Staten Island New York (Population (2011 Estimate 470,467)
Staten Island joined New York City as a borough in 1898. Among all five boroughs Staten Island is undoubtedly the most traditionally suburban. The area lies within New York’s Richmond County, just west of Long Island, and the name “Staten Island” itself is generally perceived to be coterminous with the boundaries of the county. The residents of Staten Island are easily the furthest from Lower Manhattan, and are subject to a more convoluted travel pattern into the city than their counterparts in places like The Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens.
Staten Island remained relatively underdeveloped until the building of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge in 1964 connecting it to Brooklyn. Since then, the island opened up to explosive suburban development. The largely Roman Catholic and middle-class population enjoy the luxury of living in New York City with a much more suburban pace and quality of life. Staten Island was the site of the Fresh Kills Landfill, the primary destination for garbage from the five boroughs of New York City and the largest single source of methane pollution in the world. The landfill was closed in early 2001 but was temporarily reopened later that year to receive the ruins of the World Trade Center after nine-eleven.
The most notable characteristic of Staten Island is the ratio of its population to its land area. Its actual land area makes it the third-largest borough in New York, just behind Queens and Brooklyn, respectively. Staten Island, however, does not have a population in the millions like those two boroughs do. In fact, Staten Island currently has the smallest population of any borough, and that gap is rather large.
As of the a 2011 population estimate made by the United States Census Bureau, Staten Island maintains a population of just 470,467 with a land area of 58 square miles. In the interest of comparison, neighboring Brooklyn measures just 71 square miles and manages to house 2,532,645 of New York’s residents. The difference is largely one of settlement, with Staten Island reaching its prime during the 1950s when suburban tract homes were the leading choice among postwar homebuyers.
Richmond County, and thus Staten Island, is not served by the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s vast subway system. This is a pretty notable departure from normal, and it makes the borough the only one without a subway line that runs through it. Instead, residents of Staten Island must use more “suburban” means of getting into Manhattan or the other boroughs when making the voyage to their day job.
The island is famously served by the Staten Island Ferry, which still maintains a policy of not charging passengers for its services. The ferry passes by a number of scenic New York landmarks, including Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, on its way to Lower Manhattan. For those residents who prefer not to take the ferry into the city, four bridges allow for vehicles to move from the island into more urban parts of the city via highway. Those bridges include the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to Brooklyn via I-278 and several bridges to parts of northern New Jersey.
Staten Island ferry approaching Manhattan
Staten Island’s schools are notably better than those in the more urbanized boroughs of New York, largely due to the nature of the communities on the island itself. All of the public schools in Staten Island are managed by the New York City Department of Education, which itself oversees the largest public school system in the United States. Technical high schools are offered in a number of different disciplines, while several private and charter schools are also available for primary and secondary education students.
For those seeking a post-secondary education, Staten Island offers few choices. They include the private Wagner College and a remote campus connected to St. John’s University, as well as a public college in the CUNY system. That college, the College of Staten Island, offers both bachelor’s degrees and associate’s degrees to students. In effect, the College of Staten Island serves as the local community college and the local public university.
Staten Island is not a liberal bastion like the other four New York boroughs. Local officials are generally Republican, and the borough generally votes for Republican mayoral candidates. On the national level, Staten Island does tend to side with Democratic nominees for President. Statewide candidates elected by the county tend to be a mix of Democratic and Republican politicians, with a slight preference for Democrats statewide.
Despite its reputation as a “swing” county within the state of New York for some elections, Staten Island is really only contested seriously by those seeking office in the city of New York. The area is not usually contested or campaigned in statewide or even national elections.
Staten Island represents the best chance at suburban living without leaving the boundaries of New York City itself. It’s generally a larger borough, but its small population is spread out in ways that can’t be found elsewhere in New York. With excellent highway transportation and a free, 24-hour ferry to the city, residents don’t feel entirely disconnected from the urban life that lies just a few miles away. With great colleges and universities, Staten Island is perfect for students seeking a two-year or four-year degree.