New Brighton, Staten Island (History)

New Brighton, formerly an independent village, is today a neighborhood located on the North Shore of Staten Island in New York City, USA. The neighborhood comprises an older industrial and residential harbor front area along the Kill Van Kull west of St. George.

The village of New Brighton was incorporated in 1866 out of six wards of the town of Castleton. It originally stretched for four miles (6.4 km) long and was two miles (3.2 km) wide, encompassing the entire northeast tip of the island from Tompkinsvilleto Snug Harbor. The current neighborhood includes Hamilton Park, an enclave of Victorian homes built before the American Civil War. The neighborhood includes several older churches, including St. Peter’s Church, the oldest Roman Catholicchurch on Staten Island. The original Village Hall, constructed in 1871 on present Fillmore Street, was demolished in 2004.

New Brighton public housing includes the Cassidy-Laffayette Houses and the Richmond Terrace Houses on Jersey Street.

 

HISTORY

Village Hall

Built in 1871, it was one of the few Village Halls to remain from the old village system the existed before it was considered to be a part of New York City. In 1898, the villages were incorporated into New York City and the Village Halls were no longer needed as politics became more centralized into the city and they became just one of many under the borough of Staten Island. It has since been used as a local court, a health insurance office, youth activities office, and doctor’s office. In 1965 the Landmarks Preservation Commission selected it as an official landmark. It was demolished in 2004.

Incorporation of New Brighton

A passage from an anonymous author in an Illustrated Sketch Book of Staten Island, NY: Its industries and commerce, from 1886, describes New Brighton as follows:

The village of New Brighton is unique in its attractiveness. Its public buildings, churches, hotels and institutions are all handsome and substantial, its residences the perfection of refined taste; it has fifteen miles (24 km) of streets, the principal of which are wide, well paved, and generally well shaded with ornamental trees. A complete system of sewerage has been adopted. The inhabitants are filled with a sense of local pride which is in itself most commendable and leads to the happiest results, the most noticeable of which perhaps is the great care bestowed upon their private residences. The neighbors seem to vie with each other in friendly emulation as to who shall keep the smoothest lawn, the neatest fence or the most graceful fountain.

As a whole, the effect is most pleasing, but when the eye wanders beyond the artificial beauty of its immediate surroundings and rests upon the sparkling waters of the incomparable Bay of New York, with stretches of cultivated landscape in the distance, the picture is singularly lovely and complete.

Although Staten Island as a whole remained largely residential and less densely populated and developed than the surrounding region, the inhabitants of the region favored consolidation with the greater metropolis. In 1898, Staten Island was consolidated with New York City, and this move accelerated development of the region. At this time immigrant groups settled in New Brighton in greater numbers; Italians and African-Americans along the Kill Van Kull, and Jewish communities on the eastern boundary of the village near St. George and Tompkinsville.

20th century

After the turn of the century, the political and economic center of the island shifted to the northern shore, including New Brighton. The construction of a new civic center and borough hall in St. George provided the impetus for improvements in infrastructure, including road construction, police and fire protection, and two commuter airports, each of which were first established in the 20th century. Navy and Coast Guard outposts could be found on the north shore of Staten Island, each employing local residents in military and civilian capacities. The Staten Island borough hall was built in 1906, while the new courthouse for Richmond county was built in 1919.

At this time, the general community of Staten Island and New Brighton thrived due to its economy. Larger manufacturers employed many local residents; Procter & Gamble, US Gibson, and several other factories provided jobs for thousands of residents. The Procter & Gamble factory, opened in October 1907, operated for more than 80 years. At the end of the 1920s, some of the borough’s first apartment buildings and four-family dwellings were concentrated in New Brighton.

However, the livelihood of the community began to change, first after the completion of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, and compounded by the economic downturn of the 1970s. The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, completed in November 1964, connected Brooklyn and Staten Island and allowed for a massive population and development boom that continues to this day. This, combined with the closing of many area factories, the construction of housing projects along Richmond Terrace and the surrounding area, and an increase in area poverty, have created an area that has changed so drastically. While crime has increased to an extent in the area, New Brighton remains a vibrant neighborhood that contains many historic attractions, as well as a place of community that is dedicated to improving and reviving the area.