Yes, I have now been to Staten Island! This is the fifth, least well known, least loved borough of New York City. It’s been on my list for a long time and today, a gorgeous day here in New York, we took a subway, a ferry and a bus in my quest to complete the set of five boroughs.
Most people go to Staten Island because it’s a free way to see the Statue of Liberty. If you get the free ferry, the big orange one, from Battery Park on the very southern tip of Manhattan, it takes 25 minutes to cross the five miles of water that separate the two boroughs, to reach Staten Island. And it seems that’s all people do. They are herded on like a lot of summery dressed cattle, all sit on the right side of the ferry (I’m surprised it does not tip over) and take their pictures. They are herded off the ferry, with very clear directions from the loudspeakers to get off the ferry as it’s not going straight back to Manhattan. And then they crowd back into the Staten Island ferry terminal to return to Manhattan. So in about an hour you’re done.
I’ve seen the Statue of Liberty many times now, it’s great, but not the focus of our trip. And as we get out into the bus terminal and head to our bus stop the only people left are the odd lady singing to herself and some people who clearly don’t live in Manhattan.
Our S40 (S for Staten Island) bus driver takes one look at us, me, J, E and my mum (over from the UK) and knows where we’re going. ‘You want the harbour?’ Why yes, we do. Thank you.
And by harbour (or harbor to the Americans) we mean Snug Harbor. It’s about a 10 minute bus ride along the top part of the island. I had thought it was a bit more commercial and refined for tourists, but no. It’s not a harbour, for a start. It’s a bunch of very old buildings, kind of naval looking, a kind of poor Greenwich. My mum wondered if we were supposed to be there at all. But no one stopped us.
And what a wonderful, peaceful place it turned out to be. After wandering around, following the maps, we came across a secret garden replete with maze to lose small children in; a ‘healing garden’ devoted to those who lost their lives on 9/11; and a children’s museum, shut, but could have been fun. It is so quiet, there are birds and fresh air. I’d forgotten what peace and fresh air were like – it’s neither, ever in Manhattan.
I don’t know that I’d add it to the guidebooks for tourists on limited time trips to New York, but for a getaway that costs five bucks each way, it’s a bargain. Just don’t forget to pack a picnic, there’s no food hawkers, no drink sellers, just birds and random whippets who appeared as we munched our sarnies. What a lovely day out.