Hilly St. George is the cultural and governmental center of Staten Island. Most visitors arrive here via the free Staten Island Ferry, which docks at the contemporary St. George Ferry Terminal. The terminal’s next-door neighbor is the Richmond County Bank Ballpark, the home field of the minor league Staten Island Yankees. Beyond the waterfront, you’ll find a walkable historic district with nearly 80 preserved 19th-century houses and a Roman Catholic church that dates to 1901. St. George is bordered partially by North Shore towns New Brighton and Tompkinsville and mostly by New York Harbor. (Its inland boundaries are Victory Boulevard and Jersey Street.)
Once crime-ridden, St. George gained up-and-coming status when the baseball stadium opened in 2001. Vacant buildings were renovated into luxury apartments. The majestic St. George Theatre was restored and now hosts popular performers, in addition to local acts. Art galleries and other performance spaces also sprung up. Postcards, a 9/11 memorial, is a waterfront fixture: The stark white structure depicts profiles of victims from Staten Island and frames the area where the twin towers once stood across the harbor. The neighborhood’s rebirth isn’t over: The world’s largest Ferris wheel, plus a hotel and dozens of outlet stores, is planned to open beside the bayside ballpark around 2015. The National Lighthouse Museum may open even sooner.
While home prices have soared since the 1990s, they’re still lower than comparable spaces in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Many artists and musicians, young professionals and families have taken advantage. It’s common to see parents pushing strollers up St. George’s steep streets — follow their lead and wear comfortable shoes. Walking tour highlights include panoramic harbor views, the imposing Borough Hall, the Supreme Court buildings, colonial homes in the Fort Hill area and the historic district, which includes parts of Carroll Place, St. Mark’s Place, Westervelt Avenue and Hamilton Avenue. At night, locals and visitors flock to Enoteca Maria for Italian food and Beso for tapas. Both restaurants are on the pricier side — for Staten Island, not for New York City. Jimmie Steiny’s, a neighborhood pub that serves bar grub, is as friendly to visitors as it is to Islanders. It’s surprisingly pristine on the inside, given the less-than-impressive exterior.
Side streets can feel deserted at night, and there are two large low-income housing projects in the area, but the main thoroughfares — Richmond Terrace and Bay Street — see plenty of action after sunset. Yellow cabs aren’t a fixture in Staten Island the way they are in other boroughs, but you can pick up car service at all hours near the ferry terminal. The ferry runs all night, though less frequently in the wee hours. The Staten Island Railway, the lone line that runs the length of the island, connects to points south — just don’t call it the “subway” or the “railway.” To Islanders, this is the “train” because there’s only one line, and it’s above ground.