully loyal customers and felt this was just another way of rewarding them during these unusually hard economic times. A single mother of three boys spends a weekly average of $33.00 on their hair cuts making it difficult to keep her kids hair freshly trimmed, explained Tariq, barber at Against Da’ Grain. With Easter Sunday the following day, we felt it was the perfect time to team up with our celebrity friends and create a unique solution based on old traditional values while helping our community.”

Against Da’ Grain encourages kids to get a good night’s sleep so they can wake up early and be one of the first to get their free shape up. Parents, stop by! Bring your boys, nephews and grandsons down for a seat on the big leather chair for their fresh Easter Sunday haircut.

For more information regarding Against Da’ Grain please log into www.adgsinyc.com or call 718.981.3597.

Billy Joel Explains His Lyric "Between you and me and the Staten Island Ferry"

Maureen Seaberg, a Staten Island based writer, is working on a book about famous synesthetes. According to Seaberg, "Synesthetes are people who blend senses - such as seeing color when listening to or playing music. Billy Joel is one; so are Pharrell Williams, John Mayer, Tori Amos and even Aristotle and physicist Richard Feymann. It is tentatively titled, "Kaleidoscope Minds." Ms. Seaberg is herself a synesthete."

While interviewing Billy Joel, Seaberg asked him about his 1981 lyric from the song "Everybody Loves You Now," which says...."between you and me and the Staten Island Ferry......"

His answer was as follows:

"The lyric, 'between you and me and The Staten Island Ferry' - that was actually a colloquialism...when somebody would pull someone aside and say, 'Hey, listen, between you and me and the Staten Island Ferry.' Like between you, me and the lamp post. When I was a little kid, my grandfather took me to Staten Island on the ferry and I had heard the expression the Staten Island Ferry and I remember being on the ferry going, 'So this is the Staten Island Ferry that everybody talks about. As if it was some great secret, 'Hey, between you and me and the Staten Island Ferry.' That's where that lyric came from; it's just a colloquialism."

"I'm from an island and you know sometimes when we go to Manhattan island, people tend to look down their noses at people from other islands, which I think is hysterical because New York is actually an archipelago. There are thousands of islands in the New York Bight. It's an exploded archipelago. You've got Fire Island, Staten Island, Long Island, Manhattan island, Randall's Island, Ellis Island, Bedloe Island, Liberty Island, Block Island... There are thousands of islands. When I'm in New York sometimes if I'm at a snooty party and someone says, 'Oh, you're from Long Island," I'll say, "Well, yeh, you're from an island too, except mine's bigger!"

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Forgotten NY St. George Tour

Our favorite NYC website Forgotten NY takes us on a house tour...with a little help from Prodigal Borough blogger Cynthia von Buhler. Click HERE to go to Forgotten NY to read the article.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Postcard From The Rails: Artist Mary Bullock Travels The Staten Island Railroad

Excerpt from The Staten Island Advance by Virginia Sherry, December 18, 2008:

Who would ever think to explore all 22 stops along the Staten Island Railway, and transform the experience into a creative project?

Tompkinsville artist Mary Bullock did.

For weeks earlier this year, she rode the railway line, disembarked at every station, and took thousands of photographs of anything within walking distance that struck her discerning eye.

"It was an overwhelming thing - I had to keep reminding myself that I was in New York City," she said.

The culmination of her work is "Postcards from the Rails: Journey Along a Path Apart," which premiered last Sunday at the SHOW Gallery at 156 Stuyvesant Pl. in St. George. The subtitle is recognition that the railway does not connect to any other line, and traveling it "reveals strong local identities along its length."

Ms. Bullock designed 23 postcards - one for each neighborhood along the railway's stops on the North, East and South shores, from St. George to Tottenville, and a wry card that introduces the project. The 22 neighborhood cards feature color photos on one side, and text on the reverse, filled with facts and personal impressions gathered during the eyes-wide-open journeys.

"It was very revealing - I was amazed that no two stops were alike," she told the Advance. She was also surprised that from the platforms of each station there was "not a chain store in sight," with only one exception.

This project 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 City Department of Cultural Affairs.

Click on the headline to visit postcardsfromtherails.com

Here is a sampling of what she found along her journey:

This bucolic lakeside scene is just a few minutes’ walk from the Railway Station. Staten Island has a large number of surprisingly “rural” spots. The owners of the houses around this lake, and another one nearby, are members of a long-standing private community.

Also near the Station are various storefronts and a small shopping center.

Southeast of the Railway Station, just one block off busy, commercial, Hylan Boulevard is a low beige brick building. It’s Sunday. Under an American flag, multicolored triangles flutter over a courtyard. In the enclosed patio a sign asks, “Please take off shoes.”

Through the doorway is another world, a Sikh Temple. You are greeted by men in turbans and women in brightly colored saris and veils. They invite you to stay for the ceremony, hear musicians play beautiful ragas, and share a meal.


The area surrounding the Dongan Hills Station boasts two other barber shops/salons in addition to Frank’s, pictured here. The saying goes: You find the good in church, the bad in prison, and the real in the barber shop.

There is also a corner business with two huge plate glass windows but no external signage. If you peer in you see “Lee’s Tavern” in gold letters over the bar mirror. Some say their thin-crust pizza is the best in the Borough.


DeRosa & Sons Pastosa Ravoli is a Staten Island institution. The store signs on Richmond Avenue may list every version of pasta known to man. Pasta is made fresh on the premises and they offer a gluten-free product line.

Next door is Joyce’s Tavern, an Irish Pub. Though 64 languages are spoken by Staten Island’s burgeoning ethnic population, Italian-Americans and Irish-Americans remain major groups.

Excerpt from The Staten Island Advance by Virginia Sherry, December 18, 2008:


Some of the postcards are tributes to the individualistic small businesses that are clustered around the stations: Sudsy's Bagels in Pleasant Plains; DeRosa & Sons Pastosa Ravioli in Eltingville; Sports Heroes and Legends in Great Kills; the Net Cost Russian Market in Oakwood Heights; the Grant City Tavern, and Frank's Barber Shop in Dongan Hills.

Exploring near the New Dorp station, the artist saw New Dorp Lane as an "upscale shopping street with plenty of glitz and glamour: "Staten Island's Rodeo Drive."

Her postcard for Tompkinsville is a montage of storefront signs along Victory Boulevard, the major commercial artery, with its rich mix of Sri Lankan, African, Polish, Caribbean, and Central American businesses. She found the street "arguably Staten Island's most ethnically diverse shopping area."

Ms. Bullock hopes that her project "will encourage pride and preservation," particularly because "the economic downturn has given us a reprieve from development, a chance perhaps to once more rethink our destiny.

"There is a way of life here on Staten Island that is worth preserving - New York City as it used to be, a city of small neighborhoods, before the obscene real estate boom transformed so many thriving communities into high-priced ghettos and the big chains eviscerated local small businesses," she observed.


As a North Shore resident, Ms. Bullock rarely traveled on the railway. Her project fell into place last year, when she went by rail to Dongan Hills for a routine test at Staten Island University Hospital.

For her return trip, she decided to walk to the next station in Old Town and get on the train there. As she approached the station, she smelled "a wonderful spicy aroma," and saw a woman in a colorful sari stirring a large pot on the grounds of a one-story beige brick building. The artist asked if she could buy lunch. A man wearing a turban replied: "You can't buy it, but we'll give you lunch."

The artist removed her shoes, entered "another world" and found herself enjoying the hospitality of a Sikh temple. She discovered that the building was formerly an American Legion hall, with the elaborate logo still prominently intact on the spotlessly clean terrazzo floor.

Stumbling across something as interesting as the temple, in such close proximity to the railway station, got Ms. Bullock thinking about "what I would find near other stops."


Mary Bullock was born in Detroit, Michigan, first lived on Staten Island in 1980-81, and returned permanently seven years ago.

"I'm still an outsider," she told the Advance, affording her an advantage in exploring the 22 stations with "fresh eyes." She was attentive to details that others, more familiar with the territory, might easily overlook.

Richmond Valley station, the 19th stop from St. George, "has a house so close to the tracks the resident could lean out a put cream in a rider's morning coffee," she wrote on the back of this postcard. "There is no accommodation for pedestrians on either side, just 'country' roads with stands of native plants growing aside small streams."

Atlantic station, the 21st stop, has a platform so short that "only the last car in both directions will open," she noted.

The Pleasant Plains postcard includes an observation that the railway "is embedded in neighborhood life all along its length. Young people often meet in the last car of a particular train and get off at an agreed-to station."

Other postcards highlight architecture in Tottenville and Prince's Bay; natural vistas in Bay Terrace and Grasmere, and waterfront views in St. George, Stapleton, and Clifton.


As part of the project, Ms. Bullock also developed a Web site that includes a gallery of additional photos and succinct, informative commentary. For current and former Islanders, it is well worth a visit to enjoy what the artist calls her "outsider's view" of the 22 communities along the railway. The address is: www.postcardsfromtherails.com.

"When people look at the postcards and the Web site, I hope they realize what we have here," she said. "It's a small town feeling, and it's very precious. I hope that we don't lose it."

Ms. Bullock's project was funded in part by a Premier Grant from the Council on the Arts & Humanities for Staten Island, with public funding from the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs.

Ms. Bullock views the postcards and accompanying Web site as a "work in progress." The project "got me addicted, and I've just started to scratch the surface," she said.

Just in time for last-minute holiday gifts, boxed sets of the 23 postcards are $10 each, available at SHOW Gallery 718-524-0855. They can also be ordered over the Internet: log on to www.paypal.com; click on Send Money; and send payment to info@showhownyc.com.

Virginia Sherry is a freelance reporter. She can be reached through the Advance at shores@siadvance.com.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Eat New York: A Book by Amy Zavatto

St. George, Staten Island author Amy Zavatto has a new book out. Here is a review by Josh Ozersky from The Feedbag, A Gastronmic Gazette. Click on the title above to go to The Feedbag website.

I always liked the idea of The Hedonist’s Guides, which tend to me more discerning than most guidebooks, and in addition have the added benefit of fitting into your pocket. But I have all new respect for the series now that I’ve been perusing the Eat New York edition, which just came out. Amy Zavatto did this edition, and it’s frisky and well-informed. But the best part is that it draws heavily on an advisory team of chefs, food writers, and various high-profile feinshmeckers, including Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Anthony Bourdain, Jay McInerney, Daniel Boulud, Wylie Dufresne, and yours truly. If you’re a hardcore New York eater (and as a reader of The Feedbag we take for granted that you are) few of the places profiled here will come as a surprise to you. But it’s a nice stocking stuffer for trans-Hudsons friends and relatives, and useful for the pockets and glove compartments of those of us who like books better than Blackberries. Besides, there is a pleasure in perusing these pages, planning future meals and recollecting past ones.