Staten Island: Two Views on the Forgotten Borough

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Richard Flanagan, associate professor at the College of Staten Island and co-author of Staten Island: Conservative Bastion in a Liberal City, and Sarah Henry, chief curator at the Museum of the City of New York host of the exhibition From Farm to City: Staten Island 1661-2012, discuss Staten Island's unique social and political history.

→ More on the (probably apocryphal) story that Staten Island's fate was decided by a boat race, from The New York Times in 2007, thanks to the Manhattan Sailing Club when they restaged the race.


Richard Flanagan and Sarah Henry

Comments [19]

Glenn Ribotsky from Bayside, Queens

I've commented quite often before (yes, it can be Googled or Binged under my name) about Staten Island, on which I lived for many, many years, but here are a few of what I believe are the most relevant points, with apologies to some of the other commentators here who have covered some of the same ground:

--Yes, Staten Island is more conservative, by far, than the other city boroughs. And yes, much of this is due to the demographics. While the place has burgeoning Polish, Russian, Liberian, and East Asian communities, and while it is home to the largest Sri Lankan expatriate community on Earth, it is still largely Irish and Italian American, and the cultural influence of those groups, and of the Catholic Church, cannot be underestimated.

--Moreover, Staten Island's Irish and Italian adults are much less likely to be college educated than similar demographics in the city; the place is well-known to be home to a huge population of civil servants, most without college degrees. Yes, it is the place to where the white civil service middle class often moves, so private home ownership can be enjoyed at property tax levels that are a fraction of those in Nassau, Westchester, or New Jersey.

--In conjunction with this, there is a pervasive anti-intellectualism on many parts of the Island--a lack of respect for scientific arguments or people with interests ranging beyond local issues and youth or professional athletics. (Staten Island is home to some of the worst youth-sport parents' misbehavior ever documented--look that up, too.) In fact, my quote "Staten Island is a place in which the people are provincial and xenophobic--and can't spell or define either word" got me quite a lot of flak in local media outlets--but not for the sentiment; it was more along the line of "who does he think he is, using such big words". (Irony is not big on the Island, either.)

Despite this, many have a love-hate relationship with the place, myself included. The parkland is beautiful, there's great pizza, and a vibrant artistic community, if one knows where to look. I did have to move, however, when my adopted Korean son faced more than his share of ignorant bigotry at the schoolyard.

Oct. 04 2012 11:04 AM
therealguyfaux from Bronx, NY

@ Pete at 10:57 AM, 10/03/12-- You had better be careful; there are those out here who cannot tell whether you are poking fun or not. There's nothing wrong with a little "diversity" in the population of the city. Unfortunately, too many people refuse to consider the possibility that the "dumb ass FOX News conservative[s]" have anything to contribute to that diversity. They may see what you're saying as a bad thing.

Oct. 04 2012 09:52 AM
jonn knoxx

Staten Island is the safest and most affordable borough in NYC.

Oct. 03 2012 01:33 PM
RJ from prospect hts

Why did you ignore question about Molinaris, the family that has had a stranglehold on the borough for decades?

Oct. 03 2012 11:02 AM
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn Heights

I don’t know how many people know that Herb Gardner (Abbie Gardner’s father) wrote and performs a rollicking anthem in praise of the borough of Staten Island.

More in the article about First Accoustics performances here:

Oct. 03 2012 10:59 AM

reluctant SI resident, driven by unaffordability of space in other boroughs. north shore affiliation keeps me sane. borough leadership is corrupt, without vision or imagination; insular suburban mentality keeps the island vitality-free.

Oct. 03 2012 10:59 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

(Baby Mama drama) Vito Fossella - conservative family values - S.I. style.

Oct. 03 2012 10:58 AM
pete from staten island

full disclosure -- caucasian living in Tompkinsville a block from the Jersey Street projects; lived on SI half my life, throughout NYC the rest of my 49 years (everywhere but the Bronx; not going to the Bronx).

two words: 'white', 'people'.

that's it. that's the whole story. okay, okay three words: 'white', 'former', 'Brooklynites'.

the guests can hash out the history, demographics, economics, etc. of it all until the cows come home. ess-eye is crazy white when compared to the rest of the city & it's gonna be 'dumbass, Fox News conservative' for the foreseeable future.

Oct. 03 2012 10:57 AM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

I don't think the political issue is so much due to the borough in which one resides so much as whether one thinks clearly and can see through all the bs inherent in ALL politics.

Oct. 03 2012 10:56 AM
Nick from Lost in NJ

The caller who said that Staten Island's fate was settled by a boat race is true. Also true is that the NY winning team cheated. You can look it up,

Oct. 03 2012 10:56 AM

and i guess NY lost that bet?

Oct. 03 2012 10:55 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

What impact will the proposed ferris wheel and outlet malls on the north shore have on the borough?

Oct. 03 2012 10:54 AM
Robert from NYC

Does Brad live incognito in hiding?

Oct. 03 2012 10:53 AM
Morgan Paar from Manhattan

Staten Island voted for Sarah Palin? That says a lot.

Oct. 03 2012 10:48 AM
John from NYC

Another reason for term limits are the initiatives of the Republican Borough Presidents, current and former. The priorities are focused on tourism (see Ferris Wheel and minor league ballpark which cost taxpayers $70MM for a 30 day game schedule. They seem to forget that the Ferry Terminal is actually a transit hub and St George is a neighborhood.

Oct. 03 2012 10:48 AM

Actually we'll have to see how conservative Staten Island will stay. The borough's demographic is changing. The Southern end will still be conservative but the northern end is definitely becoming much more diverse.

Oct. 03 2012 10:47 AM

let them break away!

Oct. 03 2012 10:47 AM
Quentin from Brooklyn

What role does race and class play in Staten Island's conservatism?

Oct. 03 2012 10:46 AM
Robert from NYC

Well at least it's only the forgotten borough, I think that's better than being the ignored borough, which is what I would call my "hometown", The Bronx!!! I'd choose forgotten over ignored anytime--if those were the only choices--wouldn't you?! Hmmmmm.

Oct. 03 2012 10:09 AM

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