Staten Island has long been hailed as the “Forgotten Borough” of New York City. This appalation is questionable, if not somewhat true. Compared with the other boros, SI is rather a sleepy hamlet, primarily town after town of bedroom communities and strip malls. Of course, that is changing slowly with time, and of course, we Islanders have a bevy of cultural institutions, fine dining, and everything else a real city has to offer.
So why the snickers and sneers about Staten Island from people living in every other place surrounding our fair county? Likely, this is because for the longest while, Staten Island was mostly wilderness, an expanse of green space stretching miles and miles, for good or for bad. Many longtime Islanders actually despise development, and wish to retreat to the past, a time when the Island was an oasis of woodland and swamp.
But in truth, development has brought the Island newcomers from everywhere imaginable, other boroughs, other cities, even foreign lands. Why then do so few non-Islanders have no clue about the Island, perennially confusing our lush hilly paradise with Long Island? The truth is, many people who live quite close by have never ventured here. Or, they were here a few times to visit their great-aunt back in 1971. Or drove through on their way to Brooklyn.
Even residents of towns as close by as Edison sometimes have no clue about where Staten Island is. Do you ever get the response of “WOW!~ That’s so far away! Were you in the car traveling for hours?”, from clueless New Jerseyans or dwellers of other boros? In their conception of reality, the map of the NYC/NJ Metro Area is not even close to actuality, with Staten Island waaay off somewhere in the Atlantic. (Please see my own visualization fitting these misunderstandings that accompanies this article.)
The truth is, this is not Long Island. It’s not Fire Island. it’s not Roosevelt Island. It’s not Paradise Island. We’re not stranded somewhere out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, or three hours from everything, as many non-Islanders strongly believe. SI is actually an über-convenient place to live, and on non-peak hours, traveling anywhere from Connecticut to the Jersey shore is just a hop, skip, and smooth ride away, by automobile.
If you’re new here, maybe you are finding it frustrating that everyone (living off the Island) seems to be in on some inside joke that Staten Island is the middle of nowhere, however, the truth is, we’re actually in the center of the Metro Area, situated wonderfully between many populated areas rich with their own cultural offerings, history, and peoples.
Just remember, you’re not going to change their minds. It’s OK; let’s keep our idyllic Island as our shared secret, a gem treasured by all those who brave highways, or Ferry, and actually set out to find out what lies beyond the four bridges. When someone in Lyndhurst marvels at how far you are from them, asking if you spent two hours in the car, maybe it’s best to josh them and utter a troll-like comment like, “Actually, today was a good day. We only spent five hours getting here from only twenty-five miles away!” or “It wasn’t so bad. The sharks and octopuses only attack non-Islanders.” When asked how these savvy marine creatures differentiate, all you have to say is, “Easy. They recognize our Staten Island accent.”
Authored by D Albin