Thursday, August 13, 2009

St. George: A Nice Local Stop

From the New York Times via The Forgotten Borough (which happens to be an excellent blog about Staten Island):

Many visits to Staten Island go like this: Ride the ferry from Lower Manhattan. Catch a free glimpse of the Statue of Liberty. Disembark. Take the next ferry back.

But the tiny, historic neighborhood of St. George, where the ferry docks, is worth exploring, even if the bleak landscape just outside the terminal suggests otherwise. Get a map at the terminal’s passenger office, and after your amble in St. George, consider a four-minute ride on the S40 bus from the terminal to the Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden, at right, 1000 Richmond Terrace, (718) 448-2500. It is 83 acres of Greek Revival buildings and paradisiacal gardens that will make you feel like you stepped into an E. M. Forster novel.

10:30 A.M.Ride the 1, N, R or W train to South Ferry, and get on board. The ferry is free and leaves Manhattan and Staten Island every half-hour (with variations after 1 a.m., on weekends and during the weekday rush). If it’s a nice day, ride on the upper deck for the fresh air and panoramic views of New York Harbor, Lower Manhattan, Governors Island and the Brooklyn and Verrazano-Narrows Bridges.

11 A.M. As you disembark from the ferry, Staten Island’s stately Borough Hall, will be in front of you, a French Renaissance-style structure built between 1904 and 1906 and designed by Carrère and Hastings, the architectural firm behind the New York Public Library. Go left on Bay Street and walk five minutes to the Everything Goes Book Cafe & Neighborhood Stage, 208 Bay Street, (718) 447-8256, a cozy, welcoming used-book store and community gathering spot run by Ganas, a local commune (it’s closed on Mondays). Tasty, affordable coffee and organic baked goods are for sale, accompanied by live music weekend nights. Ganas also runs a nearby vintage shop, Everything Goes Clothing, 140 Bay Street, (718) 273-7139, closed Sunday and Monday, where one recent offering was a thick Pucci-like shift that felt like a bath towel and cost $14.

NOON Head to the Cargo Cafe, 120 Bay Street, (718) 876-0539, for cool ambience — exposed wood beams, peeling red walls, shabby chic chandeliers — and cheap lunch: $4.75 for a burger, fries and a soda; the weekend brunch starts at $7 and includes muffins and a cocktail or coffee (open Tuesday to Sunday at 11 a.m.; Monday at 5 p.m.).

1:30 P.M. Walk along Central Avenue to Hyatt Street, and visit the St. George Theater, 35 Hyatt Street, (718) 442-2900, an 80-year-old former vaudeville house that was recently restored to its over-the-top baroque glory. Cyndi Lauper and Rosie O’Donnell appeared there last week; Toni Orlando is scheduled for Sept. 10. Be sure to see the auditorium’s glorious, spotlighted dome ceiling.

2 P.M. Time to view some fancy local houses — from the outside; people live there. Map in hand, head up Hyatt Street, take a right on St. Mark’s Place, a quick left on Fort Place and then a right (stay with me) on Daniel Low Terrace to gaze at some very pretty Tudor-style mansions and well-kept flower gardens. Just off Daniel Low Terrace is Fort Hill Circle; check out No. 22, a castlelike house built in 1930.

2:30 P.M. Walk downhill to the Staten Island Museum, 75 Stuyvesant Place, (718) 727-1135, a tiny repository of local history, assorted animals preserved in jars, cool glow-in-the-dark rocks and a portrait of St. George’s namesake, George Law, who, as it turns out, wasn’t a saint at all. Admission: $2.

3 P.M. If you’re peckish again, or thirsty, try Beso, 11 Schuyler Street, (718) 816-8162, a tucked-away tapas bar that also serves Cuban pressed sandwiches for $7.95; glasses of wine start at $7. Or head to Enoteca Maria, 27 Hyatt Street, (718) 447-2777, a modern, authentic Italian restaurant, open Wednesday to Sunday, that has food critics and local folks swooning with its rotating cast of female chefs from assorted regions of Italy.

4 P.M. Take the ferry back to Manhattan. If you skipped the wine, the tapas and the Italian fare, the ferry snack bar sells pretzels and $3.50 domestic beer.

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