There's an interesting report in the New York Observer this week about the most forgotten borough in New York City – Staten Island. Reporter Jane Callahan lists all the reasons that Staten Island is next in line for a little revitalization (or gentrification, or whatever you want to call it).
She makes a pretty compelling case for why Wu-Tang's hometown (I'm sure other people are from here too) is poised to be the next up-and-coming spot in the city. But the redevelopment of the borough probably won't look anything like the redevelopment of Brooklyn or Queens – it'll be more about tourists and retail.
Leading the borough's redevelopment will be the New York Wheel – slated to be the biggest ferris wheel in the world, 50 percent bigger than the London Eye. While this project may seem ridiculous, it'll probably end up being a great tourist attraction. It's right next to the Staten Island Ferry terminal, one of the most popular tourist activities in New York, carrying 22 million passengers a year.
New York's first outlet mall is also scheduled to open up near the terminal, and $200 million of residential and hotel developments are slated for the same area, called St. George. There's also the planned redevelopment of the Arthur Kill Prison (nice name) into a soundstage for the TV and movie industries.
That's all well and good, but there's one key thing preventing Staten Island from truly becoming the next Brooklyn: it's only connected to Manhattan by ferry and car. You can't even bike off the island. And getting anywhere from St. George takes a while – nearly an hour to Union Square. If the gentrification of the East Village, then Williamsburg, then Bushwick, now Ridgewood (Queens!) tells you anything, it's that being close to the L train is good for real estate, and close to the L train Staten Island is not.
That means any development will have to be super-mixed-use. Young people are not going to move into a neighborhood that requires 30 minutes or more of traveling to get to the nearest bars, restaurants, and grocery stores.
But transit being its only drawback, and assuming developers have already thought of that limitation, it really does seem like the island is next. Now all that's missing to get the hipsters there are amenities like yoga studios, cute coffee shops and rooftop farms....oh wait, those are coming too.
If you'd like to lend me a couple million dollars to invest in Staten Island real estate, I wouldn't be opposed.