09 November 2010

Aquehonga Manacknong

The Duke of York ordered, "early in the spring of 1668, that the islands lying in the harbor of New York, which could be circumnavigated within twenty-four hours, should belong to the colony of New York, otherwise to New Jersey. A trained seaman, Captain Christopher Billopp was selected to make the trip. His vessel was known as the 'Bentley' . . . He performed the task in twenty-three hours, and so the fate of Staten Island was decided". I've always wondered why Staten Island wasn't a part of New Jersey, and now I know.

On a whim, I decided to browse what the internet had to offer on the history of Staten Island. Specifically on Mud Lane where we live. Unfortunately there wasn't much. It seems that all of the people that helped the historical societies function, including their websites and archives, disappeared mysteriously in 2007. It was extremely difficult to find any historical photos, upcoming events, lectures, and even the location to archives. I have the feeling that many of these societies are run by the kind and very senior generation of Staten Island. Which would explain the lack of web content. I don't bring this up to point a finger, I only wish that there was more for me to learn about Staten Island without having to actually go somewhere. Maybe I'll ask if they will hire me to be an archivist.

Salt Lake's historical society has a great following! You'd think that with so many inhabitants in Staten Island there would be more of a presence. I loved when I had the opportunity to intern with the Utah Heritage Foundation. At the time they were located in Memory Grove, which sits in the mouth of City Creek Canyon (pictured above). After my hours were completed for the day I would explore the neighborhoods around the park.

I immediately thought of Memory Grove when John and I began to apartment hunt. Each home was unique and many that were available to rent were outdated. My dream apartment that looked like a quaint Italian cottage had only one aspect that the landlord tried to sell us on - the built in ironing board from the 1940s. We eventually rented the place next door and were so lucky to live on Canyon Road our first year of marriage. Living in a canyon with a trail five minutes away and the gardens of temple square equally close - we knew we had it good.

Whereas Memory Grove has only beautified over the years, conversely Stapleton has not aged well. Not yet anyway. Although Mud Lane is beautifully preserved, only a few blocks away is what one John would call the G to the hetto. It's the type of place that gets it's own police watchtower and outlooks.

At one point, right before 9/11 this place was on the up and up to be the next gentrified area of all the NY boroughs. Of course all developments were stalled and still are to this day. An entire block was demolished and now rests vacant with wooden walls around it's border.

As I was perusing the local newspaper online I decided to look at my local news on the North Shore. Chronologically the headlines read as follows: "A Staten Island rape victim's impassioned plea for justice", "Staten Island Department of Transportation worker allegedly stole electronic equipment from stock room he supervised", "Castelon Corners siblings charged by police with misdemeanors", "City issues 3 violations to owner of Staten Island home where woman died in fire", "Raid on Stapleton home yields 4 arrests on guns weapons charges". And the list goes on. Many of the articles and issues were drug related. I can not count how many times I've seen drug deals go down. It's so obvious and open. Just yesterday I saw a cab driver flash hundreds of dollars worth of newly pressed Benjamin Franklins.

My point in all this? None really. Maybe except my newfound desire to find the Staten Island archives.