Eric Garner, Staten Island and the Truth

So as I said recently, there has been something I have been working on for months. That may seem too long until you look at how involved it is.

I am sure by now you are familiar with the incident involving Eric Garner and police on Staten Island that happened about a year ago. I am also sure you have followed what people say are connected stories since then. Thing is, all this media coverage is about a borough, Staten Island, that not many know about and has been wrongfully represented in the media. This media misrepresentation has happened to other areas before, you would think such sources would know better. Unfortunately, there are people who try to push agendas that are so wrapped up in their cause, they will knowingly misrepresent things such as area images to promote their cause just or not.

I have lived in Staten Island for about 40 years and I can say a lot about it including a large portion of media representation is highly inaccurate. This includes the story that has been told that we have rampant racism. Yes, there was some racism here back in the 70s and 80s though nowhere as bad as more notorious places around the country. This is 2015 though and there is much less than there was. One of the obvious ways of seeing this is to understand race and geography. There was a story on Inside City Hall, the local channel NY1’s political show, in the past few years regarding changing populations in Staten Island based on census data from 2010. Used to be that almost all the non-white people resided on the North Shore, basically everything above the Staten Island Expressway. There were and still are white residents there but you could count on finding the non-whites there. The South Shore, everything below the Expressway, was pretty much rock solid white. This new data from the 2010 census showed more non-whites had moved into areas of the South Shore plus areas that used to be largely black were now mainly Latino. You can also see this by going around the Island to different neighborhoods. Then look at the crime statistics, you notice that how much and what types of crime did not change much in the different police precincts. This data clearly proves blacks do not cause crime simply by being black yet none of those with black oriented causes ever talk about it. You have to wonder why.

Consider also other problems in Staten Island that include:

– Having the highest tolls in the country. There are 5 ways on and off the Island, 4 bridges (Verrazano-Narrows to Brooklyn, NY; Bayonne to Bayonne, NJ; Goethals to Elizabeth, NJ; Outerbridge to Perth Amboy, NJ) and 1 ferry to Manhattan. The ferry no longer allows cars in order to carry more people usually going to and from work plus some tourists. That leaves 4 bridges to cross, sometimes to see relatives elsewhere, shopping, vacations, etc. Point is these bridges are all tolled to those entering Staten Island but it is free to leave and they all have the highest tolls in the USA. So residents feel like they have to pay to get home often despite any discount plans thought up. A lot of other places, even those with tolled bridges, tunnels and highways, have free options for travel but not people living on an Island surrounded by water on all sides. This gives the Island one of its nicknames, Prison Island, due to residents feeling trapped here and affects their lives in several ways.

– Environmental problems. There are many throughout the Island not known to those outside it. The Bloomfield area where Gulf oil use to be that needs remediation of the land, potential radiation at the area used by the old Manhattan project, radiation discovered in the federal Great Kills Park the government says it is working on but never provides details about what is going on and keeps extending the date of when it will be finished, lands that were supposed to be protected as natural areas being given up for housing, people using natural lands as dumping areas and possibly more. So far the only real items that have been worked on here include the remediation of the Brookfield area for a park and a recent court date set for someone who was caught recently dumping sewage into a natural preserved wetland.

– Housing & population issues. I once blogged about the horrible housing built and still being built on Staten Island. This construction lead to a population boom that has been pretty large, as of the 2010 census the Island had over 450,000 residents, as of this blog that is estimated to be about 475,000. This does not include illegal residents. Back in the 1980s, when I went to high school, the population was roughly 100,000 fewer people than today. You have an increasing population in a limited geographical area surrounded by water on all side trying to keep a rural atmosphere. I am sure if you looked through the history of other such locations such as nearby Manhattan this also happened. The important issue here is that a limited land area can only fit so many people before you are faced with a clear choice. Either change the new housing as was done in Manhattan or impose a population cap. You cannot just keep on packing in more people into the same rural housing in such a limited land area.

– Transportation. When it comes to modes of transportation, more than any other New York City borough, the Island relies on cars. This sounds strange because when people think of NYC they think of our famous subway and rail lines among other things. The Island once had 3 rail lines, North Shore, South Shore and the South Beach extension but two of these (North Shore and South Beach) were abandoned due to bus competition with lower fares. This left one rail line that still exists today. The South Beach line has been built over though there are a few places where you can find remnants of its rail line along with pictures online of how it used to be. The North Shore line, while abandoned, still has a portion of its infrastructure remaining and there has been long studies on how to reactivate it culminating in a plan to bring a express busway that, in the future, can be turned into a light rail line also. This plan though is stuck on paper having been skipped over for Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) funding recently in favor of other NYC areas. So Staten Island is stuck with relying on its city bus service and cars for transport. This is made rougher because of ongoing stories for years of worsening road conditions especially after winter when melting snow and ice takes its toll on infrastructure. Lots of roads wind up with potholes that may not be filled until summer even including major roadways. A number of these major roadways, unlike in other NYC boroughs, are only 2 lanes wide, one lane in each direction. There are few roads with more than 2 lanes.

These are just 4 major issues offhand, we have others. These issues result in a lot of frustration, annoyance and even anger that can be misunderstood by outsiders, they also never get mentioned when Staten Island is portrayed in view of those on the outside looking in.

Next time, I will follow up with some other detailed information about race on the Island that further proves the image shown to be wrong.

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