Must-See St. George
by Christina Parrella, 08/05/2015
Rugged, historic and full of local charm, St. George is Staten Island's gateway neighborhood, greeting passengers who disembark from the Staten Island Ferry—some 70,000 every day. Major developments are planned for the waterfront area, including an outlet mall and the Staten Island Wheel, a 630-foot tall Ferris wheel that will offer views of New York harbor. But even without these additions, St. George is primed for exploration: discover cultural attractions, casual restaurants, nautical history and Victorian architecture—all accessible via a free boat ride that every visitor should experience.
View from Staten Island Ferry. Photo: Jen Davis
How to Get There
Start by boarding the Staten Island Ferry at Manhattan's Whitehall Terminal, where it departs every half hour or hour, depending on time of day. On the 25-minute ride you'll enjoy amazing views of Lower Manhattan, as well as the opportunity to photograph lovely Lady Liberty. (Did we mention that the ferry is free?) You'll alight in St. George, within walking distance of a number of local highlights.
Staten Island Arts' Culture Lounge. Photo: Jen Davis
Both the Staten Island Ferry and its terminal are attractions in their own right. The ferry trip, as noted, affords long looks at the City skyline, and as soon as you leave the boat, you'll notice art everywhere. Staten Island Arts' Culture Lounge, inside the St. George Ferry Terminal, is an exhibition space for local artists, poets, musicians and performers. The current show (through September 20), What Do You Wish?, presents handwritten notes from around the world—you can even write your own—as well as a sound installation titled Whispering Wishes, which has audio versions of the same. Nearby, Postcards, a permanent tribute to Staten Island victims of 9/11 and the 1993 World Trade Center attacks, offers a space for quiet reflection.
National Lighthouse Museum. Photo: Tagger Yancey IV
Adjacent to the ferry terminal is the National Lighthouse Museum, which displays artifacts and exhibitions dedicated to nautical navigation. The permanent showcase, Wall of Lights, includes approximately 160 lighthouse models from all over the world. (The site is the original home of the US Lighthouse Services General Depot and is part of a restoration project that will preserve and develop other historic buildings.)
Peek into St. George's architectural past by walking the neighborhood's historic district. Roughly bounded by Richmond Terrace to the north, Westervelt Avenue to the west and Hamilton Avenue to the south, the enclave holds nearly 80 buildings, a considerable amount of them late 19th-century houses in the Queen Anne, colonial revival and shingle styles. Another historic site, dating back to the late 1920s, is the St. George Theatre. Built in grand baroque style, with gilded balconies and richly colored interiors, the space first opened as a vaudeville stage and movie palace; today it hosts music, comedy and theatrical performances. Visit stgeorgetheatre.com for a list of upcoming events.
Staten Island Yankees. Photo: Julienne Schaer
Closer to the ferry terminal is Richmond County Bank Ballpark, home to the Staten Island Yankees, a minor league affiliate of the New York Yankees. If you're lucky enough to catch a "Baby Bombers" game (through early September), you'll receive the bonus of having the picturesque Lower Manhattan skyline as your backdrop.
The Staten Island Museum, across from the stadium, is a great place to visit to view natural science artifacts—think fossils, rocks, bird eggs and the institution's Wall of Insects, always popular with kids, which features a collection of butterflies, cicadas and beetles. (Note: the museum opens in its new home at Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden, on September 19, but will continue some operations in its present digs as well.)
Hypno-Tronic Comics. Photo: Tagger Yancey IV
Two short blocks south from the museum, and across the street from Staten Island Borough Hall, is Hypno-Tronic Comics. Ed Varuolo, who owns the place with Joy Ghigliotti, considers his business a one-stop shop for geeks and nerds, but it caters to fans from all over the world. "The area is up and coming, and there’s an influx of young people," Varuolo says. "We welcome the hipsters; we welcome everyone." Home to one of the largest selections of vintage editions in the City, Hypno-Tronic also carries collectible figurines, masks and various items made by local artists.
Against Da’ Grain. Photo: Kate Glicksberg
Due for a grooming? For all your buzz-cut, fade or tape-up needs, visit Against Da’ Grain, which counts Wu-Tang Clan members Method Man and RZA as clients. The barbershop caters to loyal locals and has been a steady force in the neighborhood for years. But don’t let the insider vibe deter you: all customers are welcome to get their names—or a Wu-Tang “W”—carved into their hair.
120 Bay Cafe. Photo: Tagger Yancey IV
Restaurant-bar 120 Bay Cafe is another neighborhood hub. Formerly known as the Cargo, 120 Bay is still very much influenced by its past: the chef is the same as before the switch and has held over certain menu items; live music remains a regular feature, though there is a different set of theme nights; and Sunday trivia still takes place. Meanwhile, an acoustic night and comedy performances have been added. Owner Eddie Gomez says it all speaks to the eclectic nature of St. George. "St. George is a melting pot," he says. "It's known for its diversity, and 120 Bay Cafe helps cultivate that vibe and energy."
That energy is evident in the art throughout the space, painted by local Scott LoBaido, and on its menu, which incorporates Italian and American influences. Popular items include chipotle pork sliders, mussels, burgers and fried calamari.
Nearby Pier 76 has a similar appeal. Part eatery, part bar, the spot serves up piping-hot pizza, saucy Italian dishes and greasy but delicious bar food. During the week you can enjoy drink specials and plenty of televised sports games at the bar; live bands play on occasion. An Italian eatery of an entirely different nature is Enoteca Maria, which serves up home-cooked meals prepared by authentic Italian "nonnas" (or grandmothers). The menu changes daily based on whatever a particular nonna is cooking; the dishes reflect each chef's connection to a region of Italy.
Ruddy & Dean. Photo: Tagger Yancey IV
Flagship Brewing Company. Photo: Jen Davis
After seeing the best of St. George, make time to see some other cool Staten Island attractions in neighboring areas.
Flagship Brewing Company, Tompkinsville: Staten Island's only brewery to feature a taproom, Flagship has five main varieties of locally brewed beer (plus a seasonal offering) and holds sporadic culinary events in its parking lot.
Staten Island MakerSpace, Stapleton: This venue provides artists with studio space to work on projects and also runs workshops and camp programs that are open to the public.
5050 Skatepark, Stapleton: New York City's very first indoor skateboarding facility has hosted visitors including rappers Method Man and Lil Wayne.
Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden, Randall Manor: This leafy complex is home to nine botanical gardens as well as the Noble Maritime Collection and Staten Island Children's Museum.