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- For other uses, see Staten Island (disambiguation)
Staten Island is one of the five boroughs of New York City, located on an island of the same name on the west side of the Narrows at the entrance of New York Harbor. It is coterminous with Richmond County, the southernmost county of the State of New York.
By far the least populated, most ethnically homogeneous, and most remote borough of New York City, Staten Island is sometimes the object of humor by residents of the other boroughs as being somewhat enigmatic and rustically suburban. Indeed, much of the central and southern sections of the island were once dominated by farms, primarily dairy and poultry farms, some of which were still in existence as recently as the early 1960s. Yet the borough's steady rise in population since the opening of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge has added to an infestation of traffic that plagues the Island due to its road planning and constant road construction.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the borough / county has a total area of 265.5 km² (102.5 mi²). 151.5 km² (58.5 mi²) of it is land and 114.0 km² (44.0 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 42.95% water.
Staten Island is separated from Long Island by the Narrows and from mainland New Jersey by the Arthur Kill and the Kill Van Kull. It is connected to New Jersey by the Bayonne Bridge, the Outerbridge Crossing, the Goethals Bridge, and to Brooklyn by the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. The Staten Island Ferry connects the island to lower Manhattan. The Staten Island Railway traverses the island from its northeastern tip to its southwestern tip.
In addition to the main island, the borough and county also include several small uninhabited islands:
- The Isle of Meadow (at the mouth of Fresh Kills)
- Pralls Island (in the Arthur Kill)
- Shooters Island (in Newark Bay; part of it belongs to New Jersey)
- Swinburne Island (in Lower New York Bay)
- Hoffman Island (in Lower New York Bay)
The highest point on the island, the summit of Todt Hill elevation 410 ft (125 m), is also the highest point in the five boroughs.
In the late 1960s the island was the site of important battles of open-space preservation, resulting in the largest area of parkland in New York City and an extensive Greenbelt that laces the island with woodland trails.
The bedrock of the island is a diabase sill formed during the volcanic eruptions that created much of the bedrock of northern New Jersey, including the Palisades, approximately 200 million years ago. As an island, Staten Island was formed in the wake of the last ice age. In the late Pleistocene between 20,000 and 14,000 years ago, the ice sheet that covered northeastern North America reached to as far south as present day New York City, to a depth of approximately the same height as the Empire State Building. At one point, during its maximum reach, the ice sheet precisely ended at the center of present day Staten Island, forming a terminal moraine on the existing diabase sill. The central moraine of the island is sometimes called the Serpentine ridge because it contains large amounts of that particular mineral.
At the retreat of the ice sheet, Staten Island and Long Island were not yet separated by the Narrows, which had not yet formed. Geologists reckoning of the course of the Hudson River have placed it alternatively through the present course of the Raritan River, south of the island, as well through present-day Flushing Bay and Jamaica Bay.
As in much of North America, human habitation appeared in the island fairly rapidly after the retreat of the ice sheet. Archaeologists have recovered tool evidence of Clovis culture activity dating from approximately 14,000 years ago. The island was probably abandoned later, possibly because of the extinction of large mammals on the island. Evidence of the first permanent Native American settlements and agriculture date from about 5,000 years ago (Jackson, 1995).
In the Sixteenth Century, the island was part of a larger area known as Lenapehoking that was inhabited by the Lenape, an Algonquin people also called the "Delaware". The band that occupied the southern part of the island was called the Raritans. To the Lenape, the island was called "Aquehonga Manacknong" and "Eghquaons" (Jackson, 1995). The island was laced with foot trails, one which followed the south side of the ridge near the course of present day Richmond Road and Amboy Road. The Lenape did not live in fixed encampments, but moved seasonally, using slash and burn agriculture. The staples of their diet included shellfish, including the oysters that are native to both Upper New York Bay and Lower New York Bay.
The first recorded European contact with the island was in 1524 by Giovanni da Verrazano who sailed through the Narrows. In 1609 Henry Hudson established Dutch trade in the area and named the island Staaten Eylandt after the Staten-Generaal, the Dutch parliament.
Although the first Dutch settlement of the New Netherlands colony was made on Manhattan in 1620, Staaten Eylandt remained uncolonized by the Dutch for many decades. From 1639 to 1655, the Dutch made three separate attempts to establish a permanent settlment on the island, but each time the settlement was destroyed in the conflicts between the Dutch and the local tribes.
In 1661, the first permanent Dutch settlement was established at Oude Dorp (Dutch for "Old Village"), just south of the Narrows near South Beach, by a small group of Dutch Walloon and Huguenot families.
At the end of the Second Anglo-Dutch War in 1667, the New Netherlands colony was ceded to England in the Treaty of Breda, and what was now anglicized as Staten Island became part of the new English colony of New York.
In 1670, the Indians ceded all claims to Staten Island to the English in a deed to Gov. Francis Lovelace. In 1671, in order to encourage an expansion of the Dutch settlements, the English resurveyed Oude Dorp (which became known as Old Town) and expanded the lots along the shore to the south. These lots were settled primarily by Dutch and became known as Nieuwe Dorp (meaning "New Village"), which later became anglicized as New Dorp.
In 1683, the colony of New York was divided into ten counties. As part of this process, Staten Island, as well as several minor neighboring islands, were designated as Richmond County. The name derives from the title of James, the Duke of Richmond, the brother of Charles II, who was king at the time.
In 1687-1688, the English divided the island into four administrative divisions based on natural features, called the North, South, and West divisions, as well as the 5100 acre (21 km²) manorial estate of colonial governor Thomas Dongan in the central hills known as the "Lordship or Manner of Cassiltown." These divisions would later evolve into the four townships Northfield, Southfield, Westfield, and Castleton.
Land patents in rectangular blocks of eighty acres (320,000 m²) were granted, with the most desirable lands being along the coastline and inland waterways. By 1708, the entire island had been divided up through this fashion into 166 small farms and two large manorial estates, the Dongan estate as well as a 1600 acre (6.5 km²) parcel on the southwestern tip of the island belonging to Christopher Billop (Jackson, 1995).
The island played a significant role in the American Revolution. In the summer of 1776, the British forces under William Howe evacuated Boston and prepared to attack New York City. Howe used the strategic location of Staten Island as a staging ground for the attack. Howe established his headquarters in New Dorp at the Rose and Crown tavern near the junction of present New Dorp Lane and Amboy Road. It is here that the representatives of the British government reportedly received their first notification of the Declaration of Independence.
The following month, in August 1776, the British forces crossed the Narrows to Brooklyn and routed the American forces under George Washington at the Battle of Long Island, resulting in the British capture of New York. Three weeks later, on September 11, 1776, the British received a delegation of Americans consisting of Benjamin Franklin, Edward Rutledge, and John Adams at the Conference House on the southwestern tip of the island (known today as Tottenville) on the former estate of Christopher Billop . The Americans refused the peace offer from the British in exchange for the withdrawal of the Declaration of Independence, however, and the conference ended without an agreement.
British forces remained on Staten Island throughout the war. Although local sentiment was predominately Loyalist, the islanders found the demands of supporting the troops to be onerous. Many buildings and churches were destroyed, and the military demand for resources resulted in an extensive deforestation of the island by the end of the war. The British again used the island as a staging ground for their final evacuation of New York City on December 5, 1783. After the war, the largest Loyalist landowners fled to Canada and their estates were subdivided and sold.
On July 4, 1827, the end of slavery in New York state was celebrated at Swan Hotel, West Brighton. Rooms at the hotel were reserved months in advance as local abolitionists and prominent free blacks prepared for the festivities. Speeches, pageants, picnics, and fireworks marked the celebration, which lasted for two days.
In 1860, parts of Castleton and Southfield were made into a new town, Middletown. The Village of New Brighton in the town of Castleton was incorporated in 1866, and in 1872 the Village of New Brighton annexed all the remainder of the Town of Castleton and became coterminous with the town.
In New York City
All these towns and the villages within them were abolished in 1898 when the City of Greater New York was consolidated, with Richmond as one of its five boroughs.
Except for the areas along the harbor, however, the borough remained relatively underdeveloped until the building of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge in 1964, which is considered the watershed event in the history of the borough, since it opened up the island to explosive suburban development.
For the last half of the 20th Century, Staten Island was arguably best known as the site of the Fresh Kills Landfill, the primary destination for garbage from the five boroughs of New York City and the largest single source of methane pollution in the world. The landfill was closed in early 2001 but was temporarily reopened later that year to receive the ruins of the World Trade Center after the September 11, 2001 Terrorist attacks.
Throughout the 1980s, a movement which had as its goal the secession of Staten Island from the city steadily grew in popularity, reaching its peak during the mayoral term of David Dinkins; with Rudolph Giuliani's election as mayor in 1993 (avenging his defeat at the hands of Dinkins four years earlier), however, the movement quickly evaporated.
Law and government
Like the other counties which are contained within New York City, there is no county government; there is no County Court as in non-New York City counties. There is a Richmond County Supreme Court (of general jurisdiction), the Surrogate's Court and the New York City Civil Court, the last having a similar jurisdiction to New York State County Courts for disputes under $25,000, small claims and housing cases. Others state agencies such as the district attorney (public prosecutor) have offices as well as other government agencies.
Politically, Staten Island has been friendlier to Republicans than other areas of New York City.
Even though there are far more registered Democrats than Republicans, the island has only voted for the Democratic presidential nominee three times since 1952 — in 1964, 1996 and 2000. In 2004 George W. Bush received 57% of the island's votes to 42% for John Kerry; by contrast, Kerry outpolled Bush in the city's other four boroughs cumulatively by a margin of 77% to 22%. The congressional district which includes Staten Island has been in Republican hands since 1981 and is currently represented by Vito Fossella, elected in a 1997 special election to replace Susan Molinari. Its borough president is Republican James Molinaro, elected in 2001. Two of the three Republicans who sit on the New York City Council are also from Staten Island; however, the portion of the island north of the Staten Island Expressway votes mainly Democratic.
George Pataki received a majority of Staten Island's votes in the 2002 gubernatorial election, and Michael Bloomberg overwhelmingly carried the island in the mayoral election of 2001 (84,891 to 23,664).
Hence, if Staten Island is arguably a swing county in federal elections, it is a Republican stronghold in city elections. Most local political scientists cite law and order as the issue that resonates most strongly with island voters, at least on the local level.
As of the census of 2000, there are 443,728 people, 156,341 households, and 114,128 families residing in the borough / county. The population density is 2,929.6/km² (7,587.9/mi²). There are 163,993 housing units at an average density of 1,082.7/km² (2,804.3/mi²). The racial makeup is 77.60% White, 9.67% Black or African American, 0.25% Native American, 5.65% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 4.14% from other races, and 2.65% from two or more races. 12.07% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race. 71.3% of the population are Whites not of Hispanic origins.
Some main European ancestries of Staten Island, 2000 :
- Italian : 44.55 (largest % for any county in U.S.)
- Irish : 14.54
- German : 7.61
- English : 3.37
According to an estimate by the Census Bureau, the population increased to 459,737 in 2003.
The vast majority of the island's African American and Hispanic residents live north of the Staten Island Expressway, or US Interstate 278. In terms of religion, the population is largely Roman Catholic, and the Catholic Church exerts strong influence on many aspects of the island's social and cultural life.
There are 156,341 households out of which 35.8% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.0% are married couples living together, 13.9% have a female householder with no husband present, and 27.0% are non-families. 23.2% of all households are made up of individuals and 8.4% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.78 and the average family size is 3.31.
The population is spread out with 25.5% under the age of 18, 8.5% from 18 to 24, 30.9% from 25 to 44, 23.4% from 45 to 64, and 11.6% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 36 years. For every 100 females there are 93.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 89.6 males.
The median income for a household is $55,039, and the median income for a family is $64,333. Males have a median income of $50,081 versus $35,914 for females. The per capita income for the borough is $23,905. 10.0% of the population and 7.9% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 13.2% of those under the age of 18 and 9.9% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.
- Kenneth T. Jackson (editor); The Encyclopedia of New York City; Yale University Press; ISBN 0-300-05536-6 (1995).
- John Waldman; Heartbeats in the Muck; ISBN 1-55821-720-7 The Lyons Press; (2000).
- NYC MTA Transit Bus Map of Staten Island (pdf file)
- Timeline of Staten Island History on the New York Public Library site.
- Staten Island Live
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