14 August 2012

Destinations - a quick look at Staten Island (New York)

On the second full day of our trip to New York, Keith and I rendezvoused with an old college friend of his, Karen, and her husband Michael.  (Karen and Michael live near Philadelphia.)  We met them at the Staten Island ferry terminal, at the southernmost end of Manhattan.

At one time a nominal fare of 25¢ applied on the ferry, but no longer.  Perhaps it became more expensive to collect that small amount, than the revenue it actually generated.  At any rate it's one of the best free rides you can enjoy anywhere as you sail across New York harbor.  Though on the map Staten Island looks like it ought to be part of New Jersey, in fact the large island with 470,000 residents is part of New York state and one of the five boroughs of New York City.

You head south from Manhattan to Staten Island with Ellis Island and Liberty Island (home of the Statue of Liberty) to the west, and the much larger but less known Governors Island to the east.  (Google Map of route.)

These photos aren't good, but they are of Ellis and Liberty islands along the way.

Karen had thoughtfully arranged for her friend Marian, who lives on Staten Island, to pick us up at the ferry terminal and provide a tour of the island.  Marian proved to be an excellent ambassador for the island.

Here are some of the things we saw.

A short distance from the ferry terminal is Staten Island's own memorial to the 9/11 attacks.  (Many Staten Islanders were among the victims, including a large number of firefighters and police officers.)

The memorial looks north across the harbor toward Manhattan, with the new Freedom Towers visible.

Between the 9/11 memorial and the ferry terminal is the stadium for Staten Island's very own minor league baseball team, the Staten Island Yankees.  The photo below shows the back side of the stadium, with the crown like structure on the left in the distance being part of the ferry terminal.

From there Marian drove us to the Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden.  Snug Harbor was originally built as a retirement home for sailors in the first half of the 19th century.  By the 1970s it was no longer viable for its original purpose and (severely telescoping the story) it became what it is today: a cultural center and garden.  (For a better, yet still concise treatment of its history, take a look at this page from the New York City Parks Department.)

Below are a few photos from our stroll around Snug Harbor.

Chinese Scholar's Garden

Tuscan Garden

Michael, Marian, and Karen seeking refuge from the heat
in a shady arboreal tunnel

As Marian was taking us back to the ferry terminal, she stopped by the Alice Austen House on the north side of Staten Island.  Alice Austen is a now famous photographer who lived between 1866 and 1952.  Marian explained that she was a renowned photographer, who really was discovered only near the end of her life.  Doing research for this post and reading about her life, I discovered what a singular individual she was.  The Alice Austen House could easily be an all-day destination on a future visit to New York.

Below is a picture I took looking across the lawn of the Alice Austen House toward the Verrazano Narrows bridge that connects Staten Island with Queens.  Runners who have run the New York Marathon are well-acquainted with this bridge, as the race begins on the Staten Island side of the bridge as it loops through all five boroughts (Staten Island, Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan) to finish in Central Park.

Time to return to Manhattan.  Thanks for the fine tour of your island, Marian.  You left us wanting to come back.  Tell the borough president that!

As we headed back to Manhattan on the ferry, the not quite yet finished Freedom Towers of the World Trade Center come into view.

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