Staten Island

Staten Island is one of the five boroughs of New York City.   In the southwest of the city, Staten Island is the southernmost part of both the city and state of New York, with Conference House Park at the southern tip of the island and the state.  The borough is separated from New Jersey by the Arthur Kill and the Kill Van Kull, and from the rest of New York by New York Bay.  The borough is coextensive with Richmond County, and until 1975 was the Borough of Richmond.  Its flag was later changed to reflect this. Staten Island has been sometimes called “the forgotten borough” by inhabitants who feel neglected by the city government.

The North Shore—especially the neighborhoods of St. George, Tompkinsville, Clifton, and Stapleton—is the most urban part of the island; it contains the designated St. George Historic District and the St. Paul’s Avenue-Stapleton Heights Historic District, which feature large Victorian houses. The East Shore is home to the 2.5-mile F.D.R. Boardwalk, the fourth-longest in the world. The South Shore, site of the 17th-century Dutch and French Huguenot settlement, developed rapidly beginning in the 1960s and 1970s and is now mostly suburban in character. The West Shore is the least populated and most industrial part of the island.

Motor traffic can reach the borough from Brooklyn via the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and from New Jersey via the Outerbridge Crossing, Goethals Bridge, and Bayonne Bridge. Staten Island has Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) bus lines and an MTA rapid transit line, the Staten Island Railway, which runs from the ferry terminal at St. George to Tottenville. Staten Island is the only borough that is not connected to the New York City Subway system. The free Staten Island Ferry connects the borough to Manhattan and is a popular tourist attraction, providing views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and Lower Manhattan.

Staten Island had the Fresh Kills Landfill, which was the world’s largest landfill before closing in 2001 although it was temporarily reopened that year to receive debris from the September 11 attacks.  The landfill is being redeveloped as Freshkills Park, an area devoted to restoring habitat; the park will become New York City’s second largest public par when completed.

As in much of North America, human habitation appeared in the island fairly rapidly after the retreat of the ice sheet. Archeologists have recovered tool evidence of Clovis culture activity dating from about 14,000 years ago. This evidence was first discovered in 1917 in the Charleston section of the island. Various Clovis artifacts have been discovered since then, on property owned by Mobil Oil

The island was probably abandoned later, possibly because of the extirpation of large mammals on the island. Evidence of the first permanent Native American settlements and agriculture are thought to date from about 5,000 years ago,  although early archaic habitation evidence has been found in multiple locations on the island.

Rossville points are a distinct type of arrowhead that defines a Native American cultural period that runs from the archaic period to the Early Woodland period, dating from about 1500 to 100 BC. They are named for the Rossville section of Staten Island, where they were first found near the old Rossville Post Office building.   Skeletons unearthed at Lenape burial ground in Staten Island, the largest pre-European burial ground in NYC

At the time of European contact, the island was inhabited by the Raritan band  of the Unami    division of the Lenape. The Lenape, who spoke Lenape one of the Algonquian languages called Staten Island Aquehonga Manacknong, meaning “as far as the place of the bad woods”, or Eghquhous, meaning “the bad woods”.  The area was part of the Lenape homeland known as Lenapehoking . The Lenape were later called the “Delaware” by the English colonists because they inhabited both shores of what the English named the Delaware River.  

The island was laced with Native American foot trails, one of which followed the south side of the ridge near the course of present-day Richmond Road and Amboy Road. The Lenape did not live in fixed encampments, but moved seasonally, using slash and burn agriculture. Shellfish was a staple of their diet, including the Eastern oyster abundant in the waterways throughout the present-day New York City region. Evidence of their habitation can still be seen in shell middens along the shore in the Tottenville section, where oyster shells larger than 12 inches are not uncommon.

Burial Ridge, a Lenape burial ground on a bluff overlooking Raritan Bay in what is today the Tottenville section of Staten Island, is the largest pre-European burial ground in New York City. Bodies have been reported unearthed at Burial Ridge from 1858 onward. After conducting independent research, which included unearthing bodies interred at the site, ethnologist and archeologist George Pepper, was contracted in 1895 to conduct paid archaeological research at Burial Ridge by the American Museum of Natural. The burial ground today is unmarked and lies within Conference House Park.

The first recorded European contact with the island was in 1520 by Italian explorer Giovanni de Verrazzano, who on behalf of the Kingdom of France’s Francis I sailed through The Narrows  on the ship La Dauphine, which originally had departed from Le Havre and anchored for one night.

In 1609, the English explorer Henry Hudson sailing for the Dutchess Republic, sailed into Upper New York Bay on his ship the Half Moon. The Dutch named the island as Staaten Eylandt (literally “States Island”), in honor of the Dutch parliament

The first permanent Dutch settlement of the New Netherland   colony was made on Governor’s Island   in 1624, which they had used as a trading camp for more than a decade before. In 1626 the colony transferred to the island of Manhattan, which was newly designated as the capital of New Netherland.

The Dutch did not establish a permanent settlement on Staaten Eylandt for many decades. From 1639 to 1655, Cornelius Melyn   and David de Vries  made three separate attempts to establish a permanent settlement on the island, but each time the settlement was destroyed in the conflicts between the Dutch and the local tribe.  In 1661, the first permanent Dutch settlement was established at Oude Dorp (Dutch for “Old Village”),  just south of the Narrows near South Beach by a small group of Dutch, Walloon, and French Huguenot families. Many French Huguenots, who were Protestant, had gone to the Netherlands as refugees from the religious wars in France; some joined the emigration to New Netherland. The last vestige of Oude Dorp is the name of the present-day neighborhood of Old Town, adjacent to Old Town Road.

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