Battery Carousel will start rotating by August ….

CurbedNY article After years of delay … the signs up at the Battery still say “Opening 2013!”… the SeaGlass Carousel is scheduled to open in August, 2015, according to reports in CurbedNY and Untapped Cities. Perhaps it was delayed because of the seemingly endless landscaping work being done in the park … or maybe it was financing – the Curbed article states that “As of late May, deep-pocketed patrons still had the opportunity to sponsor a fish for a mere $100,000.” The nautical themed carousel is unique with some interesting features. The ride will cost a very reasonable five dollars, so it should prove to be very popular among the tourists who walk by this park in droves, just looking around for something to do. . Untapped Cities article New structures and landscaping in the Battery are getting their finishing touches, so that the park, which has been a torn up mess for several years, is beginning to sign with renewed beauty. For more description of the ride experience and the carousel’s structure, click on the photos to be directed to the relevant articles.

What lucky neighborhood got the Mental Health Housing? Port Richmond

UPDATE: On July 21, 2015,  Community Board #1 voted overwhelming against the project. State Senator Diane Savino said, “We have too many questions.” State Assemblyman Matthew Titone said that St. Joseph’s track record was “abysmal,” and City Council Member Debi Rose said she was tired of “the North Shore being the dumping ground.”

When St. Joseph’s Hospital, located in Westchester County, planned to convert the vacant former convent on Fort Place in St. George to transitional dormitories for the mentally ill, it was thwarted by community opposition in a long, agonizing legal battle. The convent will now be converted to residential use. But St. Joseph’s was not discouraged, and persevered in its mission to bring mentally health housing to Staten Island, (rather than to its own Westchester County neighborhood). They came up with a new plan. They will build it on Port Richmond Avenue.

Rendering of St. Joseph Hospital's plan for 110 Port Richmond Avenue, via DNAinfo.

Rendering of St. Joseph Hospital’s plan for 110 Port Richmond Avenue, via DNAinfo.

Quite possibly this will be a facility that will serve the needs of the community and help people transition to full re-integration after hospital (or prison!) stays. On the other hand, it can turn into a mismanaged warehouse for humans that becomes a nightmare for the neighborhood. It all depends on St. Joseph’s commitment to the project and the community’s vigilance. The local community must be kept in the loop as to how this is being set up and St. Joseph’s should be required to monitor the impact of their facility on the neighborhood socially, economically and in services. They should also be required to use the housing for Staten Islanders in need of services, and not ship clients in from other counties (or from Sing Sing, as St. Joseph’s had been planning). The Port Richmond Community Board has already voiced its opposition, but this will not block the project.

110 Port Richmond Avenue at present, via Google Maps

110 Port Richmond Avenue at present, via Google Maps

They’ve invented the Wheel! The New York Wheel is finally being built in St. George.

As with any large project that is so transformative and audacious, it has always been difficult to believe that the New York Wheel would ever get built. The groundbreaking has been postponed several times and the completion date has become one of those fictional futures that hang like a fig leaf over delayed projects for years beyond their expiration. Like most residents of the neighborhood, I have had a wait and see attitude: I’ll believe it when I see it!

Ear-pounding pile-driving going on.

Ear-pounding pile-driving going on.

But now it seems that it is actually inching closer to reality and I can almost see it… or at least the most fundamental innards of it. On a walk along the shoreline today, I snapped these photos of work in progress on the Wheel. It is a real, functioning construction site, with a couple of dozen workers busy at work digging and pile-driving and driving around in their gadgety construction vehicles. It is a welcome sight for those of us eager for some change in this neighborhood.

Thus, the Wheel joins the Empire Outlet Mall, already under construction and presages the start of construction of the Lighthouse Point project, all ferry-terminal-hugging projects at the center of St. George redevelopment.

More construction activity at the water's edge. Is this where the unloading pier will be built?

More construction activity at the water’s edge. Is this where the unloading pier will be built?

Front Street has potential!

A well built and pleasing industrial structure from 1912.

Long considered just a littered and potholed alternative route for Bay Street with no appeal either esthetically or commercially, Front Street has lain hidden in plain view along Staten Island’s North Shore ever since the demise of the dockyards that once operated there. With the opening of the URL complex of housing and retail that is fast approaching, there is now talk about the potential for the building stock directly across the road from the URL site. There are some historic industrial buildings there that are presently being used for back road commercial activity: auto repair, warehousing, etc. There is certainly a place in our island economy for such businesses, but probably not on a major pedestrian and commercial roadway, which is what Front Street will soon be.

Here is the latest article on the topic from the Staten Island Advance on line, SILive. 

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The pleasure of a stone wall

photo from St. George Civic Association

photo from St. George Civic Association

People have strong opinions about stone walls, they can denote stubbornness, isolation, incremental projects… Stonewall Jackson, The Great Wall of China,

But the beauty of a stone wall is not discussed all that often. In St. George there are many stone walls, and they add an esthetic element to the terraced lawns, hillsides and public parks here. The long stone wall at Curtis High School is an example of the typical St. George stonewall, both in its make-up and in its history. It deserves to be considered for preservation in its own right.

Curtis High School is extremely overcrowded. But instead of considering the construction of another high school in the area, the School Construction Authority continues to add piecemeal expansions of Curtis. Not a great policy in any case, but in the latest proposal, the existence of that historic stone wall is threatened.

The St. George Civic Association has created an online petition directed to the New York School Construction authority, urging them not to remove or damage the historic stone wall on St. Mark’s place in order to build an additional annex.

Here is the petition. Sign if you can!

The Only Natural Park Land in St. George is about to be Paved Over

Go for a stroll next to the ferry terminal one day and look through the fence at the land about to be dug up and paved over for the Lighthouse Point development. Take a good look because you are about to see the last of St. George’s parkland for the last time. Is there any other natural hillside that goes from water level up to Bay Street or to Richmond

Rendering of Lighthouse Point (credit: Triangle Equities)

Rendering Lighthouse Point (credit: Triangle Equities)

Terrace anywhere else between the Verrazano Bridge and Snug Harbor? It is not a huge parcel of land, and unlike Empire Outlets and the New York Wheel, both going up on the other side of the ferry terminal, it is not a large project. Plans call for some street level shopping and a moderate sized hotel and a 12 story residential building. It is only three acres with some of that land already occupied by historic buildings which will be restored. Plans call for some open space, but if the preliminary plans are an indication, little of that will be green landscape. Details are here at NYCEDC

While the restoration of the historic structures is very welcome, the loss of open land in the heart of St. George is certainly not. One of the sad things about the urban landscape of St. George is that the beautiful hillside location has been paved over with no regard for the terrain, that the great potential of the hillside has never translated into beautiful parkland. Yet, here it is, and we are just giving it away to, what some might call, a mediocre development (though the final plans have yet to be revealed) without even a whimper of protest. DSC00179DSC00180

The Place at St. George Terminal where No One Ever Goes

The upper level that most people don’t even know about. It is greatly underused. Is it sad or is it beautiful, or just blah?

A stand of metallic trees

A stand of metallic trees

Then entrance almost no one uses. A friend asked me to meet her here once… and then was furious when it took me a half hour to find it.

Then entrance almost no one uses. A friend asked me to meet her here once… and then was furious when it took me a half hour to find it.

I have actually seen tourists sitting here… good for them!

I have actually seen tourists sitting here… good for them!

Those trees

Those trees