If you're talking about the best places to live in Staten Island, that really depends on whether you value easy access to the Staten Island Ferry (and, so, the Financial District and the rest of Manhattan) or want more of the suburban experience that dominates most of this borough. Each borough has it's own "flavor," so to speak, and most of Staten Island feels strangely suburban, if not in places perhaps even rural.
Where to Live in Staten Island
Near the Ferry, the most popular neighborhood is probably St. George, which is also the most urban-feeling community in Staten Island, and is praised for its good restaurants, easy commute, and breathtaking views across New York Harbor; and bustling Tompkinsville, which, in addition to solid retail options, also has a relatively lively art and restaurant scene.
Getting away from the Ferry, the best places to live would include the family-orientated New Dorp, which, among other benefits, isn't far from the beach; the island's southernmost community of Tottenville, with its stately houses and small-town feel; and, for true enclave-like ambiance, the upscale Todt Hill neighborhood, home to some Staten Island's most famous residents, which is accessible only by car.
The Sometimes "Forgotten" Borough is Merely Overlooked
Life in much of Staten Island is like living in a suburban small town. Hilly terrain (except along the eastern section facing the Atlantic Ocean), tree lined streets, parks, and mostly low-rise buildings and single family homes fill the island.
While both pre-war and contemporary mid-rise residential buildings exist, there are relatively few true apartment complexes on Staten Island. The majority of the housing stock is, as mentioned above, single family homes, and many of the apartments for rent are located in private residences.
The apartments complexes that do exist tend to be clustered on the North Shore of the island, especially in the more immediately recognizably urban neighborhoods of St. George, Tompkinsville, Clifton and Stapleton. Given the suburban, even small-town nature of many of the borough's South Shore communities, it's no surprise that there are few apartments for rent in these neighborhoods, such as Castleton Corners, Oakwood, and Prince's Bay.
Prices of apartments in Staten Island tend to be considerably lower (and the apartments themselves, considerably larger) than their counterparts in Manhattan, as well as most of Brooklyn and Queens, but this has more to do with distance and inaccessibility (both real and perceived) than with quality of life.
In fact residents of Staten Island make the case that a genuine neighborly feel exists in many communities in this borough, initially sprouted and continuously cultivated by both the physical and psychological separation from the rest of New York City.
Attractions in Staten Island
Believe or not, Staten Island has some wonderful attractions that should be enjoyed not just by the locals, but by NYC and NJ residents (and visitors) as well. the FDR Boardwalk on the eastern shore is the fourth longest in the world, at 2.5 miles long. Fort Wadsworth is a former military installation, now open to the public.
Great Kills Park covers 580 acres of salt marsh and woodlands, covering 2 miles of the south shore, and enclosing Great Kills Harbor. It is popular with bird watchers due to the diverse habitats within the park, and is accessible by a Staten Island Railway stop near the main entrance.
Historic Richmond Town is a living hisotry village and museum complex. 15 restored buildings on 25 acres, some dating back to colonial times, dot the area, and is popular with families.
Also family friendly is the small, but educational, Staten Island Zoo. Located on 8 acres, this small zoo focuses on small to medium size animals, with a strong representation of reptiles among it's 350 different species on exhibit.
Sports lovers can catch a game at the Richmond County Bank Ballpark, located adjacent to the ferry station, and home of the Staten Island Yankees, an affilate of the New York Yankees. Wagner College also plays their baseball games at the stadium.
A number of museums exist, including the Alice Austin House, the Conference House, the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum, and the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art. St. George, near the ferry, has the 2800-seat St. George Theater, a landmarked building. The ornate interior is a combination of Spanish and Baroque styles. As a former vaudeville house, it has a working Wurlitzer organ. The theater is used for educational programs, tours, concerts, comedy shows and more.
The crown jewel is the Snug Harbor Cultural Center. Set on 83 beatiful acres of the Staten Island Botanical Garden, the complex includes the Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art, the Noble Maritime Museum, the Staten Island Children's Museum, and the Staten Island Museum, and the 686-seat Music Hall.
This separation of Staten Island from, most notably, Brooklyn and Manhattan, can in large measure be attributed to the simple fact that no subways run to Staten Island. The only way of getting from the island to the rest of New York City is either by car over the Verrazano Narrows Bridgean engineering marvel that, at the time of its completion in 1964, was the longest suspension bridge on the planetor by the Staten Island Ferry.
The world famous Staten Island Ferry, which is completely free, carries more than 20 million passengers a year, runs 24 hours a day, and takes about 25 minutes to get from the St. George Ferry Terminal to South Ferry in southernmost Manhattan, near Battery Park and a quick walk to anywhere in the Financial District. You can also transfer to several subway lines nearby.
For non-commuters, the ferry offers the opportunity to see New York Harbor, including a ride past the Statue of Liberty. The approach back to lower Manhattan, with the waterfront skyline growing larger and larger, is always inspirational.
Apartments on Staten Island with easy access to the Ferry are located within the most urban-like neighborhoods in the borough, especially those within walking distance in the neighborhood of St. George or next-door Tompkinsville. Access to the ferry is also provided by buses, or by the Staten Island Railway, an above-ground railway that runs the length of the island on the eastern side.
There are several vehicular bridges connecting residents of rental apartments in Staten Island to New Jersey (most notably the Bayonne Bridge), and, in fact, many New Jersey residents use the Staten Island Expressway as a through way to get from their state to Brooklyn and beyond.
Did You Know?
Staten Island is by far the least populated borough in New York City, trailing Brooklyn (by more than 2 million people!), Queens, Manhattan, and the Bronx, but it is the third largest borough in terms of land area.