City Living: South Beach is Staten Island's quiet oasis by the sea
Tucked behind the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, the Staten Island waterfront neighborhood of South Beach offers a stunning year-round view and a quiet suburban feel.
The area, which sits on the boroughs eastern shore, is synonymous with the Arrochar neighborhood the two are usually paired by locals and identified as one area.
South Beach's namesake is the local stretch of sand, the welcome mat of Staten Island, frequented by locals but still somewhat unknown by many New Yorkers. According to visitstatenisland.com, since the 19th century the nearly 2-mile beach served as a hotspot for ocean lovers who rented bungalows by the boardwalk and took advantage of the now-vanished amusement rides.
The Franklin D. Roosevelt Boardwalk, once known as "The Riviera of New York City," offers breathtaking day and night views of the Verrazano and Hoffman Island. The beach boasts a family-friendly vibe with fountains, playing fields, and summertime events like movie nights, festivals and concerts.
"It's a beautiful area where people raise their families, said Joe McAllister, president of the South Beach Civic Association and a resident of 30 years who would often visit as a kid. "Crime is low and theres caring people."
He loves the quality of life he gets in South Beach.
"The streets are small; there's not a lot of speeding cars racing up and down," he said. "And the housing and residents are diverse."
The beach and accessibility is a plus for resident Maurice Asperti, the general manager at the circa 1921 Basilio Inn restaurant on Galesville Court.
"I have the bridge which is 5 minutes away by car if I need to get to Brooklyn," he said of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.
But besides the access and his business, the people keep him here.
"Everybody knows each other. In the morning I go down and play bocce with the old, Italian guys who were born and raised here, he said. Its the nostalgia. Its a piece of Americana."
The area is reminiscent of a small town as much of it has remained unchanged for decades. Bungalows, Tudors and Queen Anne-style homes abound along the small streets though in recent years, townhouses and McMansions have sprung up on some blocks, notably on Father Capodanno Boulevard and Sand Lane.
Short roads like Nugen Avenue, Andrews Street, Appleby Avenue and Railroad Avenue, where the now uprooted Staten Island Railway used to run, add to the nabes sleepy and almost forgotten feel.
Its not boisterous, its very quiet, said Mary Shalo, a 96-year-old resident and Staten Island native who moved to South Beach 50 years ago. Its an ideal neighborhood.
Many small businesses dot the area. Services from doctors offices and pharmacies to hair salons are nestled among homes on some streets as well as on commercial corridors like McClean Avenue and Olympia Boulevard.
Ethnic spots like the specialty market Polish Delicious and La Canasta, a Mexican bakery, both on Sand Lane, reflect the changing demographic of the neighborhood which, according to McAllister, used to be predominantly Italian, but is now mixed with Russians, Irish, Polish and Mexican residents.
Though full of mom-and-pop joints, South Beach lacks in retail. Residents visit the Staten Island Mall in New Springville to shop for apparel or footwear. McAllister said the community pushed for a retail complex on Father Capodanno Boulevard years ago, however townhouses were built instead.
But residents are happy without big box stores, he said.
The nightlife and entertainment scene is also quiet here. McAllister said there were proposals for bars in the past but the civic and community board voted against it.
If its something nice we want it, but if its going to promote rowdiness we dont want it, he said.
But where south beach lacks in entertainment and shopping, it makes up for in accessibility and convenience. Thanks to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, residents can quickly commute into Brooklyn and Manhattan. Buses shuttle residents around the island and to the St. Georges Ferry Terminal while expresses drive into Manhattan. The Staten Island Expressway gets residents to the Goethals Bridge.
Its the best for transportation to get to the city. This area is better compared to other parts of the island, McAllister said. Theyre all good areas in their own ways but compared to the pluses we have here in South Beach -- the beach, transportation and the housing -- other parts cant compare.
186 Robin Road. Studio with one bath; 650 square feet: $700 per month; 62 Wentworth Ave. Two beds, 1 1/2 baths; 900 square feet: $1,800 per month. More »
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