By: Francesco Cava
Between the reins of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge and the Outerbridge Crossing, lies the often-forgotten New York City borough, Staten Island.
Popularized by the great 90’s rap group, The Wu-Tang Clan, and more recently the Saturday Night Live comedian Pete Davidson, the land of Shaolin consists of a diverse demographic, ranging from predominately Italian and Irish-American families on the southern side to African-American and Hispanic communities on the northern end.
With over 500,000 individuals concentrated inside a 58-mile radius, the former Borough of Richmond area is home to a large population of police officers and firefighters, as well as local business owners.
Known for quality Italian cuisine, as well as an abundant amount of stellar pizza joints, Staten Island’s entertainment has consistently been overshadowed by the bright lights and allures of the big city neighboring it.
Still, over the course of the year, the island has its fair share of activities to participate in, whether you’re a family of four trying to get the kids out of the house, or a couple looking for an affordable but invigorating night on the town.
The north side of the island, comprising of areas such a Port Richmond, West Brighton, and Tompkinsville are home to the recently added minor league team, The Staten Island FerryHawks, which pledged this summer to hold concerts and comedy shows, on top of nine innings of entertaining baseball with breathtaking views of the city as a backdrop.
Near the base of the Verazzano-Narrows Bridge lies the retired Fort Wadsworth, which contains intricate military architecture dating back to the 1800s. Having been rebuilt four times, the trapezoid-shaped fort has seen its share of history over the past couple of centuries. Throughout the year there are tours, where one can go inside and observe the moss-filled floors where soldiers stood, and cannons scanned the nearby horizon.
The fort has proven to be a favorite picnic, frisbee, and photo spot, with its clear views of Brooklyn, and the herd of friendly mountain goats which clean the grounds they lurk, traveling up and down the pathway to the base of the Richmond Battery.
As one travels further down to Mid-Island, places like Historic Richmond Town, which has stood since the 1690s, and Lighthouse Hill are open for the public year-round for museum tours, fairs, quilting classes, and occasional concerts.
Since 1971, towards the tail-end of the summer, following Labor Day an annual Greek Festival is held for two weekends near the thriving Staten Island Mall. The festival which typically has over twenty thousand participants a year highlights aspect of Greek culture, such as their cuisine, music, and dancing traditions, as well as carnival rides for kids and teens.
While these landmarks and activities draw large crowds, no event on the island unites natives and visitors perhaps more than the weekly movie showing at the long-standing Conference House, on the brink of the Tottenville shoreline.
Beginning in early June, each week a group of volunteers gathers around six o’clock at the old stone house built in 1680, to hoist up a smooth white projector facing towards the well-kept acre wide lawn.
Every week a new movie is shown, usually one that has just left theaters. Signs are put up on street poles around town, and word is spread through websites and social media about the event, which is free for all those who attend. Guest are encouraged to bring their own snacks and coolers of beverages to enjoy during the summer night.
The set-up takes the group no more than an hour, well in time for the weekly start of 7:30 p.m. sharp. On a first come first serve basis, the lawn is free for the taking with chairs and plots designated for one to lay out on a blanket if they choose to do so.
Prior to the film’s start, the parking lot adjacent to the grass fills up with food trucks from local businesses in the area. From Lickity Split ice cream trucks to sandwich stands courtesy of the best delicatessens on the south shore, there’s something to chow down on for everyone in attendance.
With a turnout upwards of 250 people at each show, the crowds are immersive, and the environment has a joyful aroma floating in the air, making for a picture-perfect summer night on the southern tip of the forgotten borough.
How much I root for my beloved and reviled borough of Staten island. I hasten to disagree with my fellow home mate but all his accolades are trivial and fading relevance. The borough is in dire need of a revamp. The new fangled injection of youth and excitement by the before mentioned Pete Davidson is one such renowned revision with his purchase, along with fellow comedian Colin Jost, of our languishing Staten Island Ferry. Such innovative thinking and appropriate use of our beloved southern island shores, after all we are an island, is long overdue. I look forward too many such stories and articles stemming from changes coming or in the works as I am a true believer our island can be one of if not a leading borough for culture and activity rivaling Manhattan. WE ARE STRONG ISLAND!