Dominic Ambrose Blogblot

of words: narrative, film and non-fiction

The Island Stuck to New Jersey

Staten Island, the least known and least populated of New York City’s five boroughs, is a puzzle to most people. Often they only know it as the destination of the Staten Island Ferry, the place where you have to turn around in the terminal to get on the return boat to Manhattan. It is a land of legendary garbage dumps (long gone), mafia deadbody dumps (less long gone), big hair, and big Ange from some reality TV show, (Staten Island being a gold mine for reality show recruiters).

Cedar shake facades in St. George, the urban core of Staten Island.

Cedar shake facades in St. George, the urban core of Staten Island.

Not being a native of this island, I won’t bore you with knee-jerk defenses of its reputation. Yes, in fact, it is the land of reality TV and dumpy vacant lots. But it does have a lot of potential as a alternative urban setting in New York. The North Shore of the island is the most historic part, with a lot of areas that have remained mostly unchanged for the past 50 or 60 years. I have started writing commentary about the changes and the things that remain the same in this area, in a blog called The Rock Across the Harbor. I post information there about new developments and urban planning issues and problems that arise.

There are a few new mega-projects either in the planning stage or already under construction on SI’s North Shore, in St. George there are the New York Wheel and  an outlet shopping mall, and in the next community, Stapleton there is another new large scale project on the waterfront. Presumably, these projects will radically change the island’s character, and it will no longer just be a lost appendage on the coast of New Jersey, but actually become integrated into the life of New York City. Presumably. This is certainly not the first time that such changes have been promised. In the past the promises have percolated for a while then fizzle out and disappeared. Time will tell if that will happen again. In the meantime, my occasional posts are meant to document a personal perspective on those changes and those things that remain the same.  Check out my blog!


June 26, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Bayonne Bridge: Sydney it ain’t, but it’s a beautiful span anyway

The Bayonne Bridge has been a beautiful sight on the New York harbor horizon since 1931. And for me, it has remained on the horizon – far away, as the urge to travel between the  depressed residential area of Port Richmond in Staten Island to the rusted industrial area at the tip of the Bayonne peninsula in New Jersey has never been high on my list of things to do. But a recent article about the bridge has stoked my interest enough to convince me to get up close and take a walk across the span.

Most people don't get any closer than this.

Most people don’t get any closer than this.

When the bridge opened 80 years ago, arching gracefully over the watery passage known as the Kill Van Kull, it was the longest steel arch bridge in the world. It is still the fourth longest. If the parabola design looks familiar it is probably because of its celebrated cousin, the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia (in fact, the same golden scissors were used to cut the ribbon on both bridges). Although its span is a few feet longer than that Australian bridge, it seems much lighter, without the massive masonry pylon towers. But an even greater difference is the destiny of each bridge in its city’s life. The Sydney Harbour Bridge is centrally located, a major artery and a major conduit for the economy of that city. It is a symbol of the city and valued enough to be well maintained and kept in the public spotlight. The Bayonne Bridge, on the other hand, is almost unknown to most New Yorkers and New Jerseyans. Connecting two perennially depressed areas, it has never really reached its potential (a second roadway, though planned, was never deemed necessary) and it has slipped into the shadows, rusting away at the periphery of New York Harbor. Most people only know it as a nameless silhouette on the horizon as they ride across the harbor on the Staten Island Ferry. Even commuters

A view of the Staten Island along the Kill Van Kull.

A view of the Staten Island along the Kill Van Kull.

between Staten Island and New Jersey are far more likely to use the other two bridges, the Goethals and the Outerbridge Crossing.

However, the bridge’s obscurity may finally come to an end, as the Port Authority now plans to raise the roadway of the Bayonne Bridge in order to allow container traffic to reach Newark Bay from the harbor.  It is considering plans to include in the new roadway an extension of the Huson-Bergen Light Rail line into Staten Island, beyond its present terminus in Downtown Bayonne. Let’s hope they also keep the walkway, which gives such unique views of harbor traffic westward between Staten Island’s North Shore and New Jersey.

Some more pics taken on the bridge:

Shipping in the channel

Shipping in the channel

Way in the background is the Newark Bay Bridge, another steel arch bridge.

The steel arch. Longer than the Sydney bridge by a few feet.

Suicide prevention sign on the walkway. Every year someone tragically jumps into the dank Kill Van Kull.

Overgrown station of the abandoned North Shore rail line on Staten Island.

September 27, 2011 Posted by | architecture | , , , , , , | Leave a comment