There's a running joke from the 1930s and 40s of how Staten Island received its name. The joke goes like this: The Dutch explorers came into New York harbor and spotted land. One of them yelled, "s dat en island?" (Is that an island?")
Staten Island has a long history spanning to the year 1609. That's the year Henry Hudson established Dutch trade in the area and named the island 'Staaten Eylandt,' after the Dutch parliament Staten-General. Southwest of the NYC area, Staten Island's isolated location contributes to being the most suburban borough out of the 4. The most visited tourist attraction of the area is the S.I. Ferry. Thus, the most visited tourist attraction is not Staten Island itself, but rather the view of the Manhattan skyline moving towards S.I.
"We need to let other New Yorkers know how much cultural and religious wealth there is in Staten Island!" I thought. The island is changing more than ever. New communities like those of the immigrant Sri Lankans, Mexicans, Africans and Filipinos are setting up houses of worship, new businesses, and sending their kids to schools. Established organizations within Staten Island are changing and trying hard to share their excitement and love for the Island. Residents are proud of their island. Why not share in their excitement?
Now that you've taken a thousand photos of the Manhattan skyline and Governor's Island, can't you hear your tummy rumbling as you get off the ferry? I've collected a few must-visit places with close proximity to the ferry stop.
We'd often come to this establishment for their lunch specials and loved it every time. The food was moderately spiced with a balanced taste of regional spices. The wait staff reflects the booming Sri Lankan community in Staten Island. Make sure to check out their religious altar behind the counter!
Everything Goes Books and Cafe
208 Bay Street
Staten Island, 10301
We would often recap the day at ETG Books and Cafe with a slice of fruit pie and fair-trade coffee. This place is very friendly and is a true neighborhood establishment. In fact, we happened to catch a neighborhood talent show one evening! Open since 1983, it's run by a cooperative interested in recycling and community building.
Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden
1000 Richard Terrace
Staten Island, NY 10301
This cultural center has a long history of being a seamen retirement home in the 19th century. It is now a cultural center, hosting multiple events, and a botanical garden with a Chinese Scholar Garden. The old seaman chapel has been converted to a jazz stage with weekly shows. One can still see the original architecture of the chapel.
As we finished censusing in Staten Island, our hearts grew hopeful and inspired. We knew our experience was one of a kind. Yet, we also knew these experiences are accessible to the curious at heart. It is those who run the religious establishements, small businesses, cultural museums and centers who are at the center of making Staten Island a colorful place to live and visit. Furthermore, these folks are at the forefront of community and cultural change.
Residents of Staten Island, we thank you for expressing all of your love and knowledge of the land.