Staten Island is weird.
One of the more incredible things about New York City is how diverse it is. I’m not just talking people—I’m talking neighborhoods. No neighborhood looks like any other neighborhood. They’re completely distinct.
As a result you get the dense urban jungle of Manhattan and the single-family, dare I say quaint rural life of Staten Island all in one giant city. Like I said though, Staten Island is weird.
Even if it wasn’t for the fact that I was in the middle of New York City, Staten Island’s Midland Beach would still have seemed like a weird place. You hop off the train surrounded by rows of your typical suburban single-family detached homes. One after the other after the other. But, not more than a 15 minute walk east and suddenly things start to change. The sidewalk disappears. The houses get less dense and suddenly you’re surrounded on two sides by grass. You’re in the middle of a Bluebelt, a wetland.
The further you walk the more confusing it gets. Some streets deadend. Others look like nothing more than glorified driveways. Large mansion-like homes sit in the middle of vacant fields. And, tucked into the grasses all around you are things that have been tossed and meant to be forgotten—old TVs, air conditioning units, and tons and tons of trash.
Given its proximity to the water and the overwhelming presence of wetlands—causing a highwater table—Midland Beach was one of the hardest hit areas during Hurricane Sandy. Many homes that weren’t completely destroyed were left essentially unlivable. To make a home resilient you have to elevate it. Literally put it up on giant stilts and raise it in the air until it’s no longer in the floodplain. Homes in the heart of Midland Beach are being raised as much—if not more—than 10 feet. I walked passed one home being elevated that was so high it seemed liked something out of a fantasy novel. But, if you want to keep living in your community and stay safe from future storms, I suppose there’s a worse price to pay than having an enormously tall house.
But, even with how weird it is. There’s something amazingly cool about the fact that this is all New York. Even when you’re walking down a partly paved sidewalk surrounding by 8 foot grasses, you’re still in New York City. And, that’s just cool.