Staten Island:?The story of a forgotten borough
Staten Island is, in fact, one of the five boroughs of New York City.
Yes, the rumors are true.
Sure, it’s the fifth-most recognizable borough by a wide margin and looks nothing like Manhattan or any of the other four for that matter. It doesn’t have skyscrapers like Manhattan and there isn’t the need to parallel park on every street like in Brooklyn.
Also, Staten Island is the only borough without a subway. In Staten Island we only have buses and a sometimes schedule-challenged railway that leads to the ferry.
Staten Island doesn’t belong with the other four boroughs — we even tried to secede from New York city once.
However, Staten Island truly is part of New York City. It’s a big, wonderful part of the city — OK, so it’s not so big, but it is wonderful.
Staten Island is where I grew up and my family still lives, proudly.
You likely have read and seen quite a bit about my hometown on the news this past week. It’s not that wonderful right now thanks to Hurricane Sandy. The superstorm left devastation and tragedy in her path.
Before this storm, when many people hear that I’m from Staten Island they would follow with one of two responses — “You mean that place with the dump?” or “Isn’t that where all those Jersey Shore kids come from?”
The joke about Staten Island always used to be that Henry Hudson came over in 1609 from Europe and looked over at that piece of land and incredulously exclaimed, “Is dat an island?!?” — and that’s how Staten Island got its name.
Of course, that’s only partly true.
Hudson is credited with naming Staten Island — originally calling it “Staaten Eylandt” after the Dutch parliament “Staten-Generaal,” which financed his journey.
Actually, the Lenape Indians settled there before Hudson in the 16th century and called it “Aquehonga” or “Monacnong” — supposedly translated to “Enchanted Woods.” That name is fitting since Staten Island is the most residential borough and the one with the most green space.
Staten Island was certainly not the only place hit hard by the storm. The entire city took a beating, and many places in the northeast were devastated. Plus, it’s not the only hurricane that’s ever made its way in the world and left a city helpless.
Yet, it’s different when it’s your home. My parents had no power for nearly 72 hours and had little or no damage to their house — so they were the very lucky ones.
About half of the deaths blamed on Hurricane Sandy were Staten Island residents. There is one story I read about the elderly couple who were found dead in a parking lot. They drowned ... in a parking lot.
Or how about the story of Glenda and Damian Moore? Glenda Moore was trying desperately to escape the storm with her two young children, Brandon, 2, and Connor, 4, but the heavy rain and huge waves overcame them. Glenda Moore lost her grip on her two sons, who were washed away.
For the next couple of days she did all she could to find them, climbing fences and knocking on doors for anyone to help her. Those boys were found dead in a marsh about 100 feet from each other on Thursday.
There are hundreds of people who are now homeless on Staten Island and living in a shelter.
It’s too hard to watch the news coverage of the storm now and see the devastation. That is my home on the television and a large chunk of it is left in complete ruin. That wasn’t supposed to happen to a city like that. Not the city that never sleeps.
There are restaurants minutes from my parents’ house that are gone — swept up in Sandy’s destruction.
Again, we are not the first city to face such hardship, and certainly not the last, but it is a little different when you’re talking about your hometown. There’s pride and your childhood memories that make it mean so much more.
Staten Island does not have the glitz and glamour of Manhattan. It also lacks some of the inner-city roots that make the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens the heart of New York City.
All that Staten Island lacks is exactly what makes it so special. It’s different than the other boroughs, it’s the most unique and there isn’t another place in this world I would have rather spent my childhood.
My job here called me away from my home, but Staten Island will always be my hometown. It may be the forgotten borough, but not by the people who live there.
(Paul Jannace is the sports editor of the Wellsville Daily Reporter. Follow Paul on Twitter @pjscribe)