Vintage Video: Staten Island Ferry

How commuting is done. Take note, DC.
Circa 1962.


Preservationists rally to save West Brighton property

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — The borough’s preservationists have adopted another historical building, and launched a campaign to save 848 Castleton Ave. in West Brighton from possible demolition.

The Henderson family constructed the clapboard building for commercial use in 1900, according to the Preservation League of Staten Island.

“It is in near original condition,” with a barn in the rear yard, the organization reports. “Its double bay windows recall some of Staten Island’s earliest commercial structures, an endangered species.”

via Photo gallery: Staten Island preservationists rally to save West Brighton property |

A Private Investigator’s Guide to Dutch Reformed Churches

When you do genealogy, you quickly discover that you have to become an expert on churches. Where were they located, where are they now, what happened to the buildings, who’s got the records? When it comes to Staten Island, which celebrated its 350th year in 2011, that’s a whole lotta church history to absorb.

Luckily, we have in our possession a handy-dandy guide to all of the churches that existed in Staten Island as of 1942. Now, this doesn’t give you all the churches that ever were, but having an inventory of extant churches at a specific point in time is a great reference. And it is a l-o-n-g list, which you will love if you are a genea-geek.

Anyway – the existence of this list is interesting, in and of itself.  It’s from the Guide to Vital Statistics in the City of New York, created by the Works Progress Administration for the City of New York.  It lists all the churches by borough, and describes the type of vital statistics each church held in its archives at that time – baptisms, marriages, etc.  In 1942, America was at war, and it seems they needed to run some background checks on people, but the Internet was down.

The volumes are primarily designed as an aid to governmental agencies or private individuals interesting in locating corroborative proofs of the facts of birth or marital status as required for military service or engagement in war industry.

How cool is that? Helping to blow the cover of enemy spies who were bent on infiltrating our armed forces based on a fake Staten Island baptismal certificate.

I think I was born too late. I hope I worked for the WPA in a previous life.

In any case, today is the beginning of a series in which I am going to list the churches from that document for you. (In the future, I’ll feature some individual churches in separate posts, with more detail).

Continue reading

After Hurricane Sandy

It’s not over by a long shot. Staten Island still needs help.

Donate to Staten Strong

Donate today or buy your Staten Island gear to help Sandy victims.

Here is the final FEMA damage assessment by neighborhood.

Staten Island has the highest point on the eastern seaboard, but there was still severe flooding and and 23 deaths in neighborhoods near the ocean – at Midland Beach, South Beach, Oakwood Beach, and Tottenville.  Here’s why:

When people first built houses on Staten Island, they usually put them on high ground. The island had a small population for two hundred and fifty years. In 1960, it was about two hundred and twenty thousand, by far the smallest of any borough.  The opening of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, in 1964, led to development all over the island, which has almost half a million residents today. As development will do, it kept expanding even after all the most likely sites were taken.  In the 1970’s, it began to move into wetland areas, paving over streambeds and bogs and putting affordable bungalows on them.  Almost all the Staten Islanders who died were on the outwash plain – that is, neighborhoods to the south of Hylan Boulevard.

You can read the entire article by Ian Frazier, an illustrated special reprint of The Toll: Sandy and the Future, from The New Yorker.

The work of rebuilding goes on. Please make a donation – in memory of an ancestor if you like – let’s help Staten Island Stay Strong!

(Note:  I am not affliated with this or any fundraising group. But they do have awesome t-shirts.)