The free ride across the harbour to Staten Island is one of the highlights of any visit to New York City, but is there any point in getting off the ferry?
Culturally Staten Island has more in common with suburban New Jersey than with the other four New York boroughs – and with parts of the island still reeling from damage wrought by Hurricane Sandy, most tourists promptly hop on the next boat back to Manhattan. Yet it would be a mistake to dismiss the “forgotten borough” so readily; its leafy streets harbour some real gems (unaffected by Sandy), not least a fabulous Chinese garden, a Tibetan gallery and a colonial village, as well as some authentic Sri Lankan restaurants.
A 625-foot (190.5m) ferris wheel, potentially the largest in the world (though Dubai – where else? – is already planning to top this), is slated for 2015, while the new National Lighthouse Museum should open sometime this year. And the world’s largest landfill site is well on the way to becoming the eco-triumph that is Freshkills Park, supporting diverse habitats for wildlife, birds and plant communities.
The Olde New World
You don’t have to visit Williamsburg or New England for a dose of colonial America – unbeknown to most New Yorkers, Staten Island boasts its very own slice of olde history, replete with costumed role players tending fires, welding tin and making useful olde artefacts like wooden barrels. Historic Richmond Town is an open-air museum of around 27 historic buildings; at its core is the preserved village of Richmond, centre of the island’s government until 1898, as well as clapboard houses transported from other parts of the island. Don’t miss the Dutch-style Voorlezer’s House, the nation’s oldest existing school building – built sometime before 1696, it’s prehistoric by New York standards.