22 Things You Need To Know Before You Move To Staten Island
Forget the other four boroughs, everyone know’s Shaolin’s the best.
1. There Ain’t No Party Like a Staten Island Sweet 16 Party
Seriously, these big-time blowouts can cost more than the average wedding. And on Staten Island, anyone who’s anyone, or anyone’s third cousin once removed, is bound to get invited to more than a few over the course of his or her high school career.
2. Annadale and Woodrow Have Diners To Die For
And probably owned by a guy named “Mike.” Although his real name is more likely to be Mihális. Order the spanakopita, it will make Mike’s mom very happy if you do.
3. You’ll Never Sour On Lemon Ice Here
“Lemon ice” is actually a generic term on Staten Island, kind of like in some southern cities where they call every kind of soda “Coke.” Yep, you can get a “cherry lemon ice,” a “rainbow lemon ice,” a “chocolate lemon ice,” and of course a “plain lemon ice,” which actually is lemon-flavored.
No matter what your lemon ice preference, though, there’s only one place to get ’em, and that place is always gonna be Ralph’s Italian Ices.
4. There’s A Festival For Dragon Festival. No, You Didn’t Read That Wrong
Well, Earth Day is on April 22, and the feast day for the famous dragonslayer St. George just happens to be April 24. Also, the earth is green, and dragons are green. Still, if Staten Island’s St. George Day/Earth Day Festival doesn’t float your boat, there’s always the Polish Festival, the Greek Festival, the Raritan Bay Festival, the Staten Ireland Irish Festival or the ever-popular Staten Island Mall Carnival.
5. Staten Island’s Own Slice Of Heaven Is Appropriately Over The Top
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Grotto is like the biggest yard shrine ever, stone-studded and statue-filled and, OK, it’s not the Sistine Chapel, but it manages to be very impressive and yet also really accessible. Maybe it wouldn’t be the Pope’s glass of wine, but he probably doesn’t decorate the Vatican with sequined fruit, either.
Whether you weigh in on the side of tacky or beautiful—or beautifully tacky—you gotta admit the grotto’s very unique and very, very Staten Island.
6. If Someone Calls You “Doozy Pots,” Yes, You Should Take Offense
It comes from the Italian phrase “tu sei pazzo”, which means “you’re nuts”. In fact, the Italian language is the basis for several other SI insults: “chooch” comes from “ciuccio,” a slang word for idiot, and “skeevioso” derives from “schifoso,” which means disgusting.
7. Staten Island Is The Texas Of The New York Boroughs
In 1993, Staten Island’s frustration with being left out of the New York cool boroughs club grew intense that it actively pursued secession, intending to establish itself as a separate city. SI residents backed down upon the election of then-mayor Rudy Giuliani, who did make an effort to give them a little attention, but the secession issue still raises its head from time to time, and another serious attempt was made as recently as 2008.
8. To Staten Islanders, “The City” Will Always Be Manhattan
Poor old SI, even contributing to its own identity crisis. While the other boroughs refer to Manhattan as “downtown,” implying they’re still a part (albeit not a central one) of the same metropolitan area, Staten Islanders just call it “the city,” like it’s a whole ‘nother place. Then again, maybe this is meant as more of a diss against their neighbor than an expression of insecurity, since, after all, it’s Staten Island that wants to secede from the rest of N.Y.C. and not the other way around.
9. The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge Is, Like, 50 Miles Long
Ok, it’s not quite that long. (Is anybody still reading this, or have you jumped straight to the comment section to call me out on this?) At a total of 13,700 feet, it’s only a little over 2.5 miles. Still, North America’s longest suspension bridge certainly feels much, much longer, especially when you’re stuck in traffic (which is just about anytime you try to cross).
10. The Best Ride In Town Won’t Cost A Dime
As long as it’s gonna take all day to get across town, you might as well enjoy the ride, right? And the Staten Island Ferry certainly gives you a lot of bang for your (nonexistent) buck. It’s one of N.Y.’s most popular tourist attractions, since you get a leisurely free cruise past the Statue of Liberty, and they even sell snacks and beer on board!
One thing to be aware, though: If you call it the ferry, that doesn’t necessarily brand you as an out-of-towner, but Staten Island’s regular ferry commuters just call it “the boat.”
11. Just ‘Cause They Call It Shaolin, Doesn’t Mean It’s Got A Chinatown
The Shaolin nickname, which has really taken hold in recent years, has absolutely nothing to do with Buddhist monasteries or kung fu. Instead, it was bestowed upon the borough by the rap group Wu-Tang Clan, five of whose members are natives.
While Ghostface Killah, Raekwon and company aren’t the only famous Staten Islanders, they seem to be the ones giving their native borough the most shout-outs, and some of the members can still be spotted around town from time to time.
12. Staten Island Has A Famous People “Situation”
What do 19th century railroad tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt, Grand Ole Opry star Roy Clark, folksinger Joan Baez, pop princess Cristina Aguilera and professional annoying person The Situation have in common? Absolutely nothing whatsoever! Besides, of course, the fact that they were all born and/or grew up on Staten Island. Now that’s real diversity for ya.
13. On Staten Island, Velour Is Still In Vogue
Well, it is very comfy. And also more stylin’ than the average sweatsuit. Besides, every area has its guilty clothing pleasures. Let no-one who’s ever worn overalls in Nebraska or cowboy boots in Texas cast the first stone.
14. Having A Last Name That Ends In A Consonant Is Somewhat Of A Rarity
Well, at least compared to other places on the planet, with the probable exception of Italy. If you wanna join the cool kids club, but you’re saddled with a terminal consonant, don’t worry. I’m sure Vanna White would be happy to sell you a vowel.
15. Scary Selfies With A Creepy Clown Are Evidently A Thing Now
Earlier this year, the streets of Staten Island were stalked by a clown made up to look like Pennywise from Stephen King’s “It.” While this naturally freaked the heck out of most who encountered him, others jumped at the opportunity to have something cool to post on Instagram.
It turns out that social media sensation was the whole reason behind the clown gag. A film production company called Fuzz on the Lens released a YouTube video depicting the clown’s capture, then revealed that this buzzworthy bozo was one of their own.
16. Then Again, Staten Islanders Don’t Scare Easily
Generations of Staten Island kiddies were frightened to sleep by sadistic babysitters telling them tales of a killer named Cropsey who lived in the old abandoned mental hospital called Willowbrook.
Well, imagine everyone’s shock and horror when they found out that this particular urban legend was no legend at all! Turns out a former Willowbrook custodian really did kidnap and murder several children. But don’t worry, Andre Rand (aka Cropsey) is locked down on Rikers Island ’til 2037.
17. Never Turn Your Lights Off On Bedell Avenue
The story is unclear as to just who is haunting this particular street and why, but one thing everyone on SI knows is that if you drive down this road at night and turn your lights off, you will either see a ghostly figure hanging from a tree, or you will be chased by a murderous maniac.
Some speculation, however, puts the latter apparition down to a pissed-off resident who’s simply sick and tired of his street being a drive-through destination for carloads of thrill-seeking teens.
18. The Conference House Has Got To Be Haunted
Not too far away from Bedell Avenue is one of New York’s oldest buildings, the 1675 Billop mansion, better known as the Conference House after being used as the site of an (unsuccessful) 1776 peace conference meant to put an end to the Revolutionary War.
Again, no-one’s too clear about just who’s haunting this house, but, you know, it’s old, it’s spooky-looking, therefore ghosts are pretty much a given.
19. But The Hill Of Death Isn’t
Todt Hill did get it’s name from the Dutch word for dead, but this is thought to have referred to the fact that its soil composition made it difficult for trees to grow there. Pretty boring, I know. While Todt Hill may not be particularly known for any hauntings, it is one of the fanciest neighborhoods in town, and also has the distinction of having the highest elevation on the Eastern Seaboard outside of the state of Maine.
20. They Did Have A Ninja Burglar, Though
Todt Hill was a happy hunting ground for Staten Island’s infamous Ninja Burglar, who hit numerous homes there during a six-month long crime spree in 2007. Although one alleged perp was subsequently deported back to Albania, several later crimes of the same sort led people to suspect that the original black-clad bandit may still be on the loose.
21. The Staten Island Cricket Club’s Wickets Are The Stickiest
Ok, so Toms River, New Jersey’s got its legendary Little Leaguers, and Odessa, Texas its “Friday Night Lights” football team. Staten Island’s got something to top them all, though—the nation’s oldest cricket club.
This club was also one of the first sporting venues to gain national exposure, as it featured in the 1917 silent movie “Raffles the Amateur Cracksman.” The star of this movie, John Barrymore (aka Drew’s Grandpa), was himself a one-time SI resident.
22. Hurricane Sandy May Have Been The Worst, But It Brought Out Staten Island’s Best
Staten Island was the area that was hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy. While many homes and businesses were entirely destroyed, the tragedy nonetheless showcased the borough at its finest as residents banded together to help those in trouble.
Everyone pitched in to help with cleanup, those who still had electricity or food were quick to share with their neighbors, and people even opened up their homes to total strangers deprived of bathroom facilities. Now that’s what I call being a friend in need!