Mary L. Bullock, art, research and activism with a Staten Island focus

Mary L. Bullock

Mary L. Bullock

Mary L. Bullock is a visual artist, researcher and activist for preservation, and like anyone who is multiskilled, she is probably most satisfied when she can put all these skills together. That is what has happened in her latest project, a book about the well loved Seguine Mansion, a great historical house on the island’s South Shore. The book, which will be available soon, is a collaboration with, among others, Christina Maintz, another Staten Island photographer, and it will be a richly illustrated presentation of the mansion. For her contribution to the project, Ms. Bullock put together research both from official records and from the journals of the mansion’s present owner, Charles Burke.

More about this project can be found at the Staten Island Advance article, Photos: New book offers a toast to Staten Island’s Seguine Mansion.

This is only one of Ms. Bullock’s activities documenting and working for the preservation of Staten Island’s architectural heritage. Recently she has become involved in efforts to preserve the historic building at 848 Castleton Avenue, which has been a library and a work studio for two prominent African American artists,  Maurice Phillips and his wife, Andrea Phillips. And before that, she created a photo gallery of the neighborhoods adjacent to Staten Island Railway stations.

See the photographs of  Postcards from the rails.

Mary L. Bullock is originally from Detroit, and studied here in New York at the Pratt Institute. She presently lives on Staten Island in West Brighton and is actively involved in the preservation of the island’s past and planning for its future.


Ferry service proponents get a sinking feeling at the Transportation hearing

NYC Department of Transportation officials seem to have blown off the demands of Staten Islanders for more off-hour ferry service, at a hearing of the City Council’s Transportation Committee, according to this article in the Staten Island Advance. The fact that Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan didn’t show up for today’s hearing seems indicative of the official city administration response to the idea.

The Article on SILive.

Staten Island Ad Absurdum: the end of Richmond Terrace

Following Richmond Terrace from its beginnings at the ferry terminal in St. George, all the way west along the North Shore to its logical, though somewhat absurd, conclusion gives us our first image in the category of Staten Island Ad Absurdum.

Richmond Terrace ad absurdum

Richmond Terrace ad absurdum

It ends at a locked chain link fence. Actually, it goes on beyond the chain link fence, into the container port area that leads, after just a thousand feet, to the waters of the Kill Van Kull. The long, cantilever bridge in the distance is the Goethals Bridge, linking Staten Island and New Jersey. In front of it is a smaller truss span (slightly darker in color). This is the Arthur Kill Lift Bridge, a single track rail bridge which is used to transport container freight from the container terminal to New Jersey. It works by lowering the truss span to meet the roadway in order to allow trains to pass. Afterwards, the span is lifted back up into this normal position, high enough to allow shipping to pass underneath.

This area is called Howland Hook. At this spot the Proctor & Gamble company built a very large manufacturing complex in 1907, where the very popular Ivory Soap was made – thus, the name of the adjoining community, called Port Ivory. The factory complex was closed and torn down in 1991 and the New York Container Terminal now takes its place.

MakerSpace Business Incubator starts incubating

The New York City Development Corporation just announced on June 24, 2013 that MakerSpace has been selected to operate Staten Island’s first business incubator, and already, three days later, MakerSpace has announced its first event!

In their email self-introduction, Staten Island MakerSpace writes:

Thank you to friends and community partners who helped write letters of support, gave advice, donated time, energy, and materials to help get us off the ground.  We are very lucky that the New York City Economic Development Corporation chose Staten Island MakerSpace to be the new small business incubator for Staten Island. With their help, and yours, this project is now possible.

Our first free public event will be held this Saturday, June 29, at 7 pm.

As part of Staten Island Art’s Summerfest, we will be hosting a screening of the short video, Protium.  “An exploration into improvisation, using multiple cameras and improv actors to create multiple story lines that will intersect. The outcome will be a linear story.”  Produced by Backslash Bomb Productions.

 So please stop by and see what we’re up to.

Here’s the official press release by the New York City Economic Develoment Corporation.

Staten Island MakerSpace
450 Front Street, Unit B
Staten Island, NY 10304
Entrance is on Thompson, between Bay St and Front St.
(718) 273-3951

Exploring the forgotten hollow between Stapleton and Tompkinsville

What do you do when you have to wait around at the Western Beef supermaket on Bay Street for twenty minutes? (Yikes!) Why, you take a stroll through the neighborhood, of course! Never mind that the streets look, at first glance, like the improbable setting of a zombie movie, they hold some interesting history, both legible and enigmatic.

The Stapleton Heights historic district.

The Stapleton Heights historic district.

As is customary on Staten Island, the houses at higher elevation in this area are larger and more luxurious than their lower neighbors. So, making the very dubious connection between more luxurious and more interesting, I started walking uphill. I got past the Trinity Lutheran Church just before St. Paul’s Avenue commits itself to a steep incline toward aristocracy. A sign there proclaims the St. Paul’s Avenue – Stapleton Heights Historic District. That being a bridge too far, I turned back the way I’d come and decided to visit the more proletarian delights on my way back to Western Beef.


One of many windows at Trinity.

One of many windows at Trinity.

Trinity Lutheran Church, which towered before me, was the obvious start. The door was open on this hot, muggy day and I could see that work was going on inside. A man there was plastering cracks in the wall, big cracks that looked serious. He said that the church had undergone a major restoration in recent years after being struck by a tornado in 2007 and he reassured me that these fissures, the last of the work, were nothing to worry about. He let me enter the nave and see the beautiful stained glass windows, imported from Munich, Germany. He told me that the earliest ones had gotten lost in shipment during the First World War and were only later discovered in a Belgian warehouse.

This house looks to be the oldest house on Jackson Street.

Is this the oldest house on Jackson Street?. 


Behind the church going downhill from St. Paul’s Avenue is modest Jackson Street, where the lower middle class and workers built their wooden homes, semi-hidden on the leafy hillside. Over the decades these homes have deteriorated badly and now give an impression of Appalachian poverty set in peaceful, trashy neglect. One house is situated closer to the street than its neighbors, and its low, farmhouse profile marks it as the oldest house on the block.

Old house on William Street.

Old house on William Street.


A mansion lurks on Van Duzer.









The street curves around, becoming William Street to connect with Van Duzer Street, a parallel artery through the neighborhood along with St. Paul’s Avenue. Main road residences and commercial buildings have been built there over the years, and some of them are nicely restored. These look as though chunks of the carefully restored houses of Stapleton Heights had somehow tumbled down into place here in the hollow below. But most of the buildings suffer from long indifference, and there is one very large private home with an elaborate wooden porch that seems particularly decrepit and worn. It must have been a major presence in the neighborhood in the past but now it is almost invisible behind overgrown vines and bushes and the lawn debris of its spacious front yard on the corner of Van Duzer and William Streets.

Lower Van Duzer Street .

Lower Van Duzer Street at its best.

Today this is a non descript neighborhood, lost somewhere between Tompkinsville, Stapleton and the downflow of Ward Hill, but when commercial properties along Bay Street currently being developed come on line, this area between that shoreline artery and Stapleton Heights will seem a lot more strategically located – and this wooden house community more like raw material for a charming neighborhood.

Mount Manresa petitions brought to Borough Hall

Louis Liedy, Democratic candidate for Borough President discusses a new strategy

Louis Liedy, Democratic candidate for Borough President discusses a new strategy

The Committee to Save Mount Manresa was at Borough Hall this morning to present their petition, signed by over 3,000 people, to Borough President Molinaro. A couple of politcal figures were there, too. Louis Liedy, who is running on the Democratic ticket to replace BP Molinaro, spoke to the petitioners, giving his moral support. He stated that it is a bit late in the process, and that at this point, the most viable option is to press for landmark designation for Mount Manresa. He said that the borough’s fund of money to buy up private land that is valuable as a community asset has been depleted by the purchase of several properties in the past few years.  Also on hand was Debbie Rose, city coucilwoman from the North Shore, and John Mancuso, who will be running in the September 10th primary in hopes of getting the Democratic nomination for City Council from the mid-island district.

Petitioners demand the preservation of Mount Manresa

On Wednesday, June 26 at 10 a.m., the Grassroots Committee to Save Mount Manresa will present Borough President James Molinaro with over 3,000 petition signatures demanding protection of Mount Manresa’s 15 acres of natural landscape and historic landmarks. What’s this all about?

The Save Mount Manresa website.

The petition.