aka How to Pack in Too Many People in a Limited Geographic Area
Time to write this.
In the time I have spent outside my home area of Staten Island, New York, USA I have seen various types of homes. Decent homes with decent yards, both privately and government built; apartment complexes ranging from decent to horrible; military barracks; trailer parks; areas for motor homes; run down areas with shoddy housing standards; but I have never seen anything outside Staten Island like the housing developments built here for some decades now. I am not saying they don’t exist, I just have never seen any in another location so it seems unique to Staten Island for me.
I first encountered them in the 1980s when my family looked for their first home to own and bought one. Then some were getting built in the Arden Heights neighborhood in several developments. Compared to traditional housing, they seemed rather odd only having enough of a driveway for 1 car and limited parking on the street. You could get a garage but certain homes allowed an alternate option where you could have an apartment by giving up the garage and a lot of people took that. It seemed like someone was making an attempt at building homes similar to those found in other boroughs but out of less durable materials and with horrible planning. They also built them in neighborhoods similar to those found in other places across the country, it was just the quality of the homes and design were (and still are) completely different. As families grew in these neighborhoods along with tenants, more cars were brought in for spouses, kids and tenants. Recall I said these homes had driveways usually big enough for 1 car with barely enough parking for a second, now you have families with 2-4 cars and tenants with 1-2 themselves, that is 3-6 cars per home on average in neighborhoods designed for 1-2 cars per home. End result, a lot of people wind up to this day parking all over the place in areas no one expects usually several blocks away, not to visit, just because they cannot find decent parking where they live. Add in trying to have family or guests over and parking becomes a complete mess.
During the time when I was in the Army between 1995-1999, one of the things I noticed in several places I went to is that somehow, these locations appear to plan new construction including homes, neighborhoods and commercial areas better than back in Staten Island. Places I went to included Fort Jackson, South Carolina; Fort Gordon, Georgia; Fort Hood, Texas; Euless, Texas; Taos, New Mexico; Las Cruces, New Mexico. I have been to some other locations also from different times such as Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; a few other locations in Pennsylvania; several in New Jersey; Worcester, Massachusetts; Baltimore, Maryland; Washington, D.C.; Raleigh, North Carolina. Homes are given enough of a driveway and curbside parking space for more than 2 vehicles either for family growth or visits. Maybe there are some places like the horrible Staten Island developments but I never saw them in my time throughout this country. I should also note part of this must be because of geography, most cities are surrounded partially if not completely by land so they have room to grow outward. While New York City is a metropolitan area with room to grow out, certain areas such as Staten Island and Manhattan are islands with a limited geography. Once you hit to water all around, either you accept you cannot grow more including homes and population or you have to grow buildings up and design infrastructure (roads, rail, etc.) to accommodate this growth.
It seems however there is no acknowledgement of this by designers and builders of homes, if there is they are flat out ignoring it. Since my return until now, I along with other residents have noticed how developments since the ones I mentioned before have become worse. The homes have gotten skinnier in width and more of them are attached to pack more people into a smaller area. The parking conditions have gotten even worse, some of the current worst examples have driveways barely big enough for a Mini or Smart car. Curbside parking is almost non-existent, even areas of other boroughs now have more curbside parking than these new developments do.
The qualities of the materials to build these homes, the methods of how they are built and the various systems in them also show how bad things have gotten. Since the 1980s, the electrical systems of some if not all are not built to any of the usual industry standards. I have heard stories and seen people try to do work in these homes, they have no choice but to buy following either guides that come with the new products to replace bad ones or do-it-yourself manuals, nothing in the homes measures up to what the instructions say. Electrical work, there are times these homes have no ground wires in the electrical systems (switches, outlets, light fixtures, etc.) and the color of wires such as hot and neutral don’t match. Instructions for new outlets, switches, etc., will tell you how to put wiring on them but the wiring in the home doesn’t match what the instructions say so you have to play guessing games to get things working. Sometimes there are more wires than you can fit on a new item. I knew one who had to replace the furnace that used to blow exhaust all the way up to a stack on the roof but the new furnace couldn’t do that so they had to make a new exhaust on the side of the house, problem is in the winter a good snow will cover it up and endanger everyone inside with carbon monoxide if it is not watched.
Below I will show some pictures of bad development in Staten Island. These are not the limit of what can be found and they can be found almost all over.
My first example is Mazza Court in the Arden Heights area. I could not get pictures of the homes, the one time I was able to shoot photos there some people were in the way and watching me. People sometimes do not like to be photographed so unless I have permission, I try to avoid people shots (unless I am goofing with people I know). However, I can show pictures of the area around it. Mazza Court is on the inside of a curve of Arthur Kill Road, a busy street, so when people try to get out, they have a hard time seeing traffic approaching from either direction and drivers on Arthur Kill Road cannot see Mazza Court until it is too late. Add in how people drive above the speed limit on Arthur Kill, you have an accident waiting to happen and it has.
Here above is a view facing East with Arthur Kill Road in plain view (go to 1869 Arthur Kill Road in a map program for a closer view). That area I outlined in red is Mazza Court and the street sign for it. I am off to the side of Arthur Kill some, if you were on the street, you would not see Mazza Court until the last minute including anyone trying to pull out of it. Find it in Google Maps if you are not sure.
A view of Arthur Kill heading West some distance from Mazza Court (go east from last location and look back), it is not viewable and roughly where the red arrow points around the second right turn. Bad visibility from this direction as well as the other seen previously.
A bit further from the last shot still looking west (near 1886 Arthur Kill Road in a map program), there is that sign warning people to slow down but it is for the hidden driveway outlined in red. Once past that, some people would probably speed up again before getting to Mazza Court, presuming they did slow down, some Staten Island drivers would not and then there is the next picture.
A little more east from the last photo(near 1880 Arthur Kill Road in a map program), the top of the sign is outlined in red. Clearly any driver cannot see the rest of it so would probably NOT slow down as the sign says if they felt inclined to do so.
I really short type of street off Arden Avenue near where it meets Arthur Kill Road (near 15 Arden Avenue in a map program). I describe it this way because maps don’t mark this as a street, not even Google Maps. You can see it, it is just not marked. About 8 homes all joined together crammed into a space so some builder could get the most money possible.
This is Ilyssa Way off Arthur Kill Road further east of the last photos. (near 1401 Arthur Kill Road in a map program) These homes are in a development that was originally built for Navy personnel when there were plans for a Navy port on Staten Island. The port never happened so these went to private sale. Streets in this development have little zigzags in them, homes are packed together and you are lucky to have anything like a driveway. Notice the blue SUV in the middle sticking out into the street because the so called driveway is not long enough to fit it. I had a friend who lived in one of these, they are very narrow on the inside, New York City brownstones have more width inside them than these homes do.
Same as last photo, just showing the other side of Ilyssa Way and the cream colored car also with not enough driveway to fit it. You may think they can park in the garage but usually home owners will have a second vehicle if not more so they cannot. You cannot grow a family in these homes.
This is what the Ilyssa Way homes call a backyard. There isn’t one, just a path linking them together. The woodland on the right is not part of the home property, it is protected parkland. Other homes built to these crap standards barely have backyards. I said these were Navy homes, compare them to other military homes and you wonder who built these. For comparison, find Killeen, TX then go to the west end of US Highway Business 190 near where it meets US Highway 190. Along there is a small area including Venable Road. Put the little figure from Google Maps on US Highway Business 190 then in the photo view, face south towards Venable Road and the homes, notice how they are done. When I served in the Army, I was in this area once, the homes are nice and wide single story structures, you cannot see them but the driveways and curbside have plenty of room for parking. You compare those nice homes to the Staten Island ones built for the Navy and you wonder who screwed up what since I was told military homes had standards to be built to.
This is a view from Arthur Kill Road looking up Amada Court (near 1320 Arthur Kill Road in a map program). Notice how much of the cars fit in the driveway. The space from the garage door to the curb is not big enough for average vehicles. If someone argues about putting them in the garage, very likely they already have a car there given how many 2+ vehicle families live on Staten Island. This is one of many development neighborhoods with not enough curbside parking to accommodate all the vehicles.
Here in a nearby spot we look from Arthur Kill Road onto Bianca Court (near 1310 Arthur Kill Road in a map program). At least, I THINK it is Bianca Court, maps and map websites do not even have this ‘street’ marked as a street. I call it Bianca Court because that is the closest nearby street connected to it. These are similar to the homes from the last picture except the driveways are even shorter, not even enough room for Minis, Smart cars or anything similar. I would consider it a miracle if they could fit a Big Wheel or something similar.
Just one of many examples of what people on Staten Island do to ‘find’ parking. Through the broken bottom of this garbage can, you can see the top of a fire hydrant. Yes, this is illegal yet also done on Staten Island. Other methods include putting parking cones and/or sawhorses in legal spots people try to ‘reserve’ as theirs, putting signs on any car that parks in a spot considered to ‘be owned’ by someone and even physically damaging vehicles that park in someone’s ‘spot’ despite the spot being public parking for anyone. One of the problems Staten Islanders have been living with for years due to poor planning in the construction of these developments.
The above two photos are examples of a situation caused by the developments (on Huguenot Avenue near Avon Green in a map program). Due to there not being enough parking in the development, this major road winds up becoming the extra parking lot of vehicles owned by the people in the development. During the day, there is hardly anything in this area and others like it unless there is an Express bus stop nearby.
This type of nonsense is all over Staten Island. People talk about it, demand they want the situation fixed, politicians make promises that never happen and yet more developments keep going up. Sometimes builders and whoever else are involved do stunts like this.
This is one development still being built. What is relevant is that this one and some others have been built partially on land that was supposed to have been preserved for one or more environmental reasons. Despite that, the ‘protected land’ got acquired for more home building, not even decent homes but these crappy developments. This is how come Staten Island is still growing in population, packing people in like sardines in a geographically limited land mass. At least Manhattan built some buildings up, I am not sure how well that would go over in Staten Island but there is hardly any attempt to consider it!
In conclusion, I am leaving you with links to a few stories from the local news site, SILive, on other crappy home building.
Here’s a recent one of several where people tried (a bit late) to fight a new development.
A fire in one home winds up in several since they were built attached so close together. Near here, put Churchill Avenue, Staten Island, NY into a map program and you will see a tiny street dead ending in a north direction from it. That tiny street was built just to pack in one more home into a spot where they could and give access.
A story on a home built on a real tiny plot of land with a poll taken by some residents. They do this sometimes, get so desperate to build, they build junk like this on any tiny parcel they can find.
This type of crappy home building needs to go. If you know of any ways to stop this, feel free to contact politicians and the news site of Staten Island with the information.