After the Verrazano Bridge opened in 1964, Staten Island saw rapid development, and locals were fighting to preserve their home. Some of the area had been designated for urban renewal, and citizens saw this urban renewal plan as a political tool being used to control development and tell them what to do with their property. As cookie cutter homes popped up, there was resistance to their lack of individuality.
“I’ve lived on the island my whole life,” one woman declares, “It used to be beautiful, but it’s not beautiful no more. We don’t even have trees anymore. They’re putting houses up like boxes.”
The city (and Robert Moses) was taking an interest in “the forgotten borough” whether the locals wanted it or not, and Mayor Lindsay had established a Staten Island Development Agency, where the city’s goal was “to build and develop a community of very high quality, open to all income levels, which uses modern planning concepts [like] cul-de-sacs,” borough development director Holt Meyer explained. “We also want to see a variety of housing types there. We want NYC to catch up [with New Town concepts]… and in fact we have an opportunity to do what no other city has done because we have this vacant land. We want it to be a showcase.” At the time there were 16,000 undeveloped acres on the island, more than half the city’s vacant land at the time.
The development of the island was well reported on as the political interest of the city was clashing with the interest of the borough, and in one NY Times article from 1967, Borough President Connor spoke of the planned communities: “Often [their] glossy brochures turn out to be just folded baloney.”
Here’s a look at the island during its big time of change:[embedded content]
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