South Beach, Staten Island (History)

neighborhoods_staten_island_south_beach_300x300South Beach is a neighborhood on the East Shore of Staten Island, one of the five boroughs of New York City, USA. It is situated immediately to the south of the Staten Island side of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. Directly east of the beach is Hoffman Island, and Swinburne Island. FDNY Engine Company 161/Ladder Company 81 serves South Beach.

 

HISTORY

In the early 20th century, many summer homes dotted the neighborhood, including an organized development known as Bungalowtown. South Beach was the terminus of a branch of the Staten Island Railway to which service was halted in 1953; by the 1980s the tracks of this line had been uprooted, and tract homes now stand on the original right-of-way in many places. Today, Railroad Avenue and the Robin Road Trestle are among the only evidence left behind.

Small amusement parks and arcades once flourished there, but virtually all had disappeared by the 1970s; the last one closed in 2006. The City of New York built apublic housing project in the neighborhood in 1949; it is one of only three such projects found on the island south of the Staten Island Expressway.

The neighborhood’s principal thoroughfare was originally named Seaside Boulevard, and, as its name suggested, it runs parallel to the shoreline, with the South Beach-Franklin Delano Roosevelt Boardwalk flanking it on the shoreward side. This roadway, which was the only portion of the “Shore Front Drive” proposed byRobert Moses to be actually built, was later renamed Father Capodanno Boulevard, after a Roman Catholic chaplain who was killed in action during the Vietnam War, and runs from near the Verrazano Bridge to Midland Beach.

In the early 20th century many Italian-Americans, including immigrants, settled in the neighborhood, and their descendants still form the majority of the community’s population.

Two hospitals, one an acute-care facility (the North Campus of Staten Island University Hospital), the other a state-run hospital for the mentally ill (the South Beach Psychiatric Center) stand at the southern edge of the neighborhood (sometimes reckoned as the separate locality of Ocean Breeze), which often suffers from severe flooding after heavy rains, due to its location along a coastal flood plain. The location of the two hospitals was marshland as recently as the 1960s.

South Beach was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy. As a result, homeowners are negotiating whether to buy out their homes for demolition, which would mark the end of Ocean Breeze.