The Staten Island Neighborhood Where Making It Means Three Dogs, Not One

Monday, January 06, 2014

The Staten Island Railroad runs through Grasmere. The Staten Island Railroad runs through Grasmere. (Amy Pearl/WNYC)

Everything about Census Block 64 is modest. The topography rolls, but gently. The houses are small to medium-sized and, during Christmas season, they are draped with tasteful decorations: no talking Santas, no inflatable Frosties.

Economically speaking, Grasmere's plainness is part of its appeal. More than 60 percent of Grasmere residents have arrived since 2000. Many of the newcomers are immigrant families who either aspire to the middle class or have newly reached it. They don't need fancy. They need relatively cheap.

That's what attracted the family of 26-year old Andy Meli. A year ago, the Melis left their apartment in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, crossed the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, took the first exit and bought a four-bedroom house in Grasmere.

Meli says he misses Brooklyn, where his dad still runs a pizzeria. But he is adapting. "It's a change of pace," he said, looking around at his semi-suburban surroundings. "But it's actually nice here, quieter."

Meli says being middle class means spending nearly half the family income on the mortgage, putting a garden in the backyard instead of a pool, and debating the purchase of every electronic device. Asked what he would buy if he came into money, Meli answers, "Like, three dogs or something."

Not a sports car—three dogs instead of the one that his family has now. His dream is modest, like his neighborhood.

Jim O'Grady/WNYC
Robert Champi has owned rental properties in Grasmere for 15 years.
Amy Pearl/WNYC
The Staten Island Ferry Terminal.
Amy Pearl/WNYC
A quiet street in Grasmere.
Amy Pearl/WNYC
Modest Christmas decorations.
Amy Pearl/WNYC
Saint Mary's Cemetery in Grasmere, Staten Island.
Amy Pearl/WNYC
Tattoo parlor on Grasmere's commercial strip.
Amy Pearl/WNYC
Cafe Luna in Grasmere, Staten Island.
Amy Pearl/WNYC
The maitre d' at Cafe Luna greets a regular customer.
Amy Pearl/WNYC
A customer chats with the chef at Cafe Luna.
Jim O'Grady/WNYC
Angela Ricca, 83, picks up her pizza.
Amy Pearl/WNYC
Saying, "che-e-e-e-ese," on the Staten Island Ferry.
Amy Pearl./WNYC
The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge as seen from the Staten Island Ferry.
Amy Pearl/WNYC
On the way from Staten Island to Manhattan.


Karen Frillmann


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Comments [5]

Jim O'Grady

@Ed Thanks.
@Bill The ferry photos are there 'cause they're cool. And as Seaman says, the ferry plays an important role in Staten Islanders' calculations about home price vs. length of commute -- even in Grasmere. To be thorough, we should've also had photos of people catching an express bus at one of the South Beach parking lots, which is how a lot of Grasmere residents commute to Manhattan. Thanks for reading and listening to the story!

Jan. 06 2014 03:12 PM
Seaman Drake from Upper Manhattan

I understand the photos of the ferry and SIRR -- obviously the series is about living in these neighborhoods but learning about the commute from them to downtown or midtown is obviously part of the story since many people trade off commuting time for price when unable to afford more expensive neighborhoods closer to work. I imagine future articles in the series will show subway stations and such.

Which areas are next? My money is on Hudson Heights or western Inwood for your Manhattan story -- everything else in the borough is far above or below that $52k middle-class statistic.

Jan. 06 2014 12:06 PM
Bill from SI NY

Why are you showing pics of the ferry and ferry terminal?
Not every neighborhood on SI is near the ferry! In fact I'd say 90% of every SI neighborhood is NOT near the ferry.
This neighborhood, is near the middle of the island towards the eastern shore.
It is not located anywhere near the SI Ferry.

Jan. 06 2014 11:26 AM
Ed from NYC

However, my previous comment notwithstanding, this is a great new reporting angle from WNYC. It is appreciated.

Jan. 06 2014 07:48 AM
Ed from NYC

DeBlasio won because of no other viable candidate without baggage and because only 25% of eligible voters voted. That's the only reason he won. His far left radical message is not under a mandate.

Jan. 06 2014 07:46 AM

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