Though it's only a ferry ride from Manhattan, Staten Island's Snug Harbor neighborhood is somewhat of a hidden secret. With an enormous botanical garden and cultural center surrounded by cobblestone streets and tiny paths of Victorian and Tudor homes, residents here live the best of both worlds: a fast commute to the bustling metropolis, with the affordable space they crave.
Regina Marks, special-events coordinator, Staten Island Children's Museum
"Having been around the area since [my] childhood, in the late 1960s, moving back to the Snug Harbor area was a no-brainer. It felt like coming home. There was a gift shop run by a woman named Edith and her husband, and no matter who you were—you could be a kid with just $5—they would find you something. Of course, we're in New York City, so the area has changed, but it's been for the better. [At the museum], we have a large variety of visitors who come in for a day trips."
Staten Island Museum, 1000 Richmond Terr between Harbor Rd and Tyson St (718-273-2060, statenislandkids.com)
Patricia Salmon, history curator, Staten Island Museum
"There's so much beauty in this neighborhood that, in the 1960s, was slated to become apartment buildings. It is largely residential, but you've got all the cultural institutions and the landmarked Greek Revival buildings that anchor Snug Harbor. You've also got beautiful parks like the somewhat hidden Allison Park. The museum keeps our archives on site at the cultural center, but we plan to move all operations there to add to the existing art galleries. We're very happy about that."
Melissa Chapman, Kids in the City columnist, Staten Island Advance
"There is something to be said for being able to go shopping and not have to take a granny cart with you to haul everything home! But more than that, we wanted to find an old house with character, which is what we loved about brownstones in Brooklyn, but with lots of space. And we also wanted something that would provide access to the city easily and be rife with artistic institutions like the Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden and [its] Chinese Scholar's Garden. The neighborhood is an extremely diverse mix of artists, teachers...and brimming with pastel Victorian houses, classic Tudors and greenery everywhere."
Snug Harbor Cultural Center &, 1000 Richmond Terr between Harbor Rd and Tyson St (718-448-2500, snug-harbor.org)
JoAnn Mardikos, interim CEO and president, Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden
"The North Shore is a very eclectic and diversified place. My family moved here about 40 years ago because we wanted a better life, but many people come here from areas all over the world. They hear about us through word of mouth—the world is a very small place—and what we offer them is a place where you can go, an area where you can find some solace."
Rita, longtime resident, retired
"My parents moved here in 1928. I was one of seven children, and this was the kind of neighborhood where it didn't matter who you were, we were all a family. Each neighborhood had its own feel back then and everybody knew each other. I got married and stayed in the area. Of course, then there's progress...but I still feel that way here. You can go to the grocery store and the manager knows you. You can drive down the street and meet everybody you know. My daughter Jane died in 9/11. She worked at Cantor Fitzgerald. But I can go down to the Postcards memorial a few minutes away, and there I find some peace. Over the years I've lost many people, but it feels like I still have family here. There's a good feeling here."
Staten Island September 11 Memorial (Postcards), North Shore waterfront esplanade, enter via S.I. Ferry Viaduct at Richmond Terr (718-816-2000, statenislandusa.com/pages/memorial.html)
Brendan Coyle, artist
"The best thing about this neighborhood is that there's a patch of nature nearby. Wandering the parks and gardens and botanical nooks is really relaxing. There are art classes and a gallery space, and the Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art, whose events are very worthy from the standpoint of the New York art world. There's also an Irish chapel-turned-playhouse with a beautiful stage and many ethnic festivals, like the recent Polish Festival. It's good to get out of the house and wander with some beer and sausage."
Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art, Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden, 1000 Richmond Terr between Harbor Rd and Tyson St (718-425-3524, snug-harbor.com/newhouse.html)