Oculus - Winter 2011/2012 - (Page 17)
one block over
(far left) The new Staten Island Courthouse, designed by Ennead Architects, will open in 2012. (left, top) “Postcards,” Staten Island’s 9/11 Memorial, by Masayuki Sono. (left, bottom) Staten Island Ferry Terminal, designed by HOK (2005). (above) One of the stunning restored houses on St. Mark’s Place.
St. George Renaissance: This Time, for Real?
Staten Island’s municipal hub could ﬁnally be on the right track
B Y C LA IRE WILS O N
t’s often said that rumors of the renaissance of St. George, the Staten Island county seat, have been greatly exaggerated. The once-thriving hamlet where the Staten Island Ferry docks has shown signs of renewed life now and again over the past few decades, but each time the effort has sputtered and stalled, leaving it pretty much where it had been. Stories of the area’s lack of vitality leave visitors perplexed. They see the sweeping views of Manhattan and the VerrazanoNarrows Bridge, dramatic hills dotted with restored mansions and handsome Carrère & Hastings public architecture, a poetic 9/11 Memorial, a waterfront promenade, a new ferry terminal, and a baseball stadium that is home to the Staten Island Yankees. Why then do detractors continue to see St. George as a lost cause? The reasons are many, but that may soon change – finally. The new Staten Island Courthouse, designed by Ennead Architects, will open in 2012 atop a hill once occupied by a dreary municipal parking lot. It will have four “towers of justice” visible from all around the area, and a glass curtain wall to allow morning light inside and provide exhilarating views. “It will be a dramatic experience for the public to see views of the harbor and Verrazano-Narrows Bridge from each floor,” says Susan Rodriguez, FAIA, design partner on the project for Ennead. “They are spectacular.” The design also includes a memorial park with an installation by artist Mary Miss, dedicated to the immigrant experience and the dead from the 19th-century quarantine station that once stood on the site. A broad staircase to the main entrance is designed for both building access and congregating in good weather. Anchoring the landscape at the bottom of the hill is the shining redesigned ferry terminal, whose access roads and pedestrian walkways are nearing completion. Finished in 2005, the terminal was designed by HOK, which turned the existing,
almost windowless, building into a bright glass box with great harbor views. An adjacent former Coast Guard base will likely be the home of the National Lighthouse Museum, and two parcels flanking the baseball stadium are also slated for development. In addition, two residential complexes abandoned during the recession – a gutted waterfront warehouse and a low-rise apartment building – are now headed toward completion. The hope is that these new projects, particularly the courthouse, will breathe life into the offices and retail in St. George, which has become a dumping ground for the borough’s social service agencies and shelters. The retail scene is sad, with little to serve office and government workers let alone the middleclass population living in the historic houses and older apartment buildings. Parking remains a problem. There is also a serious disconnect between the waterfront and the so-called upland area of the community, as well as among the waterfront parcels themselves. They are a disjointed patchwork of green spaces, parking lots, dangerous industrial parcels, maintenance trailers, and warehouses that could be cleaned up and put to better, safer use. Theo Dorian, a photographer and president of the St. George Civic Association who lives in a late 19th-century house in the historic district and owns an art gallery near the new courthouse, notes that the long ferry ride to Manhattan can be unappealing, especially if your references are short subway rides to neighborhoods like the East Village or Williamsburg. But the housing is diverse and inexpensive – and subway ride or not – you can’t get a restored Victorian in Williamsburg for $600,000. “By what logic would anyone prefer to live in a grimy neighborhood than have a mansion?” he muses.
Claire Wilson writes for the New York Times.
Up, Down, and Sideways
Winter 2011 Oculus
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Oculus - Winter 2011/2012
A Word from the Editor
Center for Architecture
One Block Over
From NIMBY to YIMBY
Complete Streets: If Only Mumford Had Lived to See This
Regional Transit: The Next Generation
Index to Advertisers
Oculus - Winter 2011/2012