It must have been 25 or more years ago that one day I decided to ride down to the Staten Island Ferry…take the boat…and explore what New York City’s orphan boro had to offer. With virtually no plan, I simply ascended from the ferry to the first major street…turned right…and pedaled. Soon I found a path to the water and what I can honestly say was a road surrounded by near wilderness. Breaks in the brush and foliage provided fishing spots for the kind of people our president wants to keep out of the country.
That road ended 2 miles later where I found myself back on “the strip” continuing undaunted. Shortly thereafter, I came upon a giant fruit market (where I stopped for some peaches) and then what looked like a college campus on the left. That college campus was Snug Harbor, now Staten’s #1 cultural spot. Twenty five years ago, it was not as developed as it is now. And riding through the paths, I came upon an area so raw and rural that all I could see was weeds, tall grass, and a pond full of lily pads. I’d hit the promised land. I can’t tell you how many times after battling New York traffic and criminals while driving an all night 12 hour cab shift, I woke up the next day to take that trip to that wilderness where I could sit and read the paper while detoxing from the night before.
I have several warm weather recreational destinations to where I’ll travel at least once each season. Bear Mountain is one. Breakneck Ridge, Anthony’s Nose, Popolpen Thorne, Bull Hill, Piermont and the Cloisters are others. I have to admit that the Staten run is one I don’t do as often as I used to. It’s because of a hurricane that denuded the shoreline…and then a development at St. George.
Now the minor league ball park was one thing. I kind of dig it, actually. It still left most of the shoreline intact. But then came the ferris wheel and attendant parking structures, malls and hotels. That shit went into the planning stages around the time I worked at the Village Voice. And that’s 6 years ago! Guess what! No ferris wheel…no mall…and no hotel. Just a shitload of half-finished construction. God bless America. (By the way…that noisy playground out my back window is finally finished. It’s nice. But 6 months to renovate a fucking playground? Gimme a break!)
So after riding to Fort Wadsworth (foot of the Verrazano Bridge) I doubled back to pass the ferry…check out the construction…and continue to Snug Harbor. The wilderness area I grew so fond of 25 years ago still exists and is in fact, landscaped and developed tastefully. Stopping to sit on a bench in the shade, I gathered in all the area has to offer thinking “at least this hasn’t been turned into a condo – even if it’s become somewhat civilized.”
Bottom line: I got my quasi-country fix on. Not like climbing a mountain in the Hudson Valley but more convenient and at least still existent though not to the extent it was all those years back.
P.S. If the picture above had been taken yesterday afternoon, I would have been in it – down in front of the fort.