Creating Connections, Exploring Culture: Staten Island Ferry and the Community of St. George
Located at the northeastern tip of Staten Island, St. George is a community set upon hills and is home to a mix of art galleries, local businesses, historic architecture, and cultural attractions like the St. George Theater, the Staten Island Institute of the Arts and the Sciences, and the National Lighthouse Museum. On a typical weekday, 65,000 passengers utilize the Staten Island Ferry; unfortunately, many miss out on the rich history and culture of the area of St. George because they never dare to embark on a journey into the “other side”. We recently spoke to Melanie Cohn, Executive Director of the Council On the Arts and Humanities for Staten Island (COAHSI), who explained that the area around the Ferry terminal is particularly unwelcoming to pedestrians as it lacks signage as well as pedestrian connections that bar access from the Ferry to the rest of the community. This is an issue that numerous submissions to By the City / For the City called attention to:
Melanie in St. George wants to see “a better pedestrian path from the Ferry on the Staten Island side to the main commercial corridors of Bay Street and Stuyvesant Street.” A resident from West Brighton wishes “the area right off the Staten Island Ferry was more tourist/pedestrian/resident friendly: Less cars, more plants/art/pedestrian walkways, and more useful/interesting shops.” Joseph from the North Shore hopes that the “NYCDOT won’t demolish a ramp at the St. George Terminal of the Staten Island Ferry that could allow pedestrian-only access.” Together, these ideas make apparent the need for a dialogue around building better connections between the Ferry and the St. George community with its many cultural attractions.
Recently, urban planning students from Hunter College did a site analysis of St. George highlighting the neighborhood’s strengths. The resulting plan, Art Hill, proposes the development of a sustainable cultural district “where an influx of new artists will live and work in now-vacant or underutilized spaces in St. George, joining the diverse arts community already in residence.” Planners believe that St. George can be transformed into a go-to location, creating a destination for some of the 47 million tourists who visit New York City each year.
Not only does St. George have to be a welcoming place for visitors, but physical connections must be improved in order to ensure more efficient use of the space. A start: the NYCDOT recently began a $175 million rehabilitation of the ramps leading into the St. George Ferry Terminal. This investment is being made to improve mobility within the area, strengthening pedestrian access as well as securing bikeways for cyclists. Not only will this improve daily commutes for residents who use the Ferry terminal, it will also make it easier for visitors to explore the rich history and culture that is St. George. But the question remains: how can better physical connectivity be used to encourage social connectivity as well?
Want to take on the challenge of re-thinking the Ferry’s connection to St. George? Click here to register for the By the City / For the City design competition today! Entries are due by midnight (EST) on Sunday, July 31st, 2011. We can’t wait to see what you come up with!